New Australian film “The Second” follows the author of a celebrated erotic memoir, whose newfound success is threatened when her best friend and muse reveals the truth behind the memoir’s provenance, igniting an incendiary tale of sex, lies and betrayal.
Funded by Screen Queensland, the film marks the first original feature promoted and distributed by Stan, the Australian streaming service to rival Netflix, recently surpassing one million subscribers. It will have the first release of its kind in Australia: immediately following its theatrical premiere, the mystery thriller will be simultaneously available in cinemas and exclusively on Stan.
On the day of its theatrical release, Mandy sat down with stars Rachael Blake (“Lantana”, “Sleeping Beauty”) and Vince Colosimo (“Chopper”, “Stingers”, “The Secret Life Of Us”, “Underbelly”) for a candid chat about Australian cinema, working on a female dominated set, and what streaming means for the quality of content to come. The film also stars Susie Porter (“Better than Sex”, “Two Hands”).
Firstly, I really enjoyed the film, and I have to say it was nice to see a different gender split on screen – two females leads to one male. Sorry Vince.
Vince: No – don’t apologise! I loved it more than anyone. I felt so comfortable in the surroundings. The director there was female, leading lady was female… Did you here that, my leading lady was female. Because usually my leading lady is male. [laughs]
Rachael: I’m glad you enjoyed that because it is rare. I was reading an article this morning and a good percentage of female-led films is still quite low.
It’s incredibly low. 16 per cent was the stat of female leads a few years ago, and I don’t think it’s improved much…that’s globally.
Rachael: So we’ve got two leads, our director and our producer.
Vince: It’s about the same in directors that direct televisions and female directors that direct film – 17-18%. Funny, isn’t that?
Actually, on the other side of film, female critics are quite rare as well. And for female focused films it’s been proven that male critics will frequently rate them lower than female critics. I know I respond differently a lot of the time.
Rachael: That’s really good point. I respond differently.
Vince: Males that have come to see this have responded really, really, really well. And not apologetic. They’re not apologetic about responding really well. They don’t come in and go ‘gotta see it for work and such. I brought the missus.’ And we talked about it later on and they’re like ‘I can get into that sort of stuff.’
There you go – crossing boundaries. And I think this distribution model will help – it’s fantastic that Stan is getting into original Australian content. And you get the best of both worlds with a theatrical release and then streaming. Many Australian films can suffer because they just don’t have the marketing spend that the Hollywood blockbusters have.
Vince: They disappear.
Rachael: I think what’s great about this one is you know about it. People know about it. And after the cinema – because often we open at a cinema, you get a two to three week run, and often if it does well, you might get to extend, then it just disappears. But because it’s streaming on Stan it can live on.
Vince: Did you watch the Logies the other night? I went back and watched it and promotion for the film was there the whole time.
Rachael: And actually, outstanding actor/actress and popular show were the streaming networks. So there’s a really interesting shift starting to happen with these type of interesting stories.
Vince: It’s a really interesting shift. Shit stuff is going, and good stuff’s coming. [laughs]
Rachael: [laughs] That’s what I need. A permanent translator.
And it’s interesting that the kind of thing that popular on streaming can be very different to what does well in the cinema. I think “Sleeping Beauty” [Australian film starring Rachael] is one of Stan’s most popular films?
Rachael: Yeah, that’s right. It’s one of the highest streamed pieces. Stan has been such a fighter for Australian content. And it’s happening now with all the streaming services making local content. And I think that small screen is incredibly content hungry. And now that they’re getting into making feature films, and they’ve just announced a TV drama with Victoria Madden, getting into the prestige TV drama thing. It’s great.
I was going to ask do you think it’s a good direction, so I think that answers that.
Vince: It’s a great direction. You know, it’s going to be edgy stuff, we’re moving away from mainstream.
Rachael: Take more risks. Less formula stuff. That’s what I’m enjoying.
Vince: This is like the HBO of Australia.
And the setting for this film is beautiful. What was it like filming in Queensland?
Rachael: Oh it was fantastic, we loved it. I mean, going on location like that it sort of mixes you all together and we were together 24 hours a day, well, except for when we slept. [laughs]
Vince: It was great. It was like a little family together, little ensemble, we were all there until the very end. Breakfast, lunch and dinner together. And look it wasn’t six months. It was 21 days shooting, plus rehearsals and now plus publicity.
And Rachael you haven’t worked with Susie before I understand?
Rachael: Oh, no I have. I worked with Susie in “Wildside” back in 1997. I worked with Susie on episode six, I think it was and also we studied at NIDA together, she was a year below me. And you always take notice of who’s great. And so when we worked together on “Wildside” I just had such a great time. I was like oh I’d love to work with her again. I’d love to work with her again, but it just took 20 years. And the same with Vince. It was a long time between drinks for you and I [since “Lantana”]. And that was really, obviously, I was so stoked when you said yes. Because I thought you might not say yes.
Vince: Why did you think I would say no?
Rachael: Well I didn’t know what you wanted to do in your career. You know how sometimes you go, I don’t want to play another lunatic. I’ve played three lunatics in a row now. I was playing a lot of lesbians and I was like ‘I’m ready to play a straight person again’.
Vince: No two lunatics are the same. All lunatics are lunatics because they’re different. That’s why they’re lunatics.
Rachael: But I wasn’t sure so I thought maybe you might be like, no I don’t want to play that role. So when you accepted it, I was like ‘yes’.
And Rachael I understand the screenwriter wrote your role with you in mind?
Rachael: I’m always blown away by that. Such an extraordinary thing to do.
Vince: It was her all the time. And why wouldn’t it be? Of course.
Vince: She’s premium, she’s blue chip. In this country, blue chip.
Rachael: Blue chip, mate?
Vince: Blue chip, blue chip.
I’m getting a sense of what it was like in your 21 days of filming [laughs].
Rachael: It was fantastic. Sometimes you work with people, and it’s serious work and it gets serious off set as well. And I get a bit tired.
Vince: Oh god.
Rachael: Yeah, but what was cool was [to Vince] do you remember that dancing scene we shot? I will never, ever forget that. So the scene where we’re all being sexy together, and I said, ‘my character’s not a very good dancer’, and remember you said your parents didn’t have any rhythm and we put the music on and you were dancing like this…you were going…[moves her hands with her thumbs pointing out]. Oh it was funny, I thought I was going to wet myself that night. And I was like going to do this. [Does the Sprinkler, BBQ tongs].
Vince: You girls were a little bit pissed off.
Rachael: Oh cause it went on and on and on. Yeah you did. You had to calm us down. We had to calm you down because it was like…
Vince: Oh no, not again.
Rachael I’ve run out of acting.
Vince: Don’t act. Don’t act.
Rachael: Don’t act, just be.
Vince: Just be. Just be.
And Mairi Cameron as director, this was her first feature film, what was she like to work with?
Rachael: Do you know what I loved about Mairi? Was that she has a way of setting you all free. Like she encouraged us to be comfortable. Didn’t she? Like it wasn’t a pretentious, it wasn’t a precious set. That we could mess about. And she was always open to whatever anyone brought to the scene. She wasn’t controlling. She was like, let’s just shoot…like she’d cast us.
Vince: Accepting, and like really loved the input. Sometimes people with too much information, it becomes really hard. I remember her saying: just go with your intuition. And intuition is always the best. You can just go. Going, and going and going. And this as her first time as a feature film director.
R: Takes a lot of courage, doesn’t it?
Vince: It’s funny that. Because with other directors, you’ll start a scene and I’ll do it one way and then you do all the different ways, and then at the end they’ll go ‘just do what you did…just you do it’. And what you’re doing is exactly what you did at the start, so at the end of it, he’s going with the very first one you did. And they go ‘perfect’. Andrew Dominick did that all the time. You’d go through the spectrum…it’s like how many times can you change your clothes. I’ll do this as an 8-year-old. I’ll do an old man. And you went right through.
Rachael: And you’re like, that’s what I did at the start.
Vince: Take one and take 42.
Rachael: Well sometimes it’s part of the director’s process.
Vince: It’s him trusting himself. And going: am I right? Am I right? Am I right? He’s always right. And that’s okay. Probably cutting it down to maybe five takes not 42 might be easier though [laughs].
I wanted to say as well that I really enjoyed the complexity of the characters. And also, when you watch a lot of films, it’s hard to surprise us with any sort of revelation.
Rachael: Were you surprised?
I was surprised! There were a few things, I was like I didn’t see that coming! And that’s a really nice experience.
And your wardrobe was insane.
Rachael: Wasn’t my wardrobe amazing? How about those blue bathers?
Stan Original Film “The Second” will be in cinemas July 5 and on Stan from July 20.