November 20, 2014
WHEN Thornbury actor/comedian Angus Sampson releases his first feature film as co-writer/co-director on November 21, he has refused to allow it go the way of other Australian films — languishing unnoticed, under-promoted and unloved.
In a world first on this scale, The Mule has eschewed a theatrical release and will be released directly to iTunes and other digital platforms simultaneously in Australia, America, Canada and New Zealand.
“This is 2014, brother. We’re not The Avengers,” said Sampson, who recently finished filming Mad Max 4 in Namibia and is based half the year in LA.
“I was like you know what? A lot of people talked about it, but we did it. We’ve tried to put the viewer first at every step of the way of this film.”
Australian industry practice decrees that if a cinema agrees to screen a film, for however short a time, the filmmakers must agree to hold off showing it anywhere else nationally for 120 days.
“Where is the legislation for that? It’s not anywhere because if it was it would be anti -competitive. They just say we won’t play your other films,” Sampson said.
“We want the reader in Preston who can’t get a babysitter on Saturday night to read about it or hear about it and press a button and watch it.
“We don’t want a red carpet so we can invite some reality TV stars to give out free drinks to appear in the social pages and then hope that people remember four months later after it’s pulled off the screens because nobody knew the film was on, and when it was on it was on at 10am on a Sunday. What industry does that? Where they actively put the customer last, where they actively make it difficult for the viewer to see product, to buy the product?”
Shot around Footscray, Thornbury, St. Kilda, North Melbourne, Coburg, Sunshine and Bangkok in May and June last year, the darkly comic The Mule has plenty of selling points to make people hit download — executive produced by Michelle Bennett (Chopper), it stars Hugo Weaving, Noni Hazelhurst, Ewen Leslie and Leigh Wannell (the Melbourne success story behind the Saw franchise), who co-wrote the film with Sampson and Jamie Brown (Wilfred,Rush).
REVIEW:Leigh Paatsch give his verdict on The Mule
Everyone in The Mule is full of faeces, some literally, some figuratively. When a naive TV repair man (played by Sampson) from Sunshine gets talked into smuggling heroin back from a football trip in Thailand in his stomach, he is bailed up by Federal Police and held without charge in a hotel room where he refuses to go to the toilet for eight days.
Set against the nationalistic flag waving and posturing of the America’s Cup in 1983, parallels emerge of the underdog fighting the bigger powers.
Inspired by films such as Animal Kingdom, Chopper, Fargo, Trainspotting and the cult HBO TV series The Sopranos, Whannell and Sampson wanted to continue the theme where “every man thinks they’re smarter than the other man”.
At times brutal, hilarious and touching, The Mule’s players all turn out differently to first appearances, just as America’s Cup hero Allan Bond showed himself to be a criminal and “English backpacker who overstayed”.
“The correlation from that and our man Ray is — don’t judge a book by its cover. We actually want people coming into this going “oh, Australian films”,” Sampson said.
“In order for us to do something different we have to release it differently. If we don’t, if we put it out how every other film’s put out and hope for a different result …. for me it’s like sending troops over the top and hoping that their opposition are reloading.”
The Mule is available on iTunes, Google Play, Sony PlayStation, Microsoft Xbox and Dendy Direct from November 21.