Sunday, September 12, 2010

Interview with Mark Hartley (writer-director of Not Quite Hollywood) - March 13th, 2009

Promoting: Not Quite Hollywood
Venue: The Charlotte Street Hotel
Interview type: One-on-one

ViewLondon (VL): How did the project come about?

Mark Hartley (MH): It was an idea I'd had since I was a kid. I grew up watching these films on TV – I remember distinctly seeing Snapshot, The Man From Hong Kong and Patrick on television. Australia had a weird film culture in that we had embraced our arthouse films as our commercial films in Australia, films like Picnic at Hanging Rock and Breaker Morant were embraced by audiences in Australia as our mainstream films. So anything that was different to our nostalgic period films was considered B grade or exploitation. So when I saw these films on TV, they were like nothing I'd seen before in Australia, they were like American films with Australian accents. So I felt a connection to them because of that and I went to read about them in the library, but they weren't listed. So that kind of started me with the idea of shining the spotlight on these film-makers – people like Brian Trenchard-Smith and Richard Franklin, who had just as much skill as our more lauded film-makers but never got any respect because they worked in genre films.

VL: How did Quentin Tarantino get involved?

MH: After about six years I'd almost given up [trying to get the film made] but I'd amassed a 100-page research document. I'd read in Fangoria that he'd screened Road Games on the set of Kill Bill, so we tracked down his assistant's email and sent her the document and said “Look, I've been working on this project but it's dead in the water but I thought Quentin might like to read these notes if he's got an interest in the stuff?' And I got an email back the next day saying “Quentin's read your notes from cover to cover. What can he do to help you?” So we went over and shot an interview with him on spec. I think it was three hours with Quentin and half an hour with Quentin and Brian Trenchard-Smith just chatting. And during that, I thought, 'There's no way in the world that we can't get this finance now' and it still took another four years.

VL: Why was that?

MH: It was more or less the same problem these films faced when they came out. No-one thought this was a story worth telling. Tarantino did actually help in a big way. We got back to Australia and they still said, 'Well, how does Tarantino help?' And I was trying to explain to them that Tarantino is a beacon for film enthusiasts all over the world and if Tarantino tells you to watch, say, a Henry Silva mafia movie, you'll watch it. And here he is telling you to watch Australian genre movies – why shouldn't we be making this documentary? And they still didn't see it, but thankfully the Americans and the English did and we got funding that way.

VL: How hard was it to get hold of all the clips you wanted? Were there any clips you wanted but couldn't get?

MH: While I was researching Not Quite Hollywood, I actually spent a lot of time putting a large majority of these films out on DVD, through a company in Australia. So I'd found a large number of the materials doing that and also tracked down rights holders doing that, which made it a lot easier. We've also got a really good archive in Australia, the National Film and Sound Archive, which had a large majority of the material. And I said to the producers, if we're going to do this, we're going to do it properly, because I was so sick of watching documentaries where they talk about these films that sound so great but then they cut to this really ratty footage, because they've used old trailers or TV prints or whatever they could get their hands on. So the money went on regrading everything from the original negs, which we did with every title but one. So that helped too, because the whole idea of the film is that we're trying to explain how these movies tried to take on the world and you can't do that unless the films look half decent.

VL: Do you have a particular favourite of the films in the movie?

MH: Oh, look, the other thing I should say about the docko is that it's pretty irreverent – it's not trying to pretend that all these films are good, so hopefully when you're watching it you can tell which are the good ones and which are the bad ones. And I think the docko makes it pretty clear that Road Games and Long Weekend, Patrick, Man from Hong Kong and Next of Kin are really good films. And Razorback, Razorback's a pretty good film too. I'm a big fan of Road Games, I think Road Games is a really great film and still stands up today. It's as good as any of your wannabe De Palma and Hitchcock films.

Note: ViewLondon interview is here.

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