A Backbrain Exclusive Interview
Currently in production in Cairns, Far North Queensland, is Throwback, which might be the first film to feature a Yowie. For those who think a Yowie is one of the lesser known Muppets, it is, in fact, what a Sasquatch is called when it’s living downunder.
I wanted to make a fun, suspenseful, retro creature feature that could be a descendent of the drive-in movies I loved as a kid. Throwback is kind of a fusion of the bigfoot films of the ’70s that scared the bejesus out of me as a kid (namely The Legend of Boggy Creek and Creature from Black Lake, as well as the telemovie Snowbeast and the Hammer film The Abominable Snowman, plus a healthy dash of Predator (which I saw when I was 14 and wow, what a masterful film!) plus elements from many other horror films and adventure movies I’ve seen over the years, like Val Lewton’s classic black-and-white chillers and Hammer films like She from 1965. I threw all of that in a blender and put my own creative stamp on it. The end result is Throwback.
Two modern-day treasure hunters — Jack ( Shawn Brack) and Kent (Anthony Ring) — who go searching for the lost gold of a legendary outlaw in the remote wilds of Far North Queensland. But instead of riches, they find a different kind of legend, a ferocious Australian monster known as a Yowie, Australia’s answer to Bigfoot, and a savage battle for survival ensues. Thrown into the mix are a park ranger named Rhiannon and an ex-homicide detective named McNab.
Throwback is due for completion in early 2013. A full trailer and poster will be unleashed in late 2012. In the meantime though, we have a teaser trailer and a heap of screen shots for your enjoyment, not to forget insight into the film and what lies behind it straight from the director.
Travis Bain: I was born in 1973 and raised in what many to be the golden age of genre cinema and TV. My first cinema experience was Star Wars and from that moment onward, I was hooked on all thinks geeky. My Dad bought one of the first VCRs and introduced me to a very eclectic range of movies, ranging from bona fide ’70s classics like Deliverance and Serpico to slightly more “disreputable” genre fare like The Legend of Boggy Creek. I devoured monster movies as a kid – Gorgo, The Land That Time Forgot, Creature from Black Lake (a major influence on Throwback, and lensed by the great genre cinematographer Dean Cundey, no less), even weird Japanese kaiju flicks like The X From Outer Space. I loved it all, and still do. My DVD and Blu-ray collection is chock full of creature features ranging from Deep Star Six to The Legend of Dinosaurs & Monster Birds to Dinosaurus and loads of others. I have a special passion for stop-motion dinosaur flicks and worship at the altars of Messrs Harryhausen, Danforth and Allen.
So why a Yowie?
TB: In 2006, when HD video first started coming out and creating cinema-quality independent films suddenly became a reality for average Joes like me, I desperately wanted to make my own stop-motion dinosaur feature, but there was one major hurdle: I couldn’t get stop-motion dinosaur puppets from anywhere, for love or money. So I thought, “What kind of other monster movie could I make that would be cheap and achievable on a tiny budget?” I started remembering back to the bigfoot films of the ’70s, and I thought, “Why don’t I make a bigfoot movie, but an Australian one?” I was aware of the legend of the Australian bigfoot known as the Yowie and I found it amazing that no one had ever made a movie about the Yowie before, so I thought I’d give it a go.
So that’s how Throwback came about.
Written, directed and produced by Bain, Throwback stars Shawn Brack, Anthony Ring, Melanie Serafin, Warren Clements, Andy Bramble, Mike Elliott and Trevor Garvey.
Above: Anthony Ring as Kent
Above: Bushranger Mike Elliott panics
Bain looks to the influences for Throwback wider than horror films, and those other influence say much about what we can expect:
TB: I also got into westerns in a big way a few years ago and decided to base the screenplay for Throwback on the classic western structure and themes. Even though Throwback started out life as a creature feature, I now consider it more like a western with a monster in it in terms of its DNA. I love the westerns of Anthony Mann and Budd Boetticher. They’re tight, economical, brutal little features with fantastic depth and almost Shakespearean themes to sink your teeth into. Quite often there’s a struggle over lost gold and the stories play out in remote, lawless landscapes where the handgun rules, exactly like Throwback. Sam Peckinpah’s Ride the High Country is another great one. I’ve even drawn inspiration from the Duke’s 1973 film The Train Robbers. At the core of Throwback is a cautionary tale of human greed and how it can bring out the “savage” in any of us. It’s pure Treasure of the Sierra Madre (another massive influence). Very early drafts of Throwback were a little clichéd and focused (somewhat lazily on my part, I now admit) on the tried-and-true horror formula of introducing a bunch of (sometimes unlikeable) characters and picking them off one by one. But after getting some constructive feedback from various sources, including a prominent Australian producer, I went in a different direction: I made the story about a struggle for gold between several desperate characters, none of whom are squeaky-clean, and it really elevated the material to something more than just a slasher-movie-in-the-jungle, I have to admit.
Above: Andy Bramble as bushranger Thunderclap Newman
What of the retro feel that is apparent in all this?
TB: When it comes to horror movies, I’m strictly a fan of the classics. I have enjoyed some modern horror movies (like The Descent, which I thought was fantastic), but on the whole, my heart lies with the great B-movies of yesteryear, from Creature from the Black Lagoon to Them! to my all-time favourite horror movie, Carpenter’s The Thing, which is in my top five movies of all time of ANY genre [I'm with you there, Travis - Rob]. I just haven’t been able to connect with more recent horror films like The Human Centipede. I’d rather sit down and watch I Walked With A Zombie or Valley of Gwangi or something like that.
That’s why the overall “style” of Throwback is going to be retro. The movie is not only ABOUT a throwback (in the evolutionary sense), the movie ITSELF is a throwback. I’ve always loved jungle adventure movies (Run for the Sun and The Most Dangerous Game are two more influences), so this is my love letter to the ones I watched growing up. Even the trailer fonts are retro and done in that shade of yellow that was so popular once upon a time, a colour that always evokes fond memories in me of movies like William Girdler’s great little movies Grizzly and Day of the Animals. The two-disc special edition DVD of Day of the Animals featuring the movie in TWO different aspect ratios (one a beautiful old beaten-up 2.35:1 print) is one of the most-prized movies in my collection.
According to Bain, the trailer has been a great success and it’s giving him hope that the film will go down well with its target audience and lead to bigger things.
TB: The reaction to the teaser trailer has been overwhelmingly positive. I’ve had emails from all over the world praising the trailer and asking where and when they can see the film, so I couldn’t be happier. I just hope we get accepted into some film festivals next year. I really want this sucker to be seen by Hollywood acquisitions executives. I saw my fellow Aussie horror movie makers the Spierig brothers go from a couple of regular guys making short films in Brisbane to Daybreakers and I want some of that action!
Where is the prouction up to?
TB: We have about 20-25% of the movie left to shoot because we’ve had some really productive filming days in the last couple of months and I’m really looking forward to it. Some of the best stuff is yet to come. I hope to have a more detailed, “full” trailer ready by Christmas at the latest and the whole movie done sometime in 2013. It’s taking a while because I’m doing pretty much all of the post myself on a home PC, but so far I’m happy with the results.
Bain added that this Sunday (17 June) he and his team are doing some special location filiming. “We’re doing a shoot this Sunday at a location that is going to absolutely blow your heads off when you see it in the full trailer later this year,” he said. “I can’t wait for the reactions.”
We wish him well and look forward to seeing both the full trailer and the film itself!
In the Gallery below there are more pictures — and in the Addendum, Bain talks about some other aspects of Throwback and its production.
Travis Bain on the Writing of Throwback:
I find there’s often too much exposition and chitchat in modern movies so I worked very hard to make sure the script for Throwback was terse, much like Burt Kennedy’s wonderful old western scripts. The dialogue is intentionally pithy and there’s only just enough of it to propel the story forward. In Throwback, the characters aren’t defined by endless lines of dialogue; they’re defined by their actions, as genre movie characters should be. I mean, take a look at Alien. Hardly any dialogue in the movie, really, and yet it’s a masterpiece of suspense. That’s what I’m going for here.
I also went back to the basics of screenplay structure and looked at Raiders of the Lost Ark and the Saturday matinee serials that inspired it and I deliberately wrote a script in which there’s either a suspense peak or an action peak every 5-10 minutes. The movie opens with a pre-credits action/suspense sequence that could be straight out of an Indy movie or a Bond film. And then we have the opening credits (which many modern movies don’t have, unfortunately — I’ve always felt that they’re a great way to slide into the “vibe” of a movie), a bit of exposition and then we’re off to the races for 90 minutes. There’ll be stuff in this movie that I didn’t even want to hint at in the teaser trailer. I deliberately left a whole bunch of shots out of that trailer so as to keep the movie’s “Wow” moments firmly under wraps. I personally hate trailers which practically give away the whole movie (case in point: the recent Sherlock Holmes sequel – the trailer was like a mini-action movie in itself).
Travis Bain on the Influence of the Spierig Brothers:
I made my first feature Scratched in Brisbane around the same time that the Spierig brothers were making Undead. (We met a few times but we didn’t “hang out” together or anything like that, although we knew many of the same people and often shared cast and crew members.) When their film became a success any my modest little comedy-drama didn’t, I thought to myself: I have GOT to make a genre film next. So that’s what I’m doing. And I’m having a blast.
Travis Bain on Cameras:
We’re filming on a Canon HV20, first released in 2007. It records beautiful 1080p HD video to standard Mini DV tapes. If you know how to get the best out of it, you can achieve truly mind-blowing, razor-sharp footage. We’re filming in 16:9 but matting the movie to 2.35:1 CinemaScope to give it a more epic feel and show off our amazing landscapes.
Travis Bain on Stop-Motion FX:
If Throwback is successful and opens Hollywood doors for me, I’d love to do a stop-motion dinosaur feature as my next movie. I think there’s been a real backlash against CGI in recent years and I think audiences would really embrace stop-motion for its sheer artistry. I watched Phil Tippett’s stop-mo dinosaur short “Prehistoric Beast” on Youtube recently in 1080p and I think you’ll agree it’s just BEAUTIFUL. His Go-Motion techniques are state of the art, and while I loved Jurassic Park, I’ve always wondered what Tippett’s aborted, fully stop-motion JP would have looked like. Probably really cool. Someone once said that CGI looks real but feels fake, whereas stop-motion looks fake but feels real. I kind of agree. There’s a kind of magic to Harryhausen’s films, don’t you think? If Laika took on board a stop-motion dinosaur movie today, with modern HD technology, man, that’s something I’d love to see.