All posts by Stephen Carnell

Stephen is a writer/producer/director/actor/trainer for film, theatre, events and corporate productions. Stephen's film work includes co-producing ‘Cross Life’, a feature drama about ten lives in Kings Cross which was selected to screen at the 2007 Sydney Film Festival, 2007 Dungog FF and several international festivals. This feature film received significant funding from the Screen Australia. Most recent film credits include; directing & co-producing Easy Money short film in 2013 (Melbourne Magic Festival 2014, Actors Anonymous FF 2014, Port Stephen FF 2014), directing Happy Anniversary short 2010 (Winner Best Actor 2010 MOBILE Screenfest Winner Best Actress + Best Script in 2011 Spanish Movil Film Fest! + selected for 2012 Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival + 2012 Festival International des Très Courts in Paris + 2012 Montecatini International Short Film Festival in Italy) view here, producing Gift of the Gun short 2010 (Cannes Short Film Corner May 2011) view here, acting in A Reason to Die short Tropfest entry 2010, producing & acting in Rupert and the Seven Russian Email Brides short 2010 (Tell Me A Story FF June 2012, Dungog FF May 2011, on stage 2007) view here and writing & producing ‘Elevator’ Tropfest entry 2009, view here, Stephen is a co-founder and co-convenor of film and theatre network groups, Actors Anonymous Inc and Script In Hand. these groups have over 1,500 members and meet and perform regularly in Kings Cross at the Hayes Theatre.

Dungog Festival 2014

A scene from the new Aussie film THE INFINITE MAN featured at the Dungog Festival
A scene from the new Aussie film THE INFINITE MAN featured at the Dungog Festival and which will be released in cinemas on the 18th September

The Dungog Film Festival (DFF) collapsed in 2012 after five years of continuous audience growth from 1,000 to 10,000 people. An amazing feat! In late 2012 the producers partnered with the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, NSW Mining, Hoyts Cinemas and added a large wad of their own funds to stage the Cockatoo Island Film Festival. Unfortunately the Festival was a financial disaster for all concerned. Check out the event on Google to discover why it failed. It proves a good lesson for all event managers and film makers entering festivals.

The Dungog Film Festival (DFF) had been good for the town and for Australian film makers. In fact, I had my first feature film, CROSS LIFE, screened at the very first DFF and I volunteered and ran a screening venue at two later Dungog Film Festivals. I learned a lot from the creative and collaborative experience of this event and the welcoming people in this town.

In 2014 the Dungog Arts Foundation teamed up with the Shire Council and the NSW Government to re-launch the event as the Dungog Festival (the DFF name had been registered and was closely held by the previous producers).

Long Table
Dungog turns on the razz

The first Dungog Festival included the fabulous opening Long Table Dinner, which was held for several hundred people on a 50 metre table on a closed main street; Thursday night markets; a Saturday Farmers Market; a variety of concerts; a barefoot bowls tournament; local tours; film Master Classes (we had a team of actors who ran several script development classes) and at the centre of all these events – A Film Festival!

A range of films were screened over three days at the 500+ seat Art Deco James cinema, the oldest continuously operating cinema in Australia, and the 200 plus seat auditorium in the RSL Club. There was a packed program of features and short films. And many sessions of packed houses. My short, EASY MONEY, was screened on the Saturday afternoon.

In all, I saw a dozen shorts plus three features and really enjoyed the Long Table Dinner, breakfasts in Chillibillies Café, meals and drinks at the RSL and Settlers Arms and the comfortable accommodations at a friend’s parents nearby house. Here is a a pic of myself (far left) and the group I hung out with during the Festival.

Team Dungog 2014

We wrapped things up with morning tea on Sunday on a cousin’s local farm.

The Dungog Festival was a wonderful three days of film, music, food & wine and camaraderie in a lovely NSW country town – which just a couple of hours north of Sydney. The only shame is it’s no longer a purely Australian Film Festival. But I’ll definitely be back next year.

Below are short reviews of the three feature films that I saw during the Festival. Hopefully all these films will get a general theatrical release.

The Infinite Man

Rom Com [Feature Australia 2014]

Directed by Hugh Sullivan. Starring Josh McConville, Hannah, Alex Dimitriades.

A fresh, but rather slow, romantic comedy set in a dilapidated motel in the South Australian desert featuring a somewhat tedious nerd, a gorgeous but rather blank girl and a stereotypical macho guy travelling backward and forward through time to fix their fractured relationships. Mildly entertaining, but Back to the Future 2 does the same thing sort of thing much better.

Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon

Documentary (USA 2013)

Directed by Mike Myers and Beth Aala. Starring Shep Gordon, Alice Cooper, Sylvester Stallone, Michael Douglas, Willie Nelson.

This remarkable documentary traces the life of Shep Gordon, who is an honourable, generous and loyal human being, a true super mensch. Shep transitions from being a drugged-up band groupie in the seventies to become a drugged-up super talent agent in the eighties and nineties. He launched Alice Cooper to stardom and created and managed many other music stars, built a film production company and then created the category of celebrity chef. Then retired and has held open house on his Maui estate for many years. He even had his wife’s PC repaired by Steve Jobs. This guy is amazing and the interviews and stories contained in this film are riveting and very entertaining. Highly recommended,

What We Do In The Shadows

Comedy [New Zealand & USA 2014]

Directed by Jemaine Clement & Taika Waititi and starring Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Jonathan Brugh, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer.

Image a romantic comedy, styled as a documentary, set in a Big Brother style house occupied by four vampires, aged between 160 and 900 years, with a slave maid who has to clean the blood off the dishes and bathroom tiles several times a week. Place this in present day Wellington, play it straight, add a large serving of mayhem and you have one of the funniest films in years! Highly recommended.

The Dungog Festival went from Thursday 28th to Sunday 31st August at various venues around Dungog.

Deep Sea Challenge 3D

The Deepsea Challenger sub that took James Cameron to the bottom of the ocean
The Deepsea Challenger sub that took James Cameron to the bottom of the ocean

This documentary provides dramatic insights into James Cameron’s quest to reach the bottom of the sea.

Cameron has been obsessed with the oceans of our world and their mysteries since childhood. He became scuba certified at 16 and went onto make a series of films about the lure of the oceans and the unknown secrets of their depths.

These films include; The Abyss, Titanic and a string of documentaries about the depths; including Ghosts of the Abyss, Volcanoes of the Deep and Bismarck. He has also created the most spectacular 3D film of all time, Avatar. In DEEPSEA CHALLENGE 3D all of Cameron’s obsessions about the deep, technology, his skills as a story teller, and his ability to create amazing 3D effects come together to deliver a truly beautiful and thrilling tale of a 21st century team of adventurers who set out to conquer the last true frontier – the deepest part of the ocean at 36,000 ft. This is at the bottom of the Mariana Trench near Guam, known as the Challenger Deep. This depth is more than Mount Everest is high or the cruising altitude of a commercial airliner.

Continue reading Deep Sea Challenge 3D

Scandinavian Film Festival Wrap


Scandinavian Film Festival 2014- Palace Verona & Norton Street Cinemas Sydney’ Wednesday 9 July – Sunday 27 July 2014

The Palace is to be applauded for this magnificent inaugural festival of 21 new Scandinavian films from Norway, Finland, Denmark, Sweden and even Iceland. Having seen twenty-seven brand new films at the Sydney Film Festival (SFF) in June, I was impressed with the high quality of Scandinavian cinema. The Australian Film Industry, including state and feral (sic) governments, could learn a lot from the quality, diversity and funding mechanisms of the film industries in these highly progressive countries. In fact, I felt that one of the best three films at the Sydney FF this year was ‘In Order of Disappearance’ from Norway/Sweden/Denmark. Together with the Irish film ‘Calvary’ and the English film ‘Locke’, this trio provided a feast of extraordinary cinema delights.

The eight films I viewed over the past two weeks at the Scandinavian FF (Scandi FF) were all very good to excellent. Several will no doubt be remade by Hollywood (especially the EASY MONEY trilogy), since many Americans seem reluctant to see films from foreign cultures and to wrestle with sub-titles.

Below I have rated the eight films I saw at the Scandi FF and I have provided brief reviews for three of these films, including the remarkable EASY MONEY trilogy. A number of the films at the Scandi FF will receive a general theatrical release with Palace Cinemas. In fact, the excellent and gritty Danish crime drama ‘The Keeper of Lost Causes’ is about to open at the Palace Verona in Sydney – don’t miss it!

Someone You Love (Denmark) 5/5

Easy Money (Sweden) 4.5/5

Easy Money II (Sweden) 4/5

Easy Money III (Sweden) 4/5

The Keeper of Lost Causes (Denmark) 3.5/5

Hour of the Lynx (Denmark) 3.5/5

Heart of a Lion (Finland) 3.5/5

21 Ways to Ruin a Marriage (Finland) 3/5

Unfortunately, I didn’t see any of the films presented from Norway or Iceland.

SOMEONE YOU LOVE (En Du Elsker) drama [Denmark 2014]

Director Pernille Fischer

Cast Mikael Persbrandt (The Hobbit), Trine Dyrholm, Brigitte Hjort Sorensen, Sofus Ronnov.

This superb film deals with an intense life crisis and subsequent epiphany experienced by Thomas Jacob, a highly acclaimed and successful singer/songwriter (think Leonard Cohen) who is based in LA. He returns to his Danish homeland to record a new album and is confront by the child and grandchild he has abandoned and almost forgotten. Thomas is an emotionally frozen man who can only unlock his heart through his music. He treats everyone in his life badly, including his loyal and hard-working producer and manager. Faced with a child and a grandchild desperately in need of his love, he is reminded of how he was mistreated and rejected by his father and is forced to decide whether or not to accept love and give it in return. That sounds somewhat schmaltzy, but this film never sinks into the realms of emotional cliché and flows so smoothly and professionally that the powerful emotional and spiritual impacts to the heart and mind are unforgettable. The direction and acting are almost flawless, with the additional bonus of great music! Highly recommended, 5/5 stars.

EASY MONEY I, II, III (Snabba Cash) Crime drama [Sweden 2010, 2012, 2013]

Director Daniel Espinosa

Cast Joel Kinnaman, Matias Padin Varela, Dragomir Mrsic, Lisa Henni, Deja Cukic, Annika Whittembury, Lea Stojanov, Fares Fares.

The Easy Money trilogy presents a complex and riveting tale pursuing three stories involving a Swedish banker, a Serbian ‘Godfather’ and a Spanish gangster, together with their friends and lovers, who battle and collaborate to secure and maintain their power and wealth. This movie, and its two sequels, presents a thrilling, bloody and emotional rollercoaster ride through the fringes to the core of contemporary Swedish society. These grim films present their own moral, ‘people always look after themselves and their money before anyone or anything else’. This is a morality tale reminiscent of Macbeth, or even the more recent BBC and Netflix ‘House of Cards’ TV series. There are powerful and likable characters, double-crosses, triple-crosses and leaps backward and forward in time to confound and excite ‘The viewer. This is a cinema experience of epic proportions and it is as engrossing as the Godfather’ trilogy (well Part 3 wasn’t so good!) or ‘Heat’, with high production values, as well as excellent acting and direction, plus frequent and well-executed fast moving action, including a number of major set pieces depicting robberies and assassinations. There’s hardly a native blonde Swede to be seen in this film (apart from Joel Kinnaman from The Killing and Robocop), which is mostly populated by newer ethnic groups who have migrated to Sweden over the past twenty years, driven out of the Balkan Peninsula by civil war and Spain by economic collapse. I’m looking forward to Easy money IV! Highly recommended, 4.5/5 stars.

THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES (Kvinden I Buret) Crime Thriller [Denmark 2013]

Director Mikkel Norgaard

Cast Nikolaj Lie Kass, Fares Fares, Sonja Richter, Mikkel Bo Folsgaard.

This is a thrilling and likable buddy movie about two mismatched cops who are on a fast moving downward trajectory – until they realise ‘Department Q’, the depository of unsolved cases, may offer them salvation by saving others. Aloof and disgraced homicide detective Carl, who thrives on adrenaline and operates by intuition, is badly injured in a botched raid and is banished to Department Q by his boss. His assistant is an Arab and a rooky cop who is precise and friendly. This is not a match made in heaven. But the story is, and we are taken into the depths of a riveting unsolved case of a woman who apparently committed suicide and disappeared several years earlier. This unlikely duo are ordered to close at least three cases a week, but they spend their first few weeks unravelling the complex disappearance of this high profile female politician. This cold case quickly turns hot and the clock is ticking as this dynamic pair become partners and race to solve the case. Based upon a best-selling book, with screenplay by the same writer as ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’, I can sense a sequel coming in the making! Recommended, 3.5/5 stars.