Posts by: Matt

Suddenly everything went quiet

What had started as an outstanding year for work suddenly came to an abrupt halt. My inbox sat idle and even spam seemed to cease arriving. A couple of international film projects slipped through my fingers and, even more disturbingly, two interesting low budget features films shooting in my home town decided to use other photographers. Crestfallen, I came to the conclusion that my portfolio was perhaps looking too smug, too many international features and celebrities and not enough actual photographic substance. My solution was to totally rebuild my web site to include more examples of my personal photographic projects, my experience as performance and festival photographer as well as samples of my video work. My good friend Joe Guario, web designer with his company 16 Animals, stepped in and together we started the time consuming and expensive process of constructing a completely new site.

My new look web page.

My new look web page.

In the meanwhile I was faced with the real situation of needing to generate an income. The problem with running away on film jobs for months on end is that it is impossible to retain a freelance career in my home town. Local clients are forced to go with another photographer when they discover I am away on a job, and then you’ve lost them. I was fortunate that The State Theatre Company of South Australia offered me the photographic contract on their next production Gods of Carnage, a challenging mix of studio, documentary and performance photography.

God of Carnage, Kim Gyngell and Lizzy Falkland. Having the actor vomit on stage half way through the show presented an interesting challenge for the theatre’s technicians.

A few other small performance based photographic jobs emerged, and I even found myself up on stilts, entertaining the public dressed as an android, but it was not enough to keep me busy, let alone pay the bills. Cinema projection had been my fall back job in the past, but it payed terribly and all the nice people had left. I contacted my mate Pete Adley, who’s landscape design business Yardstick needed gardeners and labourers on a regular basis. Thankfully Pete was busy and immediately offered me 2 to 3 days work a week. I threw myself into the digging, planting and lugging projects that often left me in pain, but I actually quite enjoyed.

Matt Nettheim

Peter Adley and myself in our Yardstick Garden Services uniform with the $2000 Tree Aloe we installed at a house in Glenelg.

Whilst waiting for the next film job I embraced the time with my family and friends, and also undertook a 6 week course in Wildlife Rescue. Australian native fauna is been a passion of mine for as long as I remember. Each week the course dealt with the rescue requirements of different species and basic medical procedures. We handled snakes, lizards, baby kangaroos and practiced bird bandaging techniques on very patient pigeons. I loved the course and have confidently dealt with a few minor rescues already. Although my dream block of land on Kangaroo Island was sold to someone else, adding to the frustrations of this period, in my next life I will have a sanctuary of Australian animals, birds and reptiles in a pristine wilderness environment.

Wildlife Rescue Course. Practicing bandaging techniques on a very patient pidgeon.

Wildlife Rescue Course. Practicing bandaging techniques on a very patient pidgeon.

My big brother Dan is a talented artist and film director. I credit him with giving me my first job on a film set as well as sparking my initial interest in photography. His feature film The Hunter, has been in development for nearly 10 years, a wonderful script that he has largely adapted himself from a novel by his friend Julia Leigh. I have been an enthusiastic supporter of project from its inception, offering feedback on the various drafts of the script and taking photographs in Tasmania on an early location scout. The feature is now fully funded and finally, after a 3 month pause, will be my next film project taking me through to the end of the year. Described as an psychological thriller, the amazing Willem Defoe is playing the lead, with Francis O’Conner and Sam Neal supporting. I will be shooting the stills, filming the behind the scenes video documentary and generally assisting all departments on will be a challenging location shoot with a tight budget and minimal crew.

In the days before my departure to Tasmania, typically, I was offered another project, a quirky television comedy called Danger 5 shooting in Adelaide. The South Australian writer, director, musician and animator Dario Russo built a cult following with his highly stylized series Italian Spiderman, its episodes receiving over a million hits on You Tube. A parody of the action adventure films of the 60’s and 70’s, and their production techniques, Dario’s vision is confident and very funny. Although I am now only available for a few days, I am really looking forward to working on something interesting in my home town. I like to believe the new web site has done the trick.

Good times at the DVD store

My volcano stranding in London stretched on for a frustrating 6 days. Most of this time was spent on the phone on hold with my airline trying to secure the first available passage home. I also needed to find alternative accommodation, and moved in with my friend Alison Limerick, and her 4 cats, in Hackney. I was very fortunate that my next film in Australia, The Eye of the Storm, remained faithful to me, deciding to have producer Greg Read shoot stills in my absence, rather than employing another stills photographer who could have potentially poached the job.
When I finally arrived on set, a week late, it was immediately apparent that I was working on a precious jewel of a project. Quality actors in wonderful costumes embracing a poetic script under the watch of a consumate director amongst beautifully dressed locations. We filmed mainly in Melbourne, but also shot in Sydney before finishing up on the beaches of the Gold Coast, on the N.S.W and Queensland border. It was director Fred Schepisi’s first film in Australia for more than a decade and I feel extremely confident that it will be a very classy and engaging piece of cinema. Fred’s next film is scheduled to be The Secret River, based on the book by Kate Grenville set in colonial Australia. I love this book and was very keen to impress the director and his team and hopefully land this second prize, destined to be a classic.

Geoffery Rush checks out some of my stills on The Eye of the Storm set.

Geoffery Rush checks out some of my stills on The Eye of the Storm set.

Most of the films I work now also get me to shoot their gallery/specials photography. Generally this requires me to build a studio on location and borrow some lights from the gaffers, usually for the standard cost of a slab of beer. Studio photography used to scare the hell out of me, my art school photography tuition neglected this area, but I am slowly gaining confidence and beginning to enjoy the challenge. All of the actors filed through my studio at some point during The Eye of the Storm shoot. The portraits of Geoffery Rush, Judy Davis and the lovely Charlotte Rampling, famous also for her erotic modelling work with Helmut Newton, will certainly become precious images in my future portfolios and publications.

Charlotte Rampling as Elizabeth Hunter, my location studio at Ripponlea, Melbourne.

Charlotte Rampling as Elizabeth Hunter, my location studio at Ripponlea, Melbourne.

Good times at the DVD store. It was amusing to find both Where the Wild Things Are and The Boys are BackDVD’s sitting together on the new releases shelf at my local. Where.. had gone with a new cover, using one of my favourite stills unaltered, as opposed to the heavily photoshopped cinematic poster. The featured 4 of my stills on the DVD cover and I was delighted to also discover a 17 minute featurette in the specials section called A Photographic Journey. This proved to be a well made animated montage of well over 100 of my stills with narration by the director Scott Hicks. It doesn’t get much better than that for the humble on set stills guy.

Good times at the DVD shop.

Good times at the DVD shop.

It has been the most consistent year of employment that I have known in my career. Although I love my job I felt the need for some pure fun, and took advantage of a 4 day gap to take off on a bicycle adventure. Kangaroo Island of the coast of South Australia has to be my favourite place in the world, I want to live there. Over the last couple of years I have been fine tuning a bike route whilst inspecting blocks off land on the remote South Coast, which I can only dream of buying. Although it rained a bit and was very cold at night I enjoyed some fantastic cycling and camping amongst the stunning scenery and wildlife. I inspected a block that I love, so special that I am scared to tell anyone about it. To purchase it now, my career as precarious as ever, would be big, risky commitment, but I hope next time I update this blog it will be mine. You will all be welcome to come and camp, but only if you can get there on a bike.

My cliff face camping spot above a secret beach on Kangaroo Island's south coast.

My cliff face camping spot above a secret beach on Kangaroo Island’s south coast.

Stranded by a volcano eruption

Whilst in London I have tried to make the most of my days off by organising few meetings and catching up with my growing number of UK friends. It was a pleasure to see Jim Loach again, busy in the editing suite with Oranges and Sunshine. My timing was good in that I was able to view an assemblage of one scene from the film, absolutely beautiful and very emotional, that confirmed my feelings that this will be a stunning film.

Jim Loach in the editing room at Air Post.

Jim Loach in the editing room at Air Post.

It also proved to be a good time to be in London in that I was able to pick up 2 extra days work on The Eagle of the Ninth which had 3 days of re-shoots at Shepperton Studios. With very little preparation time an amazing Roman era set was constructed and busy actors Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell and Mark Strong were secured. It was fantastic to catch up with the cast and many of the original crew members, and the filming went well, director Kevin Macdonald being able to polish what I am confident will be beautifully shot and epic adventure film.

Director Edgar Wright visited the Attack the Block set, emerging from the editing room where he has been putting the finishing touches on Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Part of the Big Talk Productions family, we worked together on Hot Fuzz, and he is good friends and occasional collaborator with my current director Joe Cornish. I was delighted that Joe asked me to take a snap of the two of them together which saved me the embarrassment of having to ask. It appeared on Edgar’s web site a few days later with a very complimentary thank you.

My snap of Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish as it appeared on Edgar's site.

My snap of Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish as it appeared on Edgar’s site.

The Infidel, a film I worked on in 2009, also had is premiere over this period and I was fortunate to get an invite. Although it was a small budget comedy by a first time director and a young international crew, the massive opening at The Hammersmith Apollo, with celebrities walking down a red carpet flanked by a pack of screaming paparazzi made it seem much bigger and more important than I was prepared for. With my friend, singer Alison Limerick as my date, we fought our way into the huge, but totally packed theatre. After a passionate organ recital and a comedy session by my hacky sack team mates, writer David Baddiel and lead actor Omid Djalili, we were treated to what was indeed a very funny and well made film, my cameo as a press photographer even made the cut.

The Infidel premiere at the Hammersmith Apollo.

The Infidel premiere at the Hammersmith Apollo.

Attack the Block has finished its night shoots and moved into the studio and my 5 week stint has come to an end. It was a brilliant film to have worked on, a fantastic cast, crew and aliens. With the weather just starting to warm up, I now head back to Australia for my next film project, Fred Schepisi directing The Eye of The Storm, with Geoffrey Rush, Judy Davis and Charlotte Rampling in the leading roles. The film shoots in Melbourne, Sydney and Queensland and I will be doing stills intermittently over 2 month shoot. The beautifully written script, based on the Patrick White novel, is set in 1970′s Sydney, an intense drama demanding some amazing performances from its fantastic cast. I am nervous as usual but delighted to be going home and being able to spend time with my family. My bags are packed, and if it wasn’t for a volcano erupting in Iceland, and all flights being cancelled from Heathrow, I would be leaving London tonight!

Shooting aliens in London.

2010 seems to be shaping up as a super busy and very interesting year. Being appointed official photographer for the Adelaide International Arts Festival was a refreshing change to shooting film stills, which these days constitute the majority of my work load. I love documentary photography and the festival is as diverse as it comes. With my faithful cruiser bike as transport, I found myself racing between gallery openings, opera, theatre, the writers festival, a fireworks spectacular and the festival club; all in one particularly busy day. It was a treat to be working on the second job in a row in my home town Adelaide, and definitely a challenge to juggle family life with an erratic work schedule.

Northern Lights building projections on North Terrace, Adelaide.

As the festival drew to a close several film opportunities seemed to be emerging at the same time, and I needed to play my cards carefully to ensure I was available for what I could only speculate would be the best project. It was the UK film Attack the Block that locked me in first and on the last day of the Adelaide Festival I delivered my hard drive of some 8000 images and jumped on a plane to London.
The first feature by writer/director Joe Cornish, and my third film with producer Nira Park and her company Big Talk Productions, Attack the Block is a very London film and far from the type of projects I tend to work on in Australia. The story centres on a gang of teen-ages who find themselves fighting for their lives and defending their tower block housing estate against an alien assault. The fast paced script uses London street jargon cleverly and has a moral story within its science fiction plot. I was fortunate to have the freezing northern winter break pretty much on the day I arrived, but it is still very fresh outdoors as we shoot all through the night in between showers, the crew a huddled mass of black, thickly clad, Gortex wrapped figures in beanies and scarfs.

[IMAGE] Attack the Block crew outside an East London housing estate used in the film.

Once again I am staying with my friend Dan Mudford in the basement of his Tooting flat. It is always a pleasure to see him and his enormous and eclectic music collection is my companion through the countless hours of editing I make for myself by shooting over a thousand images a night.

A good start to 2010

This time last year I had needed to return to my cinema projection job, cursing the inconsistent film industry in which I am attempting to build my career and make a living. Fortunately 2010 has already got off to an amazing start as I wrap up my first feature film project and prepare to shoot a fortnight of the Adelaide International Arts Festival ahead of a possible film in London.

Oranges and Sunshine is the first feature film by UK director Jim Loach. The son of Ken Loach, Jim had grown up in the world of film-making and has an impressive portfolio of UK television and short film to his credit. He is the nicest person, as is his producer Camilla Bray, a positive energy that flowed down through the entire production making it a joy to work on. The film deals with the scandal of the English orphans forcibly emigrated to Australia between the 1950′s and the 1970′s and one social worker’s attempt to uncover the truth and re-unite families. The stellar cast is led by Emily Watson with David Wenham and Hugo Weaving, in our forth film together. Set in the 1980′s, the film shot in Nottingham, England before coming to my home town Adelaide and then on to the rugged landscape of Arkaroola in the Flinders Ranges, South Australia.

Oranges and Sunshine cast and crew on a light plane to Arkaroola. Feburary 2010.

Oranges and Sunshine cast and crew on a light plane to Arkaroola. Feburary 2010.

The English crew members suffered in the intense outback heat coupled with an apocalyptic assault of flies in the rugged Arkaroola location, it tested even us hardened Aussies. To every one’s surprise they were not the only Englishmen in the remote region with no less than Lord Monckton, the outspoken climate change sceptic, sharing our accommodation with his wife and friend, Australian climate change denier Ian Plimer. I wrote and letter to the Sydney Morning Herald about the strange meeting and an amusing incident that unfolded.

Starting the year on a film in Adelaide has given me an extended and indulgent period at home with my beloved family and dear friends. The dog is regularily walked, an endless list of house jobs have been tackled and I have been able to do lots of cruising around on my bike. Always with a compact camera on me, I have numerous suburban photo projects underway, and have been photographing discarded, inverted televisions on the street for several years. The switching over from analogue to digital transmission has meant that there has been huge addition to this particular collection that one day will make a curious exhibition and record of the time.

Discarded Inverted TV's.

Discarded Inverted TV’s.

5 of 6