Small-budget Portland movie tackles a big issue

IT took a tragic headline to trigger two Portland teachers to become filmmakers. 

Three years and several computer crashes later, Veronica Schwedes and Steve Gollasch are hopeful their finished film can spark courage among the bystanders of bullying. 

Filming around Portland and in the windblown sand dunes of the south-west, the team has pieced together a two-and-a-half-hour feature using almost entirely local teenagers. The journey hasn’t been an easy one. 

The project was almost entirely self-funded, other than a few grants, including from Glenelg Shire. 

“It’s been pretty hard. We started with a bigger group than we ended with,” producer Veronica Schwedes said. 

The feature has been filmed and put together for just $40,000. 

“Steve wrote the script based on personal experience,” Ms Schwedes said.

The writer cast his eye over “something tragic on the front page”. “It inspired him to write a film about being more compassionate and empathetic,” she said.

The film titled Llewellyn Unlikely follows a 16-year-old middle child who returns from holidays to Portland, quickly becoming a witness to escalating bullying of fellow students. 

“We’ve had people cry in the test audiences,” she said. 

Scenes slip in and out of fantasy while cross-examining the nature of physical and cyber bullying. 

“He dreams he’s the hero that he can’t be in real life,” Ms Schwedes said. 

The movie premiers at the Portland Civic Hall on February 22 but the filmmakers also have their eye on submitting the feature to the Sundance and Tribeca film festivals. 

Several harder scenes were finished with CGI special effects by Rising Sun Pictures — the same company involved in the Oscar-nominated film Gravity. 

“Our main focus is on film festivals,” she said.

“We really want people to become empathetic to the problem.” 

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