Story Clubbing

Looking to do something tonight in Sydney? Of course you are. Don’t even bother answering. I know how you think.

At 7pm tonight, I’ll be appearing alongside the superior talents of Ben Jenkins, Mark Sutton, Phil Spencer, Cait Harris, Eddie Sharp and Zoe Norton Lodge in the Halloween edition of Story Club, a regular night in which young comics tell stories based around a particular theme. It being All Hallow’s Eve*, the theme will be a scaaaaary one. Imagine I just said ‘scaaaaary’ in a scary way.

But if you’re not in Sydney, I’ve still got things to entertain you! Be sure to watch The Hamster Wheel at 9pm on ABC1 tonight. I didn’t make it or anything, but I was totally in the room with the people who did make it. Or, rather, the room next to the people who— look, just watch it, okay?


But there’s more! Today saw the release of the latest Hell Is For Hyphenates, my film-themed podcast. If you’ve never heard it before, this is a great one to jump on board with. Myself and my co-host Paul Anthony Nelson are joined by film festival director Mathieu Ravier to debate To Rome With Love, Frankenweenie, Argo, Killing Them Softly, Lawless, Hail, The Intouchables, I Wish and The Words, and out the careers of two extraordinary filmmakers. You need to either click here, or search iTunes for “Hell Is For Hyphenates” and hit subscribe.

If you end today completely un-entertained, you have nobody to blame but yourself.

* The hipster version of Halloween

The First Time Anyone Saw Michael Gregg

Stories of long-lost films have always fascinated me. From the 1921 Marx Bros film Humor Risk (which Groucho, reportedly, personally destroyed), to Jerry Lewis’s 1971 Holocaust movie The Day the Clown Cried (the only copy of which exists in Jerry Lewis’s house), these films are the stuff of legend. I’ve often dreamed about finding a copy of Lon Chaney Snr’s London After Midnight (1927) or owning Woody Allen’s Men of Crisis: The Harvey Wallbanger Story (1971) on DVD, but deep down I know this is never going to happen.

What’s unusual is when a modern film joins the ranks of The Missing. It’s practically impossible these days for entire films to go missing, so if they’re unavailable for the general public, there’s usually a very good, very specific, very deliberate reason.

STC’s Tot Mom

In 2010, Steven Soderbergh directed the play Tot Mom for the Sydney Theatre company, about the recent Casey Anthony trial in the US. As the play came together, an exciting piece of news emerged: during rehearsals, Soderbergh was shooting an improvised film with the play’s cast.

Here’s the thing: Steven Soderbergh is my favourite working director, so the idea of another film from him always excites me. I waited patiently for news of the film’s release, keeping an eye on movie news sites and occasionally looking it up on IMDb. Then I discovered the truth: the film, titled The Last Time I Saw Michael Gregg, was never coming out. It was only ever intended to be seen by the cast.

I was a little crushed, but also a bit thrilled, because it’s this sort of thing that makes me love Soderbergh. Sure, there may have been various other contributing factors (such as release forms or music rights or all sorts of things that meant a public release was never feasible), but I liked the idea that it was an exercise for him. A bit of fun. This is, after all, a man who, rumour has it, edited Hitchcock’s Psycho and van Sant’s Psycho together into one supercut, just because the idea tickled him.

It was disappointing, but I resigned myself to the fact that I would never see it.

Then, something happened to snap me out of my stupor of acceptance. For the past two-and-a-half years, I’ve been recording a monthly film podcast with my filmmaker friend Paul Nelson, called Hell Is For Hyphenates. Each month, we have a different guest on to talk about recent film releases, debate a hot-button cinematic topic, and explore the career of a filmmaker as chosen by the guest.

In the past, we’ve talked about everyone from Mike Leigh to Pier Paolo Pasolini. From Michael Bay to Jan Svankmajer. David Fincher to Andrei Tarkovsky.

When our August guest, film critic Alice Tynan, told us that she’d chosen Steven Soderbergh, I decided to throw caution to the wind and attempt track down a copy of The Last Time I Saw Michael Gregg. I knew the task would be close-to-impossible, but I also knew that if I failed, the result would be the same as if I never tried. And if I succeeded…

I wish I could tell you the story of how I got it. I really do. It sure as hell wasn’t easy. It’s a story filled with the most extraordinary twists and turns, joys and disappointments, and about six instances in which it became clear if failed, that even the screenwriter of Wild Things would find it a bit far-fetched. Unfortunately, I have to protect my sources, so I can never tell it. But trust me: it’s a good one.

I’ve done some searching, and, as far as I can tell, nobody else in the world has reviewed or discussed The Last Time I Saw Michael Gregg, publicly and so Hell Is For Hypehantes can proudly lay claim to this exclusive.

You’ll have to listen to it to find out what I thought, but I will say this: I wish more people could see it. (It goes without saying that I won’t be the one to facilitate this. Honestly, don’t ask me for a copy or an upload to the web. It’s not going to happen.) But I do hope that, at some point in the future, it eventually gets a release. Soderbergh fans who, like me, revel in his more handmade films like Schizopolis or Full Frontal will absolutely eat this up.

There aren’t many filmmakers who can successfully throw together a film like this, but Soderbergh is one. And I say that with all due credit to the actors, who clearly improvise much of the material, and are, without exception, hilarious.

So, in the meantime you can hear me surprise the hell out of Paul and Alice with my revelation in the August 2012 edition of Hell Is For Hyphenates. Download it from the website, or subscribe via iTunes. And do feel free to check out previous episodes whilst you’re there. They have fewer world-first exclusives, but they’re packed full of moxie.

Quick Update

I try not to avoid doing it, but I occasionally complain on social media about the sheer amount of work I’m doing from day to day. So when people ask when they’re going to see the fruits of these labours, I have to beat them to a bloody pulp for their insolence, then – after a bloody shoot-out with police – go on the lam with a different passport, some quicky cosmetic surgery, and a sassy, gun-toting sidekick.

So, to save time, I thought I’d do a brief update on some of the things that have begun to see the light of day, presented in an unnecessarily exciting tone:

me on this month’s Hell Is For Hyphenates podcast, talking about the films of July (The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spider-man, Not Suitable For Children), the career of Sarah Watt, and the films of Todd Haynes. Our guest this month was John Richards, he of the TV show Outland and the TV-themed podcast Boxcutters, both of which rank among my list of favourite things. Somewhat coincidentally, the same day we recorded Hyphenates, I guested on the most recent Boxcutters, debating Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom. It’s a brilliant podcast (despite my contribution) and anyone who’s been following the show and feels passionately either for or against it should really have a listen.

my new column in Encore Magazine, in which I get nostalgic about classic Australian film and TV. I kick off with a look back at The Games, the brilliant Olympics-skewering show by John Clarke and Ross Stevenson. I also have a piece in the forthcoming Big Issue, looking at how recent films have handled the tricky topic of bullying. It’s possibly more entertaining than I just made it sound.

me at the Melbourne International Film Festival on Wednesday 15 August, talking about the wave of American comedies of the 1970s, alongside Bobcat Goldthwaite, Judith Lucy, Adam Zwar and my Bazura Project co-host Shannon Marinko. That’s in the Forum Lounge from 5:30pm to 6:15pm, and it’s a free event, so you have no excuse not to attend. But you should stick around for the MIFF Comedy Night (also free!) from 7pm to 9pm, also in the Forum Lounge. I’ll be MCing, and guests will include Bobcat Goldthwaite, Matt Kenneally, Danny McGinlay, Geraldine Quinn, Harley Breen, and more! They’ll all be telling their best film tales, and you should definitely attend.

That’s all for now. More to come soon. Thanks for your indulgence.

The Best Credit Screen Ever

The first time I saw Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time In The West, I almost fell out of my cinema seat when I saw the story credit:

Once Upon a Time In The West

These three geniuses — each a master in completely different genres — were in the same room, let alone worked on the same film? This is like Fantasy Football, or an Alan Moore graphic novel, or a Philip José Farmer book. That the film they worked out turned out to be so mind-bogglingly brilliant is all the sweeter.

I’ve been meaning to post about this for a while, but it seems timely now that the latest Hell Is For Hyphenates features a discussion about Leone’s career. You should click here to listen or subscribe via the iTunes store, he said without shame.

In the meantime, if you have any other credit screens that rival the above, list them below! My current favourite? Tintin‘s screenplay credit, featuring Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish.