AUSSIES RULE: BLUE TONGUE FILMS ARRIVES ON THE SCENE




FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Australian filmmaking collective BLUE TONGUE FILMS has been around since 1996, when a handful of friends made a short that turned out to be good enough to warrant a special kind of persistence.

Now they’ll enjoy a moment in movies’ biggest spotlight: THE ACADEMY AWARDS. Among the nominees of Hollywood veterans and glamorous movie stars this year is JACKI WEAVER, whose SUPPORTING ACTRESS nod represents not just her fine, disarming performance in DAVID MICHOD’S crime drama ANIMAL KINGDOM, but the ascendance of BLUE TONGUE FILMS and its tenacious gang of mates.

“We’ll all be watching it from wherever we are,” said NASH EDGERTON, one of the group’s founders, speaking from Berlin.

“It’s a long shot, but awesome that it got that far.”

It’s been a remarkable year for the seven members of BLUE TONGUE FILMS, which isn’t a production company or a business arrangement of any kind, but a loose group of friends who look to each other for help and inspiration.

NASH EDGERTON, a seasoned stuntperson of many blockbusters, formed BLUE TONGUE with his actor brother JOEL and KIERAN DARCY SMITH — the two of whom had just finished drama school. Their ranks have grown to include DAVID MICHOD, LUKE DOOLAN, TONY LYNCH and SPENCER SUSSER, the lone American among the Aussies.

NASH EDGERTON’S gritty noir THE SQUARE came out last year to strong reviews. LUKE DOOLAN’S short MIRACLE FISH was nominated at last year’s OSCARS. In April, SPENCER SUSSER’S HESHER, a film starring NATALIE PORTMAN and JOSEPH GORDON LEVITT – about a heavy metal drifter that befriends a grieving boy – will be released. KIERAN DARCY SMITH recently wrapped shooting on his feature directorial debut SAY NOTHING, a psychological thriller.

“It’s an incredibly positive time,” said KIERAN DARCY SMITH, speaking from an editing bay in Australia.

“There’s been a lot of interest. It’s opened wider and more international doors. There’s a healthy kind of pressure that that brings.”

The members of BLUE TONGUE are typically scattered across the credits of their films. ANIMAL KINGDOM was written and directed by DAVID MICHOD, costarred JOEL EDGERTON and KIERAN DARCY SMITH, was edited by LUKE DOOLAN and included special thanks to NASH EDGERTON.

They aren’t bound by any esthetic mantra. But their films do share a gritty realism, particularly in suburban sprawl environs and genre movie templates. They constitute one of the most exciting, hard earned movements in years. FILM COMMENT hailed them as “the Next New Wave.”

In HESHER, a father and son (RAINN WILSON and DEVIN BROCHU) are shocked out of a stupor when a tattooed, often shirtless maniac (JOSEPH GORDON LEVITT) moves in. Similarly, BLUE TONGUE seems to be injecting a dose of energy into movies — a good, deserved smack in the mouth.

“I think the worst thing that anyone can ever say about your work is, ‘Eh, it was OK,'” commented SPENCER SUSSER, speaking from Los Angeles where he’s prepping the film’s release.

“You want people to be passionate in one way or the other.”

It all started with 1996’s 8 minute LOADED, which proved to the Edgertons and KIERAN DARCY SMITH that they — despite having no film school training — could succeed.

“It just inspired us to keep playing and we found that we played together well,” stated KIERAN DARCY SMITH.

“We were bouncing ideas off each other. There was a great collaborative spirit. We’re also all really good mates…We’ve become – really – family.”

Shorts have remained the group’s training ground, a way to get their names out there, prove themselves capable to investors and get familiarized with directing. LUKE DOOLAN and both Edgertons recently completed new shorts, including one by NASH. BEAR is a sequel to his darkly comic SPIDER, which was paired theatrically with THE SQUARE.

“Everyone is continuing to keep it up, keep the ball in the air,” remarked NASH, who’s currently writing a script for a film he expects to be bigger in scope than THE SQUARE. More than anything, BLUE TONGUE functions like a support system. They share each other’s scripts, seeking constructive feedback. When one succeeds, it only makes the others more confident that they might too.

“It was never something we talked about,” said SPENCER SUSSER.

“It was this group of friends that liked making films — kind of our hobby.”

SPENCER SUSSER fell in with the Edgertons while they were all working on STAR WARS: ATTACK OF THE CLONES. Though he grew up in California, he counts himself as a “wannabe Aussie.” He filmed his short I LOVE SARAH JANE in Australia and is working a script of a feature length adaptation.

BLUE TONGUE’S kinship is partly based on their shared interest in portraying emotional authenticity — whether it comes in a crime drama like ANIMAL KINGDOM or a Zombie film like SARAH JANE.

“I really like stuff that’s honest,” said SPENCER SUSSER.

“Whether it’s fantasy or crazy or really silly, I like stuff that feels grounded. I feel like we all have that in common.”

It’s an inspiring tale: a group of filmmakers, thousands of miles from Hollywood, striving for years to build themselves into feature film directors, many of them arriving with their first movies simultaneously.

“After years and years and years of plugging away at home and getting into a lot of debt,” stated KIERAN DARCY SMITH, “it’s great now that it’s finally come to what I always thought it would: a film.”

With movies in the pipeline and scripts in the works, BLUE TONGUE may just be getting started.

“I’m keen to see what everyone does with a little more money and doing something a little bit bigger,” said NASH EDGERTON.

“Now, at least, some people will return our calls.”

ON LINE:

BLUE TONGUE FILMS

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