Sunday, September 16, 2007


Fearless Filmmaker
THE JAMMED director DEE McLACHLAN by Mandy Kohler

LIKE A house of dog-eared cards, the canon of movies that deal in high profile causes builds slowly and carefully. One can’t help but feel that a stiff breeze of conservative bluster and the whole thing could collapse - after all, are we really that receptive to being told just what a holy mess we’ve made?
Against the odds, Dee McLachlan’s new film The Jammed answers in the affirmative, highlighting a shocking humanitarian crisis and a public who want to know. It’s this curiosity for the truth and a questioning nature that inspired McLachlan to make a film about sex-trafficking in Australia. “It’s inspired by actual events and court transcripts,” McLachlan says in a heavy South African accent. “I had seen an article in the paper here on page seven or eight and I thought, ‘Well this should actually be on page one’. It was about a case in an upper-class suburb; a guy had locked up 20 girls in a hotel and escorted them to the brothel every day. That’s what initiated me into writing the script.”The film follows Ashley Hudson (Veronica Sywak), an ordinary Australian woman who agrees to help find a missing Chinese girl and gets caught up in the underbelly of the Melbourne sex-trafficking trade. Through her eyes we see a side of Australia rarely seen, heard or talked about. Deciding that the issue was too important to wait the seven years it averages an Australian film to get off the ground, McLachlan circumvented the usual channels. “I’d written the script fairly quickly,” she recounts, “and I’d tried to get the film through funding bodies but it can take several years. I thought because this story is relevant, it should be told now. I thought ‘I’m going to fast track the process: I’m just going to make it with whatever money I can raise’.”And so, she did. With the help of a dedicated cast including talents Emma Lung, Saskia Burmeister and Sywak, McLachlan pulled her resources together and filmed The Jammed on high-definition video. But even when she had a completed film ready to go, McLachlan had trouble finding a distributor and The Jammed was slotted for a DVD release after a one-week run at Melbourne’s Nova Cinema. “Distributors were saying ‘Yeah, look, we love the movie, it’s just not going to play. It’s not going to make any money’,” McLachlan explains, “They often commit themselves at script stage so whether the film is good or bad, they’ve committed themselves. When they look at completed films they’ve got an advantage on seeing whether the film could do well or not, but there’s not the commitment behind it. They just thought maybe it’s a bit too dark and maybe people aren’t going to engage with the film.” After the influential duo of Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton gave The Jammed glowing reviews on At The Movies, not only did they actually agree on something for once, but they also launched McLachlan on a rollercoaster promotional tour when the film was picked up by Dendy. “It’s been amazing,” she says. “Audiences in Melbourne broke records for the opening week of an Australian film. It just shows that people do want to engage. If you said five years ago there was going to a film by a losing politician lecturing on carbon emissions, everyone would have laughed at you and now it’s an Oscar-winning hit movie!”It’s doubtful that the losing politician in question had to compromise on budget, as McLachlan did, but they obviously share a code of practice that should excite emerging filmmakers. “Filmmaking has become more of a committee process in many countries,” McLachlan says. “With digital filmmaking, I think it could swing back where people have a voice to get their story out and not a story that’s diluted by influences whether that be distributors, funding, investors, or sponsors. There are a lot of influences that can change a story.”

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