The new Aussie drama 6 Festivals follows three young friends across a year as they have their first experiences attending music festivals.
It's been some time since an Australian film has been made targetting the youthful music-oriented audience, and as this demographic has been trained over the past three years of the pandemic to not go out, its cinema release has something of an untested quality.
But Bra Boys filmmaker Macario De Souza's passionate and engaging narrative film debut as writer-director has all the ingredients to find an audience, especially raw performances from a handful of young actors who seem on the verge of becoming our next generation of well-known screen talent.
In 6 Festivals, Maxie, Summer and James - played by Rasmus King, Yasmin Honeychurch and Rory Potter - come of age across a year that sees them variously attend, sneak into, and participate in a series of music festivals, while dealing with their own family and personal issues.
6 Festivals features music and performances by current headline bands, including Dune Rats, Peking Duk and Ruby Fields, and the film's Canberra-based producer, Shannon Wilson-McClinton, says the production faced years of interruptions before making it to the screen.
"We were originally meant to start shooting at [Sydney's] Lost Paradise [music festival] in 2019 but the bushfires cancelled that," Wilson-McClinton recalls, "and then COVID cancelled everything."
Wilson-McClinton has worked on productions big and small, from Steven Spielberg's HBO series The Pacific to Sotiris Dounoukos's Canberra-shot feature film Joe Cinque's Consolation to the kinds of corporate video work for government departments that pay mortgages and feed families.
She was introduced to Sydney-based documentary filmmaker De Souza when the latter was looking at shooting footage in Canberra.
De Souza collaborated with surfer Sunny Abberton for their hit 2007 film Bra Boys and has built a respectable career in documentary since.
His first narrative film has a documentary feel to it, with many scenes shot at real-life music events, including the Big Pineapple Music Festival on the Sunshine Coast and Wollongong's Yours and Ours Festival.
"Yours and Ours was the first event to come back after the lockdowns," Wilson-McClinton says, "and even though it's not how we shot it for our film, that first year back had all of the audience sitting down."
The producers of the Lunar Electric Music Festival on the Gold Coast gave Wilson-McClinton and De Souza five minutes of on-stage time at their event to shoot a scene with Indigenous performer Guyala Bayles' character singing to the crowd.
"We couldn't have made this film without the support of the festivals," Wilson-McClinton says, though she admits that some of their festival scenes were actually shot on her mother's farm outside Canberra, and one scene in a portaloo on the University of Canberra campus.
"You wouldn't know which parts are festival and which are on my mum's farm, unless I pointed them out."
Wilson-McClinton and De Souza cast their young performers before their originally scheduled 2019 shoot.
The year of COVID lockdowns and cancelled live events gave her young cast plenty of time to get to know each other and form genuine friendships before their eventual 2021 filming.
De Souza already knew King through his brother, pro surfer Kyuss King, who also appears in the film as Maxie's angry older brother. Rising star King can also currently be seen on screens playing opposite Luke Hemsworth in Bosch & Rockit.
Wilson-McClinton is on the phone from Coober Pedy where she has been working long days as line producer on Aussie director Ivan Sen's new feature.
I remind her that she once gave me an acting job, my only paid acting gig, as "husband of wife with headache" in a national headache tablet commercial that shot in Canberra.
"Yes, we did love to share the jobs around to everyone we knew," she laughs.
Wilson-McClinton's career started in a Canberra ad agency, then she had a long stint working for the Canberra-based film and television production house Bearcage (now called Wild Bear).
She took a job managing the makeup team for the 2010 shoot of The Pacific in Port Douglas.
"That was my first experience of a production of that scale," she says.
"There was a crew of 700 and a department for everything, for transport, for set decoration, instead of small crews with everyone doing everything."
Her career took her to Melbourne for a while, but she returned to Canberra to be closer to family, and she and her partner have stayed to raise their two daughters.
Wilson-McClinton thinks Canberra is the ideal filming location, and she has a handful of projects on the boil that make the most of the region.
We chat about the big streaming services and their impacts on local film production.
"Like everyone else, I'd like to see them have a quota for Australian productions," she says. "I don't want to hear my children talking in American accents, and I'd like to help shape that content."
6 Festivals has been picked up for international streaming by major studio Paramount which means, unusually for many low-budget Australian productions, the film enjoys a degree of marketing support.
"It's usually just the cast and crew reaching out to their contacts."
The film enjoys such an infectious energy.
I tell her it made me want to get off the couch and go see something live, for the first time in years.
"That's the reaction we're getting from everyone who sees the film," Wilson-McClinton says.
"No matter what age they are, it brings back great memories of live events."
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