Asia Pacific Projects
Rikke Brewer and best friend Aiden Knox, ‘failing’ working-class teenagers, hone their spectacular UrbEx stunts and gravity-defying Parkour skills, hoping that millions of ‘likes’ will be their ticket out of boring Guildford. But the trauma of a close friend’s death triggers darker stories, of broken families and fragile mental health, threatening to send them both Off The Rails.
Rikke Brewer & Aiden Knox struggle with the death of their best friend Nye Newman, and subsequent mental health issues, in very different ways. Rikke seeks the dangerous thrill of UrbEx stunts, in pursuit of 15million clicks of YouTube-fame and money as a way to numb his loss and pain. Aiden seeks solace in Parkour, while working menial jobs to pay for his increasing alcoholism.
We follow Rikke’s attempts to become a famous UrbExer on YouTube, as he posts ever more dangerous stunts. We interweave both Rikke and Aiden’s stories, as they struggle to move from adolescence into adulthood. As we follow their difficult journeys we meet their friends and family battling to keep Rikke and Aiden from going Off the Rails.
We meet Rikke and Aiden, in the present day, revealing their close friendship. We explore the history behind their friendship, delving into their rich user generated archive, as kids, starting out in a Parkour crew Brewman. We reveal the tragic death of their best friend Nye Newman, and witness Rikke & Aiden’s differing reactions to this traumatic event in their young lives.
Rikke’s increasingly dangerous stunts alarm his mother, Mary, a hard-working domestic cleaner, who describes them as a form of self-harm. We see Rikke face judgement in the UK courts, potential imprisonment, and the demonetisation of his YouTube channel for posting his illegal stunts.
We see how Rikke’s ‘job’ and legal problems sour his relationship with his first love Amber. We join Rikke in Paris & Berlin as he embarks on a European tour of YouTube ‘madnesses’ and watch as he and his friends almost die trainsurfing in Berlin. Back in London, Decision-Day at the Courts awaits .
In contrast to Rikke, Aiden has a more sombre obviously traumatized response to Nye’s death; Nye died in Aiden’s arms. When Aiden’s Mother dies of cancer, this second huge blow provokes Aiden’s descent into alcoholism. Alan, Aiden’s Dad, struggles to impose discipline, to keep him from drinking. Finally, we observe Aiden’s increasing anxiety, after Alan announces he’ll be selling their family home. Aiden must move out, grow up and live elsewhere on his own.
Covid lockdown causes major change. Rikke moves from reckless law-breaking daredevil, in denial of his grief, to a more self-aware, emotionally mature, and spiritually awakened young man. Aiden initially descends into alcoholism and homelessness, but finally re-emerges, more responsible, independent, determined to confront his problems.
Off the Rails (OTR) is a coming of age film focusing on two working class young men; Rikke Brewer and Aiden Knox. I have been working with these extraordinary young men for the past 4 years. I first met them whilst directing the short film, Parkour Changed Our Lives for the BBC, it was set in the world of Parkour and was aimed at a youthful BBC3 audience.
In Off the Rails, I follow Rikke Brewer struggling to escape his volatile past, as he forges a career in the dangerous world of UrbEx via YouTube, despite warnings of his best friend and family. Some viral train surfing videos have already got Rikke worldwide attention. But dangerous stunts come at a high cost. We will see the emotional price Rikke has to pay.
As a young man, I was drawn to dangerous and extreme sports. Not all of my friends made it. This profound personal experience is what connects me to the two protagonists in OTR. I have made a lot of work that focuses on people who are often considered ‘outsiders’ – ranging from rebel surfers to prostitutes, football hooligans to tv fraudsters; Imams to urban explorers. Some of the subjects have been involved in illegal activity most haven’t but all in some ways live a life that is in some way socially not acceptable. I like the characters to tell their stories for this reason I like to draw on a cinema verité or observational style. I want the audience to feel that they are privileged participants in the world that the subjects inhabit.
I have developed a close relationship with Rikke Brewer and his best friend Aiden Knox over several years. Their relationship becomes key. Observational scenes will follow the maxim get in late leave early. The audience will feel that they are privileged participants in the world that Rikke and Aiden inhabit. As the film un-folds we see that their relationship is like a Janus coin; where Rikke is out going; Aiden is inward looking; Rikke achieves ‘success’; Aiden struggles with ‘failure’; Rikke claims to make memories of an exciting present; Aiden lives in memories of a more innocent time.
Aiden doesn’t condone but can’t bring himself to condemn Rikke. He becomes Rikke’s conscience. Thus Aiden becomes the moral centre of the film. Aiden believes that madness will be the death of Rikke but Parkour will be the salvation of Aiden and could be for Rikke too.
Off the Rails is a coming of age film shot in an obs doc style with extensive use of User Generated Content (UGC). My aim is to get under the skin of my principle characters to reveal the psychology of why they pursue online fame doing extremely dangerous stunts. In so doing I hope to reveal something of the complexities, confusion and fun of the first generation brought up in an online world.
I have developed a close relationship with Rikke Brewer and his best friend Aiden Knox over several years. Their relationship becomes key. Observational scenes will follow the maxim get in late leave early. The audience will feel that they are privileged participants in the world that Rikke and Aiden inhabit.
One ambition is to change the experience of the UGC, normally they are viewed privately on a 5 inch screen, we will experience them collectively on a 30 foot screen. The ‘madnesses’ also serve a dual purpose; they become symbols of darker motivations for his behaviour; depression, mental illness and self-harm. Mary, his mother describes them as ‘…like cuts all over your body, you just can’t see them’; the film investigates this premise.
Rikke and Aiden have both given access to their UGC. Some of this material exists online in their Instagram and YouTube accounts and some of it is ‘out takes’. The material explores the spaces between the private and the public. Another layer of meaning is added from the text and chat feedback they receive on their stunts; the ‘likes’ and the ‘dislikes’. These texts displayed graphically will provide an ironic counterpoint to Rikke’s stunts. I am interested in exploring the sense that generation z are always online. How do they deal with that?
In addition to the ‘action archive’ they have been filming since they were 12 years old, there is material that Rikke and Aiden have never shared online. In this digital treasure trove of out-takes and off-cuts, I will find the emotional glue to bind the film together. Revelations of fear, excitement, joy and despair.
Sound will be used to heighten tension and create drama. Rikke’s stunts require control of fear. There are occasional glimpses of how terrified some of the practitioners are, with exclamations off-mike and camera. SFX will amplify the thud of landing a great jump, the metallic rip of a roof giving way.
I have produced and directed award winning television series and theatrical docs. I have made a lot of work that focuses on people who are often considered ‘outsiders’ – ranging from rebel surfers to prostitutes, football hooligans to tv fraudsters; Imams to urban explorers. Some of the subjects have been involved in illegal activity most haven’t but all in some ways live a life that is socially not acceptable. I try to find the humanity and the humour in the subjects to reveal a life less ordinary.
We have a 90 minute rough cut, edited in 2020. This cut is two acts and we are in need of a final act. We anticipate that we could finish the film in a concerted 5 month block. We have concluded principal photography and anticipate a few more shoots to conclude the film. The final filming, we would be master interviews and final observational scenes as we seek to round out the narrative arcs of our central characters.
The graphic elements of the film are indicative, the music is in transition, the edit needs a few more passes. Settling on a compelling and grabby graphic style is a major task of the post production process. This is going to be time consuming to nail. We will need to do several passes of the film to fully unlock its potential.
Our two principal characters have moved on substantially in the lockdown period. They have had time to reflect on their lives and have matured in ways that I did not think likely when I first started filming with them. These changes will make for a good conclusion to the film.
Budget: USD 371,742
Our strategy has been to raise core finance through our own markets and co-production partners. We are at advanced rough cut stage seeking completion funding.
With filming in England, edit in Wales and Post in Scotland. Faction Films (England) as delegate lead producer will raise funds from the BFI and UK broadcast. We secured a non-recoupable grant from BFI of £14k.
Rob Alexander, through company Perfectmotion, has secured £10,000 Welsh development funding via the Film Cymru Wales development fund. Grant Keir of Faction North is Scottish based and matched this £10,000 funding through Creative Scotland, with the intention to raise more from the Scottish and Welsh regions.
We have taken the project to market at Sheffield MeetMarket 2019, IDFA 2019 MediMed 2020 and DocEdge NZ. We have received strong interest from international broadcasters, platforms who are currently tracking the project. We are in the process of negotiating a MG for £20,000 with a British-based distributor. This strong show of market interest we hope will help trigger further funding from film Wales and Creative Scotland.
Cult movie fan Steve Austin explores forgotten Kiwi action hero Peter O’Brian – ‘The Indonesian Rambo’ – and attempts to help him return to acting after 25 years away from the screen.
In 1986, ex-heroin smuggler PETER WILSON packed up his window cleaning business and headed off on a world trip. Originally hailing from Tauranga, Peter is rearing to enjoy an international adventure, not knowing that destiny has other plans for him.
Days later, in the humid streets of Jakarta, Indonesia, Peter notices he’s being tailed by a van full of men. It turns out Peter bears an uncanny resemblance to SYLVESTER STALLONE and has caught the eye of a local movie producer RAAM PUNJABI who offers him the lead role of ‘Alex “Rambu” Trambuan’ in their Indonesian rip-off of Rambo entitled “The Intruder”.
Now with the stage-name PETER O’BRIAN, he spends the next decade in Indonesia starring in a series of low budget, action-movies and living the life of a South-East Asian movie star. And then, in 1998 following the death of his mother in New Zealand and finding a new calling in service to Jesus Christ, Peter O’Brian abruptly vanished from the world of movies.
Cut to 21 years later: Auckland filmmaker, cult-movie fanatic and actor Steve Austin wonders “Whatever happened to Peter O’Brian?” Discovering that Peter is still alive and now a retirement-age family man in small-town Tauranga, Steve realizes, for the sake of cinema, that he must make a documentary about ‘the greatest action-hero you’ve probably never heard of’. Putting together a crew, he interviews the man and learns of his incredible exploits as a criminal, a movie-star, and as a Christian fundamentalist convert. He also learns that Peter desperately wants to return to acting and furthermore believes God has sent Steve to make that dream come true.
Curious to see whether the aged actor still has it in him, Steve puts Peter through his paces: devising an actor’s bootcamp with a drama coach, introducing him to the local film industry and getting renowned Kiwi actors’ and filmmakers’ perspectives on where Peter can go from here.
Their shared goal boils down to a simple target: an actor’s showreel. No longer the Indonesian stunt-man turned action movie star, but an older, world-weary character actor who may have more to offer in the world of drama. All of this culminates in the film’s finale where Peter is offered a role in a movie; a role perfectly suited to his skillset, created thanks to Steve’s enthusiasm and Peter’s reputation finally paying him back for the years of entertainment he has provided.
OPERATION: RAMBU! the feature length documentary aims to be a funny, nostalgic, feel-good and sometimes uncomfortable journey into a forgotten celebrity’s past. It features several strings pulled together to form a cohesive whole: filmmaker Steve Austin’s journey to learn about Peter’s extraordinary life and to teach the world about cult-films, his journey to immerse himself in the world of 1980’s Indonesian cinema and Peter’s attempts to return to the world of acting and become a movie star again. All of which will be spiced with hilarious, dramatized recreations of moments in Peter’s life set to pounding 80’s music and low-budget action-movie aesthetics.
The film’s narrative is about Peter O’Brian, but experienced through the eyes of Steve Austin – fanboy and filmmaker – who optimistically has charged himself with a mission to make Peter famous again, adding his own commentary and context to events, filling in Peter’s blanks, calling him out on his obviously tall-tales, voicing his feelings about how their mission is going. He is our host, narrator and audience-perspective character. It is through this lens of fanboy dealing with obscure movie star that we will use to build the emotional heart of our story; described through interviews, archival materials, copious film clips, reenactments of moments in Peter’s life and, tying it all together.
Nostalgia for the 1980’s and exploration of sub-fandoms has never been greater than now. We want to tap into and introduce a wider audience to what has been seen as a niche part of cult cinema fandom and spread a newfound appreciation for Peter O’Brian’s films. The journey of OPERATION: RAMBU! is to acknowledge common humanity in all of us – the identification of a Rambo-esque hero and to reflect that character within one’s own context.
We feel that the audience will see themselves in Peter’s story: his warmth, humour, desire for approval, questionable past and other foibles. This documentary will be accessible and irreverent; opening the story out to a wider receptive audience, and to those who may have previously laughed AT rather than WITH these films. In its own right, Peter’s life story is a kind of extraordinarily human B-movie – from surreal heights, to ordinary, humble existence; forever pushing forward on a road towards redemption. It is time for us to peel back the skin of a part of world cinema, often dismissed, to reveal a beating human heart.
Our intention is to build the film along two plot strands (A and B):
The A-story will be Peter O’Brian recounting his many incredible anecdotes in an interview fashion while we deep-dive into those tales via film clips (from Peter’s incredibly strange movies) or via stylish re-enactments of those moments.
Meanwhile the film’s B-story, in a more traditional ob-doc fashion, will depict Steve and Peter’s quest to reunite him virtually with the Indonesian filmmakers he worked with, as well as follow Steve’s journey to help Peter return to the world of acting via training, networking and producing a actor’s showreel.
The re-enactment sequences are not just mere glimpses of Peter’s memories, but rather are ensconced in the mythic visual style of the over-the-top 1980’s action-movies that his fans associate him with. Re-enactments will be shot as deliberately heightened expressions of Peter’s epic story; cast across a tapestry of polished motorcycles, leather jackets, aviator sunglasses, neon street-signs, colonial architecture, steamy South-East Asian jungles and tropical sunsets. Think Refn’s DRIVE and Mann’s THIEF, set to blasting retro-wave/synth-pop music from underground artists and you’re in the ball-park. It’s not how the 1980’s actually were…it’s how everyone wants to remember it.
These sequences – the most cinematic parts of our film – will be shot in a virtual production studio process utilizing giant LED screen backdrops behind a very staged, DOGVILLE-style, aesthetic for props and set-dressing. This collision of styles is about honouring and playing in the constructed nature of memories. This way Peter will virtually visit his old cell in Fremantle Prison and we will create a nuanced representation of Indonesia in the 1980’s; ranging from the bowels of Indonesian movie-theaters and studio back lots to its steamy streets and jungles.
We also intend to use the LED virtual production studio process to virtually reunite Peter with some of these people from his past, essentially conducting a life Zoom session but where his colleagues appear on the gigantic walls of the volume-space and Peter is dwarfed by them on the stage.
The B-story will also be balanced out with Peter’s quest to return to acting and the trials and tribulations of preparing to film his professional acting reel. We will feature acting celebrities and take Peter through a series of training sessions to hone his craft, giving the audience an insight into the world that Peter wants to return to.
RAJNEEL SINGH is co-director of OPERATION: RAMBU! He has over 15 years experience in the industry as a director for New Zealand television shows and editor of documentary content for New Zealand and International platforms.
STEVE AUSTIN has over thirty years experience in the Performing Arts, working as a professional maker and commentator of film, TV & theatre, a casting agent and drama tutor. Operation: RAMBU! marks Steve’s feature debut as a director, following up the success of his short film for the LoadingDocs platform.
OPERATION: RAMBU! unfolds across two production periods – the first being a master interview with Peter O’Brian and then the second being a follow-up interview, post further research, and then documenting his work to re-enter the film industry.
This second period will also include the filming of re-enactments in the Virtual Production Studio and also second-unit interviews and B-roll to be shot in Indonesia (COVID permitting).
There is already a team of fixers deployed in Jakarta seeking out Indonesian interview subjects as well as establishing connections to obtain the best quality versions of Peter’s films and supplementary and promotional material.
Projected budget: $500,000 USD
The project is currently in development with the New Zealand Film Commission and seeking to enter production before the end of this year with the aim to deliver the project mid-2022.
Māori Eco-Warrior Hori Parata, harvests dead, beached whales and saves native rats. But at 77, he is racing to teach a new generation, ancient ways.
Whales strand on a New Zealand beach and people rush to save them.
If they die Hori Parata will mobilise a team of volunteer whale harvesters to revive a traditional, sacred practice, banned more than forty years ago, but now permitted. Hori teaches a new generation how to harvest whale bone and oil.
He is also called Ratman for his efforts to save native rats and other endangered wildlife and plants.
Now Hori must pass on his knowledge and his son has abandoned university to learn from his father. But learning from his Dad is difficult.
Te Kaurinui struggles with what he calls, “Dad’s ego.” He wants to follow in his father’s footsteps, but not be his father.
His father is an activist and academic, doing his PhD on inter-generational trauma caused by colonisation and he doesn’t mind telling people about that, in no uncertain terms.
Hori wants to pass on his knowledge, to ensure Māori sovereignty over native species, culture and traditions.
We journey with father and son as they reinvigorate a culture, one whale bone at a time.
Whale of a Tale Ltd, 2021
I first stumbled across this story at a local marae during a whale harvest. For the first time ever, I saw 40 pilot whale heads around the perimeter fence and a whale harvest underway. As I entered a hidden world, a documentary idea was born.
In Hori Parata, I discovered a sometimes grumpy old man with a heart of gold, and at 77-years-old, time is running out to tell his story. The film is visually epic, towering cliffs, huge ocean mammals, big landscapes and a visceral depiction of the hunter-gatherer beneath our modern, sophisticated veneer.
The deeper theme is reclaiming Māori customs and sovereignty, a recurring theme of my work over the last twenty years. Ratman and the Whales is also an intimate story about a father and son relationship, a universal theme which resonates widely.
Other topics that drew me in, include conservation and environmental protection. How mankind’s hunt for oil and gas, can harm and even kill whales. And how climate changes creates an acidic ocean, upsetting the delicate balance of the whales’ habitat.
This film shows the dignity in living off what nature provides. That which begins in blood and entrails, ends with beautiful carved tāonga and healing oils. What’s more, the practice revives a culture and reinvigorates the people.
Whale of a Tale Ltd, 2021
This documentary is a character driven, anthropological study of Māori cultural practices pertaining to whales. As such, it gives an insider’s a peek into the little known world of ‘whale harvesters’. It takes an observational documentary approach to filming but also includes strong, character driven interviews for clarity and to delve deeper into topics.
Our key character is Hori Parata along with his son Te Kaurinui who are as different as chalk and cheese. Hori is a feisty activist, not afraid to offend. He is doing his PhD on intergenerational trauma caused by colonization.
Te Kaurinui is just as passionate about Māori causes, but takes a softer approach. He is a deep thinker who was doing a double degree in philosophy and political science when he quit to return to Whangārei and learn from his father. He has a casual quirkiness akin to Johnny Depp’s character in Scissorhands.
Together they make a fascinating odd couple with an important purpose.
The Whales, the Rat and the Kauri is also a personal and intimate story of one man’s drive to retain tradition and nurture the natural world. Hori and his young volunteers camp out on an offshore island, and monitor native wildlife to fulfil their traditional, tribal role as kaitiaki (guardians) of the natural world. Around the camp-fire or under the stars, Hori has time to pass on his knowledge, relaxed and affable. The colour palette is warm and the setting idyllic. A hand-held camera maintains the intimacy of conversation and camaraderie.
In this film, we show the dignity that comes from living off what nature provides. That which begins in blood and entrails, ends with the creation of beautiful carved tāonga (treasures) and healing oils. But even more importantly, the practice revives a culture and reinvigorates the people.
Ratman and the Whales looks through the lens of insiders, who are part of this world, both in front and behind the camera.
Co-Director & Instigatior, Kim Webby’s first feature documentary, The Price of Peace, received four international awards including Best Documentary at ImagineNATIVE in Canada, and screened at festivals in North America, Asia and Europe. With 25 years’ experience as a director and producer, her documentary and factual projects have screened on New Zealand television, BBC4 and Al Jazeera. Documentaries include October 15, Ngā Tamatoa, Victoria Crossed, Ta Moko, About Face, Coming Home, and Dope: Behind the Smoke. She began her career as a broadcast journalist at TVNZ. She is drawn to character driven indigenous, social justice and environmental stories.
Development: In final stages. Funding from NZ Film Commission.
Principal Photography: Begun 2019.
Seeking further funding once a distributor or sales agent has been secured.
Production: Feb 2022
Post Production Sept 2022
First release – Cinematic / Film Festivals May 20223
Broadcast Television (Māori Television, NZ) After cinematic release
Total Budget: USD 242,946
Budget is still being worked on.
Ratman and the Whales is in Advanced Development with assistance from the NZ Film Commission and we are currently looking for market interest in the film from distributors, sales agents and broadcasters.
To date, we have received NZ$30,000 in development funding from the NZFC in three tranches. We filmed interviews with Hori Parata, our key talent, and the recovery of sperm whale bones from a rocky remote beach as a proof of concept which enabled us to create our screener.
We are ready to start Principal Photography once we have secured market attachments and equity investment from the NZFC.
Hori Parata has written a support letter for the documentary and is involved in our planning and research.
Richard Jones is homeless and bankrupt, living in a 25 year old caravan on public land. Fourteen years of self-representation in court battles, against the car companies that destroyed him for challenging their near-fatal negligence, has taken its toll. But Richard refuses to die, especially when, for the first time in 14 years, he has a chance at victory.
Richard Jones is a seemingly unremarkable “country bumpkin” in his sixties. Having grown up in rural Australia, and after building a successful life in the big city, Richard returned to the simple pleasures of the country for his semi-retirement, except for one indulgence: a new four-wheel drive. His latest, a brand new Series 3 Range Rover was meant to be his last “new” car. Unfortunately, he was right.
One rainy night in 2004, when Richard was driving home in the pitch black of the countryside, the electrics in the car completely failed – a one-tonne missile, travelling 90km/hr towards a severe right-hand turn with Richard hanging on for dear life. Miraculously, Richard forced the car around the corner and expertly brought it to a stop before collapsing, shaking and in tears.
Sadly, this was just the beginning. Richard’s mission to get the vehicle repaired turned into an all-out legal assault against him by the car dealership, lasting years. Ultimately, despite proving the car dealership’s negligence in court, legal costs were shockingly ruled against Richard, eventually leading to his bankruptcy on spurious grounds. Even worse, the stress of the ordeal had left him with PTSD, and two massive heart attacks.
Despite his ill-fortune and “homespun” looks, however, Richard is actually a genius; who has taught himself the law and perseveres as a “self-represented litigant”. And it’s working – Richard now has a glimmer of hard-fought hope in this “David vs Goliath” fight. A last court battle that could overturn the entire bankruptcy and put justice back on course.
At the core of our civilization is a simple guiding principle: the social contract. We follow the norms of society, in the understanding that those norms protect us when we are wronged. But what are we to believe when observing a person being injured by the negligence of another, only to discover that the system is not there to protect them; and by extension not there to protect any of us? The context of RICHARD AND THE WINDMILL is an Australian legal battle, where a man who was nearly killed by the proven negligence of others, had the legal system weaponized against him and his pursuit of restitution. While this may seem small, Richard’s battle as a “self-represented litigant” against deep-pocketed antagonists is emblematic of a universal issue. Around the world, the treatment of those without power and resources by the legal system is increasingly becoming a human rights concern; and Richard’s struggle is one shared by the most vulnerable people in our courts.
I want to tell this story because, as well as being a friend to Richard, my previous work blends social awareness with unique personal narratives. But, most importantly, I believe Richard Jones deserves justice.
Richard is a seemingly unremarkable man in his sixties, with a long, tangled beard and half of his top row of teeth missing. As we sit in the rundown front room of his farmhouse, he blinks with a nervous energy, but is also quick to flash a cheeky smile. He takes a deep breath, before launching into his tale.
Having grown up in the Australian rural town of Dorrigo, Richard built a successful life and career in Sydney, owning multiple properties, before returning to the country life he missed for his twilight years. Working on the land, and running a small fish farm, one of the few luxuries Richard brought back from the city was his Range Rover.
From the 1970’s to the early 2000’s, Richard bought Range Rovers. They were his sanctuary for epic journeys across the Australian landscape. Unfortunately, as the years crept on and technology changed, the reliability of his beloved vehicle began to suffer.
Until one rainy night in 2004, when Richard was driving home in the pitch black of the countryside near the Dorrigo Mountain. He was crossing a low bridge, in his brand new Series 3 Range Rover, when the electrics in the car completely failed. No power steering. No engine. No headlights. And worst of all, no assisted braking. Just a one-tonne missile on wheels, travelling 90km an hour towards a severe right hand turn with Richard hanging on for dear life. With only seconds to assess the life-and-death situation, Richard opened his door and hung out of the driver side for visibility. Up ahead, closing in at terrifying speed, was a rock wall, with only the hairpin turn for escape. Through sheer force of will, Richard managed to force the car around the turn and bring it to a gradual stop. Shaking, Richard collapsed to the ground, only gathering himself when a nearby resident came to check on him. When Richard called for roadside assistance from a nearby telephone booth, he burst into tears from the panic of nearly losing his life on an anonymous road in the middle of nowhere.
Sadly, this was just the beginning of his ordeal.
Seeking redress for the car failure, Richard communicated with the car companies involved who refused to accept responsibility. Ultimately, the case ended up in the courts and Richard was forced to return to the city where he now felt out of place, and under siege. Over the next six years, Richard would stand his ground against the nefarious tactics of the car companies and their lawyers. The legal system itself seemed surprised that the case had not been resolved, with several judges questioning over years why the case had not settled. At one early stage, during a court ordered mediation, Richard was snarled at across the table by one of the car companies representatives: “You may win, but you’ll get nothing.”
At another court ordered sit-down, when Richard had offered a settlement, the answer came back from the opposing side’s lawyer:
“My client doesn’t think Mr Jones has suffered enough.”
This would be a grim prediction of what was to come.
In 2010, despite proving negligence against the car companies, a mistake made by Richard’s lawyer meant he received only $100 in damages; while the car companies he was pursuing were awarded costs. Seeing their opportunity to make an example of Richard, for being so brazen as to challenge their negligence which nearly killed him, the car companies used their resources to questionably freeze Richard’s assets and deliberately bankrupt him.
Richard’s entire life’s work, everything he had built over sixty years, was taken from him. Banished to a thirty year-old caravan, propped inside a giant shed full of hay bales on his land in Dorrigo. But even this sanctuary would be short lived – Richard received notification, hammered with steel nails into the door of his caravan, that the bad guys were coming to claim this land too. Even worse, the stress of the near-accident and the legal battles had left him diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and accelerated two massive heart attacks. Richard was broken, all because he sought justice.
But appearances deceive. Despite his scruffy attire, missing teeth and an unkempt bushman’s beard, Richard is a genius level intellect. The international consultancy career and University lecturing positions that Richard earned were on subjects that were largely self-taught. And now, despite being bankrupt and with deteriorating health, Richard had a new project: teaching himself the law.
What followed, was something the “bad guys” could never have predicted. Richard has kept fighting. In the District Court. In the Federal Circuit Court. In the full Federal Court. Richard even contemplated an appeal to the highest court in Australia at one stage, with that cheeky grin – but even he has limits.
Make no mistake, representing himself across numerous court skirmishes has not been easy. What Richard has learned, despite research showing the ever growing number of self-represented litigants across the world’s courtrooms, is that the law is not built for people. The legal system is a cottage industry, created for lawyers and judges, with opaque customs and practices designed to keep regular people out. The immense pressure on Richard has also continued to diminish his health. In the last two years alone, Richard has collapsed in court and been taken to hospital; receiving the news that the strain on his heart is pushing him towards another deadly heart attack.
But the stubborn bastard just won’t give up.
Despite the size of the wall he is trying to climb, Richard now has a glimmer of hard-fought hope. A last court battle that could overturn the entire bankruptcy and put justice back on course. And, if there is a chance at finally getting justice despite the odds, Richard is willing to take it. Because, as Richard says, as he chews a long blade of grass while staring at the nearby tree line as the sun slowly sets:
“I won’t die, because if I die, they win”.
Pete Ireland is an award-winning producer, writer and director. His films have been selected for Australian-Academy (AACTA), FIAPF, and Oscar- accredited film festivals in Australia and overseas; and broadcast in Australia and Europe. In 2015, Pete’s documentary ‘CHIP’ won the Independent Category of AACTA’s Social Shorts, and he was selected for ScreenNSW’s Emerging Producer Scheme. In 2019 Pete was selected for the Berlinale Talents program. Pete is also a professional member of AACTA and SPA.
James Crisp is an award-winning writer, director and producer from Invercargill, New Zealand.
We have covered the key aspects of Richard’s court battles since 2016, and now need to assembly edit the observational footage, before planning a targeted shooting period to complete the film and fill in any coverage gaps. Then we’ll officially move into post and finish the film.
This assembly edit process (including paper/development edit, additional research and planning for the targeted production that will complete the film), concurrently with the last coverage of the upcoming critical court case can be completed in 4 months. From there, the final edit and mastering, including any pickups could be completed in an additional 4-6 months.
Estimated budget: USD 265,165
Richard and the Windmill is a feature documentary film in active development/production. We have covered the key aspects of Richard’s court battles since 2016, including contemporaneous observational coverage and regular interviews with Richard on the rural farmland he adores. Richard is now in the late stages of his last possible legal recourse, meaning we will be able to conclude the court case coverage and progress with shaping the film.
Among communities ruled by fear, a single woman, Evelyn, rescues those accused of witchcraft from torture and murder at great personal risk in the rapidly changing societies of Papua New Guinea.
In the isolated communities and towns of the Papua New Guinea Highlands, people live in fear of sanguma – witches and sorcery. Fear of sanguma has spread like a virus in recent years, creeping through the highlands and infecting almost everyone it touches. Women and men are frequently tortured, cut, and burnt alive as accused witches. Although a recently introduced idea, the fear of sanguma is real for those who live in the highlands. The fear of accusation and violence haunts everyone, especially the society’s most vulnerable, women and children. In the midst of this fear one woman fights the swelling tide of sorcery killings and accusations with the only resource she has, love. Living in a makeshift house built with her own hands among the slums on the outskirts of Goroka town, Evelyn Kunda rescues women who somehow escape the violence in the villages and end up on Goroka’s streets. Evelyn gives everything she can to support, house and rehabilitate the often traumatized survivors that she takes under her wing. Her work is dangerous, unfunded and desperately needed. ‘Sanguma’ is a story of what happens when traditional belief systems are corrupted by capitalist notions of development. ‘Sanguma’ is a story of rapid social change in a society where violence against women is endemic. ‘Sanguma’ is also about the power of an individual to make change and a tale of love overcoming fear.
In parts of PNG the belief in Sanguma – witches, and sorcery, is ubiquitous.
I first travelled to Papua New Guinea in 2001 when I lived with a rainforest community for two years. I developed deep understandings of the spiritualities and worldviews of my Melanesian hosts and have since collaborated with these communities on several award-winning films.
In the last three years I have begun working in the urban Highland interiors where I’ve recorded horrendous first-hand accounts of sorcery related violence. This was completely counter to the respectful and welcoming communities that I knew previously. I returned in 2018 and 2019 determined to help by highlighting these issues internationally and bring about positive change for these communities that I feel deeply connected with.
To tell this story, I am collaborating with co-director and activist Evelyn Kunda. Evelyn takes a hands-on approach to confronting these problems. She houses, cares for and counsels the traumatized survivors of sorcery-related violence.
Her story and the story of those who suffer sorcery-related violence needs to be told. I am fortunate enough to be in the unique position of having the skills, determination and network to help Evelyn tell this compelling true struggle between love and fear.
The film will be shot primarily through interviews, B-roll footage and re-enactments with the support of our co-creator and protagonist Evelyn Kunda. The film will heavily feature her narrative arc – a close look of the precarious life she leads in the slums of Goroka, as she carries out her rescue and activism work. This will be interwoven with reenactments and depictions of the situations women in PNG often find themselves in – how one generally goes from living in village, to sorcery accusation related violence, to escaping (if they’re lucky), and finally to rehabilitation. These reenactments are carefully planned out with Evelyn’s help as to not re-traumatised survivors of such events.
We have additional footage of interviews with perpetrators and authority figures who provide another perspective on the phenomenon and how it has become more and more widespread in the recent years. This will contrast sharply with Evelyn’s attitude towards sorcery accusation related violence, and provide a grounds for further understanding of the cultural context of Sanguma.
The film will also feature heavily the landscape of Papua New Guinea through wide shots and drone shots, of the highlands, Goroka town, and the other areas that Evelyn works in.
Finally, we plan to also feature some footage of life in Papua New Guinea, between the villages and the town, and contrast tradition (such as the dances) with modernity (shots of concrete buildings, large trucks and UTEs driving through a market).
Dr Paul Wolffram is an award-winning director and producer, whose work seeks to push the boundaries of traditional documentary and explore the way we understand the world around us.
Paul has spent the last 20 years working with the communities in Papua New Guinea as well as New Zealand. His work is highly collaborative and involves creative engagement with traditional mythologies, indigenous music and dance, and spiritual practices.
2018 – 2020 Shoot and compile preliminary footage and interviews with a wide range of subjects in Goroka and in the villages and communities throughout the Eastern Highlands Province in Papua New Guinea.
2021 – Production halted due to Covid-19. Building impact campaign team and building out the website for the film, and to enable a platform for donations towards Evelyn
2022 – Complete Production in PNG
2023 – Complete Post-production by end of year
Budget : USD 159,295
Secured fund: USD 81,240
We have already captured 50% of the required footage of this film in 2018-2020. Due to Covid-19 we have had to push out the remainder of our production until the borders are opened between PNG and NZ again.
At this stage we are aiming for the following:
Complete the production phase of the film – Shooting in PNG in the next 18 months
Post-production beginning in 2023
Post-production finishing in 2024