The Independent Spirit of Mad Bastards
Director/producer Brendan Fletcher is a mad bastard – the person who drags the net in the deep end, where the crocodiles are… brave to the point of being mad. That’s how he managed to make his feature Mad Bastards (2011); a low-budget film shot in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia, based on real stories and featuring non-actors.
Fletcher was rewarded for his artistic bravery last night, when Mad Bastards took home the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia IF Award for Independent Spirit. The award acknowledges an individual or a team of no more than three people who have shown creativity and determination in the face of challenging circumstances to complete their film.
I spoke with Fletcher after the ceremony, about the positives and the negatives of independent filmmaking.
‘This film really didn’t fit into any system. We did have government funding, but we also had to put a hell of a lot in ourselves, our own money and our own hearts, to actually make it the way we wanted to make it,’ said the director. ‘We had people inside the funding bodies that supported us, as well as our distributors (Transmission Films), but we had lots of roadblocks along the way. There were times when we could have had the money if we had used the normal production methodology, but we had to say no to it. It was hard, but ultimately we had our way.’
Mad Bastards follows TJ (Dean Daley-Jones), who is trying to re-connect with his estranged teenage son Bullet (Lucas Yeeda). It deals with the struggles of men who are trying to change their lives for the benefit of their families and communities.
The film was released in Australia in May and, for the last six months, it has travelled the world, screening in countries such as the United States, Ireland and China. Most importantly, it has also reached a large Indigenous audience – some of those community screenings were part of the NFSA’s Black Screen touring program in the Kimberley, last June.
‘It ran for four to six weeks in most capital cities, and then we had 18 weeks in Western Australia, which is very good for a cinema release,’ explained Fletcher. ‘The best thing is that it’s having a life in Aboriginal communities. We had a big screening today for 200 Aboriginal health workers; there was another in Cairns last week, and we have one in Busselton next week, so it’s very much alive.’
This award is another big step in Fletcher’s career, which is already on the rise.
‘I’m working with producers and screen writers here and overseas that wouldn’t return my phone calls before, so there’s no doubt that Mad Bastards has created opportunities for me. Almost everybody knows the film – they may not have seen it, but they’ve all heard about it, mostly good things,’ he said. ‘But my world hasn’t changed dramatically; I’m still a guy with scripts who is trying to get them financed.’
We will follow Brendan Fletcher’s career with great interest, and hope the NFSA IF Award for Independent Spirit is only the first of many more to come.
Congratulations to the other nominees in the Independent Spirit category: the documentaries I Am Eleven (directed and produced by Genevieve Bailey, which won in the Best Documentary category) and Breaking the News (directed and produced by Nicholas Hansen).