Assignment 2: Australian Cinema
By Sarah Brown
Lets Get Skase
'We didn't hate him because he was a criminal; we hated him because he was a bullshit artist'.
Principal Cast and Credits:
Directed Matthew George
Writing Credits Matthew George & Lachy Hulme
Produced Judy Malmgren (associate producer)
Executive Producer Joel Pearlman
Producer Colin South
Producer John Tatoulis
Original music Craig Bryant
Cinematography Justin Brickle
Film Editing Michael Collins
Casting Gregory Apps
Production Design Ralph Moser
First assistant Director Toni Raynes
Cast (in Credits Order):
Lachy Hulme Peter Dellasandro
Alex Dimitriades Danny D'Amato Jr
Bill Kerr Mitchell Vendieks
Adam Heddrick Rupert Wingate
Torquil Neilson Sean Knight
Craig McLachlan Eric Carney
George Shevtsov Beneheim Bencini
Nick Sheppard Dave Phibbs
Wayne Hassell Christopher Skase
William Ten Eyck Dick Rydell
Diane West Pixie Skase
Helen Buday Judith Turner
Craig Edwards Young Turk
Production Companies Lotteries Commission of Western Australian, Media World Features, Screen West, The Australian Film Finance Corporation.
Distributors Roadshow Film Distributors.
Sound Mix: Stereo
Run Time: 100 minutes
Australia Release: October 18th 2001
Video Release: April 10th 2002
$= 185,397 % +/- = NA Total: $185,397
No Profit Made
Behind the Scenes:
Bibliographical details of interviews with the film makers.
After a long search on the web, I could not find any information on interviews with the films directors, producers or cinematographers, in relation to the film Let's Get Skase. During my search I could only find one interview with John Tatoulis, on his new Australian film Zone 39. Though this interview did not discuss any parts of his previous work on Lets Get Skase, I still found it quite interesting to read. If you too want to read this interview, go to:
Bibliographical details of reviews in newspapers, critical essays in journals, discussion in books.
As a consequence of the film only being released this year (2002), I did not have much luck in finding any information on the film in journals or books. How ever I did come across one tiny review on Lets Get Skase written by Kris Rogers in the X-Press magazine. Rogers basically describes the films plot and gives his own synopsis on the film. Unlike many other reviews I found on the Internet, Rogers gives a more positive rendition on the film. He says that the film displays a "mixture of genuinely funny scenes; witty and well-placed dialogue and a 'revival of the Australian underdog wins all' theme" (2002, 23). This article can be found in:
Rogers, K (2002) 'Lets Get Skase' X-Press Magazine, 11th April, issue No 791, p 23.
Films Online Presence.
There were several sites I found that contained information on the film Let's Get Skase. I used several search engines, such as Yahoo and Web Crawler to find information on the film. The Murdoch University Culture and Communication Reading Room page also gave me allot of help in finding information about the film. A list of the sites I found useful are written below:
This site enabled me to look at previous student's work on Australian films. It also gave me several links to useful sites on Australian cinema/films. These include the Australian Film Commision Site (afc) and the Australian Film Institute Site (afi):
Whilst searching the Internet I found these sites:
Searching for Information on the film was not all that easy. The Web was the most useful source for collecting information. I used two main search engines, Yahoo and Web Crawler. I found many sites that provided me with recent reviews on the film. The Urban Cinefile website provided me with reviews by Jake Wilson, Louise Keller and Andrew L. Urban. Each gave their commentary and synopsis on the film. I also found reviews on the web from Film Written Magazine and in the Australian Film review. Though I found plenty of reviews on the film, I could not find any interviews with the director, Matthew George or interviews with other prominent cast or crew. The library was no help at all on finding direct information on Lets Get Skase. There were no journals or critical essays. I found one small review by Kris Rogers in the X-press Magazine, but I only came across it through pure luck. The films online presence seemed to be the only way to find information on the film itself.
Matthew George, the Director and Writer for the film Lets Get Skase, has eschewed an elaborate rise to a major position in the Australian Feature Film Industry. He began directing financed short films, leading to full length feature films, such as Under the Gun and his previous work on Four jacks. Four Jacks received Best director, Best Actor and Best film.
Justin Brickle, the Director of Photography for Lets Get Skase, has previously worked on feature films such as Emma with Kate Croghan, Strange Planet and Love and other Catastrophes. He has also worked with Director Matthew George on the film Four Jacks.
John Tatoulis is one of the producers of Lets Get Skase. He is a founding partner of Media World Ltd. He has been recognized for his acclaimed work in the Silver Brumby, starring Russell Crow as well as his recent work in the film Beware of Greeks Bearing Guns.
Colin South is also the producer for Lets Get Skase. As with Tatoulis, Cloin South is also a founding partner for Media World Ltd. His previous works have been on a number of documentaries, commercials and corporate videos. His most recent and more successful work has been on the New Adventures of Ocean Girl, a children's television program and Quads, another television program.
Alex Dimitriades has acted in a few Australian feature films. These include Head on (1998) and Heart Break Kid (1993).
Craig McLachlan is probably most famous for his role in the 80's television series, Neighbours. The films that McLachlan has featured in include Absent without Leave (1992) and the Stuart Diver story, Hero's Mountain (2002).
The film is based on one conman, Peter Dellasandro (Lachy Hulme), idea to kidnap one of Australia's most hated corporate criminals, Christopher Skase, from Majorca and bring him back to Australian soil. The plan begins when Dellasandro, raises his ideas in front of the Quindex Credititors board, telling them that he will personally bring Skase down. And so the 'Chase for Skase' begins. Dellasandro gets together a team of unprofessional and inexperienced kidnappers including Danny D'Amato (Alex Dimitriades), son of the board chairman of Quindex, television host Eric Carney (Craig McLachlan), Mitch Vendieks (Bill Kerr), Sean Knight (Torquil Neilson) and Dave Phibbs (Nick Sheppard). Together they seek out Skase and it's not till the end that we find Skase has a sub plot of his own...that you will have to find out for yourself.
Whilst watching the film, I came to realize that this film actually wasn't that bad. After reading quite negative reviews on the film, I was expecting the film to be a load of rubbish. But to my surprise I thought the film was quite humorous. It had some great one liners. Apart from the humour in the film the only thing that I could not grasp was the concept that the whole of Australia was relying on a team of unprofessional kidnappers, lead by a conman to capture one of Australia's most rivaled businessmen. It did not seem in the slightest bit realistic. The subplots in the film were quite entertaining. At the end of the film where Skase gets up off his wheelchair and parties in front of a crowd of Europeans, reminded me of Dr. Evil of the American comedy Austin Powers.
The film Lets Get Skase is about the chase for Skase, the rivaled businessman who became bankrupt, steeling thousands from Australia, then fleeing the country to live harmoniously in Majorca. Though Skase was supposedly to sick to return to Australia, many believe that Skase was faking his illness, which towards the end of the film comes to life when Skase jumps up off his wheelchair and joins the party. The film raises many issues centered around Australian Nationalism. It captures the true essence of a nations people coming together to kidnap Skase and bring him down. Let's Get Skase, is a mundane film that brings together five ordinary men, who reach Skase and become Australia's heros.
Lets get Skase, is not a typical 'Ocker' film. It is classified as a 'mundane cinema', which means 'ordinary' or 'everyday'(O'Regan). The film is based in the city of Perth, in suburban streets and cafes. They are many aspects of the film that make it 'mundane'. Close to the beginning of the film where Dellasandro (Lachy Hulme), raises his plan to capture Skase, he makes reference to an AFL game. It's when Malcolm Blight attempts to kick a goal from 123m. Though it seems impossible, it was not, he made the goal. Dellasandro uses this footy example infront of the Quintex board, to tell them that capturing Skase is not impossible. Apart from this footage, allot of news footage is also used. What also makes this film 'Mundane' is the fact that people are going about their everyday lives. Danny Damto and his family went out for dinner together, they also went to church together.
The film is based on the lives of five ordinary men that become their nations hero's. The team of kidnappers include Peter Dellasandro, also referred to as the 'bearded, bullshitting, thieving, Alcohlic' (Eric Carney), Danny D'Amato Jr, the Italian heart and soul of the team, Mitchell Vendieks, Rupert Windgate and Sean Knight. Eric Carney is the up himself television host, who tries to plan his own kidnap of Skase. Cultural Diversity is displayed in this film. There is the intellectual, the computer geek, the Italian heart and soul, the leader and conman and a race car driver. Each character has an individual talent, which is used in the plan to capture Skase.
The character of Peter Dellasandro who is the conman and alcoholic in the film, plays the role of the good guy conquers all. Though Dellasandro does not possess the characteristics of a typical Hollywood hero, his character still manages to win in the end. The film shows allot of Australian humour. The fact that Dellasandro loves alcohol could be portrayed as a typical characteristic of the Australian male. The film involves a number of good one liners. At the beginning of the film the voice over says 'We didn't hate him because he was a criminal; we hated him because he was a bullshit artist'. The film uses allot of Australian colloquial language. There is plenty of low level swearing in the film. The character of Skase is quite humorous and seems somewhat satrirical. He looks like Dr Evil from Austin Powers. His sitting in his wheelchair, surrounded by body- guards, playing the bad guy role.
The main theme in the film is Australian Nationalism. The film uses news footage and speeches from John Howard, in the re telling of Christopher Skases life. John Howard says 'what Christopher Skase has been able to do represents an absenity in the eyes of average Australians'. As the quote says, the whole nation gets involved in the chase for Skase, even to the extent of raising charity funds to pay professional kidnappers to capture Skase, of the Andrew Denton show.
In one particular scene in the film, Dellasandro makes a profound speech to inspire his team to capture Skase and bring him down. Whilst doing so the Australian flag is uncovered and national music is played. Dellasandro's speech says:
'All through history these bastards who sit up high, these bastards who have said we would never break the sound barrier or we would never go to the moon or the titanic wouldn't sink, these are the same bastards who invented Skase to begin with. We got to bring him to justice and it is these bastards that are trying to shut us down, and you know what, they are laughing at us...We represent everything they hate. These pricks we are
gonna take them on...We are gonna go to the moon to mars. We are gonna bring that bastard Skase back here and ring his scrawny fuckin neck...cause I have a plan and it involves a mission. In three weeks time that son of a bitch is having a party in his Spanish mansion, a mansion he bought with your money...Thank god I have five men who are gonna bring him down...You are the men that will make history victorious and let no man come back alive.' (Peter Dellasandro).
This speech is important to the film, as it makes point of all aspects of the film. It shows how the government is involved, as well as the Australian citizens and the five kidnappers. This speech some what represents the Australianess of the film.
Let's Get Skase, is a comical film that is centered on the capture and kidnap of Christopher Skase. With the films 'larrikan spirit and tumbling over with off the wall concepts' (Keller, Urban Cinefile, 2002), a sense of Australian Nationalism is portrayed. Every Character in the film represents a different form of 'ordinariness'. They are everyday people who are seen not typically as a team of hero's. Though the characters did not capture Skase they were able to steal a disk, which stopped Skase from taking over the European television market. The film ended with the five kidnappers being applauded by Australian citizens. As said by Andrew L. Urban Let's Get Skase is a terrific achievement and demonstrates that Australian films can be as commercial in this genre as anyone else' (Urban Cinefile, 2002).
Situate the film in relation to Australian National Cinema as a Medium Sized English Language Cinema.
In relation to Australian cinema as a Medium sized English language cinema, Let's Get Skase is another example of an Australian film, which did not reach International standards. Whether or not, the death of Christopher Skase late last year had anything to do with the films poor ratings and low box office earnings I am unsure of. One review by Jake Wilson claims that 'the unforeseen death of Christopher Skase will not affect ticket sales'(Urban Cinefile, 2002), due to the fact that the film was on the storyboards long before his death. It seems the films release was just a matter of coincidence and bad timing.
The film is based on an Australian problem, the chase for Skase. This in turn could be one reason why the film did not reach Hollywood. Let's Get Skase means 'very little too anyone who doesn't live in Australia' (Howe, 2001). Andrew Howe from Film written Magazine says that 'if Aussie filmakers are serious about achieving International recognition they need to pay a little more attention to the needs of the foreign market' (2001). Skase was an Australian businessman who stole thousands from his country, fleeing to Majorca. He is hated by most Australians. Other Countries around the world may not even know about Christopher Skase, let alone what he did to Australia.
The problem for most Australian films is that they seem to be typecast to Australian isuues and concepts. As with Let's Get Skase, the major issue on the film is Australian nationalism. The few films that have done well in the international arena, such as Mad Max (1979), have moved away from the typical Australian setting, characters and issues. Let's Get Skase, though not typically an 'ocker' film, still shows a little too much Australianess. The language, the humour and the storyline are all based on Australian concepts.
Because the film was made on a low budget is another reason why the film did not reach the International market. In Australia, the film was not seen at cinemas and only few copies are displayed in video stores. At the time of the films release, Lantana was also being released. This film did extremely well in the box office as compared to Let's Get Skase. Cinema in Australia is primarily seen as 'import-orientated', due to it being Medium sized. 'Unequal exchanges characterize the general Australian Cultural market place in publishing, video, television, CD sales as well, and are a factor, irrespective of size, scale or product exhibited and distributed' (O'Regan: 1996, 90-91). Importing of films from other medium sized English cinemas, has a great impact on local films earnings.
The films low budget meant that they could only afford local talents. Alex Dimitriades and Craig McLachlan were two of the main actors. Both have only starred in a few Australian films. Their work on Australian films are therefor seen unimportant to Hollywood Screens. They are unrecognized stars, unlike Russell Crow, Nicole Kidman and Mel Gibson.
Australian Cinema as an English Language Cinema, is in extreme competition with the Hollywood Cinema. English being the most dominant and most spoken language in the world makes competition in the film industry very difficult. Because English language cinema is so competitive, wealth becomes an important necessity. Wealth has the ability to separate the good films from the bad. It most cases the Hollywood film is seen as better than that of the Australian film.
The size of the English Language cinema's also determines the outcome for films. Hollywood cinema has a larger market to Australian cinema. 'By Virtue of its size, wealth and international dominance' (O'Regan:1996, 84), Hollywood cinema remains the largest of all cinemas. Films in Hollywood are made on allot larger budget in comparison to Australian films. Let's Get Skase for instance was made on a very low budget, which may have been the main problem for the films poor box office earnings.
Let's Get Skase is an Australian film, which did not reach International recognition. Due to the films low budget, local actors and poor ratings, Let's Get Skase seemed no threat to Hollywood Cinema. It being an English language cinema, the most dominant language in the world, meant that the film was up for allot of competition. Let's Get Skase, though it did not do well in the box office, is still worth watching if you are living on Australian soil.
O'Regan, T. (1996) 'A Medium- Sized English- Language Cinema', Australian National Cinema, Routledge: London.