After 3 sold out screenings in London and other film festivals in Europe and the US, The Escape Hatch had it's first official screening in Melbourne.
On Saturday 2 April it played as part of MQFF's Girl On Girl programme (I was really surprised there weren't more straight men in the audience, seriously). An enthusiastic audience of 300 people descended on the ACMI cinema to watch 6 short films.
Storytelling should be promiscuous and one of the things I love about making films is project by project you never know what subject matter you will be dealing with. I've never had a film screen at a queer festival before and being exposed to a whole new audience was an honour and it was great to meet and mingle with those who support MQFF so passionately.
We were asked to introduce the film, now directors like to talk, a lot and as possible the only hetro male in the cinema, rather than me talk, Writer/Producer Gina Lambropolous did the talking and I was that person who stands behind a politician at a press conference and periodically nods. Her intro was funny and impassioned as she recalled a year ago she was sitting in the same cinema at MQFF as the retiring festival director reflected,
"Special mention here to lesbian films. In my 16 years in the job the themes have changed little–lesbians still die often, break up more and cry pretty much all the time.”
It was this sentiment that inspired her to make an entertaining, funny and sweet lesbian film. A year later she is now onstage introducing her first short film, what an achievement.
Watching a comedy with an audience is always a roller coaster ride. The reaction is so palatable and you hang on every moment, the audience either laugh at a joke, worryingly don't laugh, or the pleasant surprise, laugh in a place you didn't expect. The film got plenty of laughs, mostly where we had hoped, particularly in the back half where Gina had written some gems and I'd found visual ways to make them work.
It was also great to see a graded version of the film on a huge screen. Cinematographer Darrell Martin did a great job capturing what I wanted visually and building on those ideas. Production Designer Naomi Michaels, on her first film, picked a collection of beautiful and colourful costumes for all characters and dressed the location with flare. The colours looked amazing, the warmth and tone of the images really popped out.
It was interesting to see The Escape Hatch meshed in with the other 5 short films that screened, the contrast was obvious. It's colourful visuals and upbeat tone were in stark contrast and really stood out from the pack. I enjoyed the other films mostly, some really talented film makers to look out for but ironically, perhaps predictably, they were all visually dark (which I normally do) with depressing content with down endings.
It seems the retiring festival director was spot on the money and Gina's motivation seemed more important than ever. I'd like to thank MQFF for taking a punt on a different type of film. Gina's vision and script are truly original and I am so happy she asked me to direct her baby.
PS stay tuned, we can't announce them all yet but The Escape Hatch has been accepted into another 10 festivals across Europe, America, South America. That's 16 in total for the first 3 months of marketing. More info to come.