IF YOU adapted Tait Brady’s 30 years in the Australian film industry into a slate of films you would have an eclectic selection. There would be the suspenseful thriller about the years Brady spent securing the future of the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF), or the procedural drama covering his time at the now defunct funding body Film Finance Corporation (FFC), where he was an ”advocate” for the likes of Animal Kingdom and Not Quite Hollywood.
The next fictitious movie about Brady’s career is still in development, but it’s already shaping up as an ambitious if unclassifiable production. At the age of 52, Brady, a leading figure in Melbourne film circles, is attempting to do a little bit of everything.
The Wedding Party, the first entry from Brady’s new independent distribution company Label, is being released today, but that’s just the initial public act in a belated embrace of multitasking.
”One of the big things for me has been learning how to not have one single nine-to-five job, which I’d had for more than 25 years,” Brady explains. ”It took me two years to loosen up, but in the course of a day I can work on a proposal for a documentary, consult to someone on a script, spend the afternoon with a writer, and then teach that night.”
Sitting in an office close to St Kilda’s Astor Theatre, which was a MIFF hub before he began the festival’s expansion by transferring it to the CBD in 1996 in his final year as director, Brady is full of enthusiasm for the movies as an art form and a business but low-key about his own contribution. Writing pads on his desk are covered with daily lists, with an impressive number of items crossed out by late morning.
Between the MIFF and FFC eras Brady spent eight years as general manager at Palace Films, the country’s leading independent distributor.
Having worked on about three dozen Australian releases between 1996 and 2004 he thought he was done with distribution. But his frustration at the local industry’s poor response to The Wedding Party, the romantic comedy that opened MIFF in 2010 but attracted at best so-so notices and subsequently failed to find commercial traction, caused him to reconsider.
Amanda Jane’s picture, which has had 19 minutes shaved from it by Moulin Rouge editor Jill Bilcock since a Melbourne audience last saw it, has not been easy to book into cinema screens. One reason, Brady readily acknowledges, is that Label is a new distributor, but another is the sheer glut of new releases available to exhibitors.
Despite an ”oversupply of films”, Brady is generally positive about the exhibition business in Australia. Disruptive technologies, such as Video on Demand, haven’t established a foothold here, and cinemas continue to draw audiences even as the once lucrative DVD retail business falls away. It’s a sturdy foundation, but the question remains what kind of films should Australia aim to produce?
”There’s a difference between making terrific films and having the kind of massive mainstream successes that film agencies and governments want,” Brady notes. ”Everyone would acknowledge that you have to support a range of films across the spectrum, but my fear is when we get fixated on mainstream box-office success and start to manufacture films to try to fill that shape.”
As a producer, Brady’s slate of films in development reflects his wide-ranging taste. He’s helping to bring a sci-fi mash-up, Stephen Amis’ The 25th Reich, to screens later this year, and is working on adaptations of a comic Nick Earls novel and Richard Frankland’s play about Aboriginal deaths in custody, Conversations with the Dead.
He’s received rejections from Screen Australia, the federal government funding body that absorbed the FFC, but in the case of one project, director Craig Monahan’s redemptive drama Healing, it spurred those involved on to improve the script.
With Hugo Weaving and Don Hany to star, Healing received funding at the second attempt and will shoot early in 2013, allowing Brady to add marshalling and overseeing a film shoot to his list of skills.
”I’ve really gone 360 degrees. So the last challenge is physical production with Healing, and that’s really interesting to me,” says Brady, whose own career is in no rush to get to the third act. ”I just love doing new things.”
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.