Focus on Australian Revelations: Miranda Edmonds writes exclusively for Cinema Australia about her short film Tango Underpants

Acclaimed Australian short film Tango Underpants will screen as part of April’s Australian Revelations before Phillip Noyce’s Newsfront. Here, director Miranda Edmonds gives Cinema Australia readers a fascinating insight into her film.

Written by Miranda Edmonds:

Tango Underpants has its genesis in travel. The wonderful John Collee (writer of Happy Feet, Master and Commander, Creation) was on a train from Paris to the Cannes film festival and to pass the time was reading a collation of short stories from Lonely Planet called ‘The Kindness of Strangers’.

Producers Tania Chambers, Stephen Van Mil and myself were in Cannes attending the film market and met with John for lunch once he arrived. John recounted this delightful story he’d just read called ‘A Brief Encounter’ by Carolyn Swindell. It was the story of a girl and her very sensible underwear.

Khrob (my brother who I direct with) and I had been looking for a new short film to direct and within moments we all realised that this story was too brilliant not to be told on film. Within days Tania and Steve were on as producers, John had written the first draft of the script and the wonderful Emma Booth had signed on to play the lead role (informing us that not only had she been longing to go to South America, but also that she was once a State ballroom dancer).

Carolyn (Emma Booth) dances the tango. Photo by Tungsten

Carolyn (Emma Booth) dances the tango. Photo by Tungsten

So with this fairy tale beginning, how hard could it be to make the film?

Well not as easy as first thought. With our first application for funding we thought we were a shoo-in, but it wasn’t to be the case. We didn’t even get an interview, let alone the money.

Then luckily ScreenWest announced its innovative 3 to1 Crowd-funding campaign. The deal was you had to apply with your project setting a goal of how much money you needed to raise. If selected, it was then a race to crowd fund the amount needed. If we raised our targeted amount before the pool of money ran out, we would receive $3 for every $1 raised.

At first I was a bit of a sceptic of crowd funding. Who would want to support a short film? Was it just like begging? But ScreenWest to its credit, not only came up with the scheme, but also educated us on how and why crowd funding can work.

So we ran a campaign on the Pozible platform and gave it our best shot. It was an amazing experience. We used a combination of personal contacts, social media and traditional media to get the word out as far as we could about our project. We described to people a range of reasons why it would benefit them to support us. These ranged from being able to attend the film premiere to actually becoming part of the film making process. The result blew us away…. We raised $26K in 24 hours, and then ScreenWest leveraged this money. Our film was financed!

What I’ve learned is that crowd funding is a two way street. We get the support to be able to make our film, but we can also give back… by giving those not usually involved in the industry a real insight and experience into what it is to make a film. We have also become firm friends with many of our supporters, which has also been a reward in itself.

Production was an amazing experience. Given the nature of the story, we needed to shoot the film in Argentina. We were lucky to find a wonderful producer there who helped us put the whole thing together, even though it was the other side of the world.
As the budget was tight, we arrived in Buenos Aires, had two days to location scout with heads of department, met everyone, rehearsed and prepared for the shoot. The film was then shot in 5 days round the wonderful streets of the city.

Amazing, everything went pretty smoothly.

Directors Khrob and Miranda Edmonds. Photo by Tungsten

Directors Khrob and Miranda Edmonds. Photo by Tungsten

The first day was marked when the traditional bus we had hired turned up completely sparkling and without a trace of dust. Its owner was devastated to hear it was meant to look like it had been on the road for days and I think he hid while the art department proceeded to cover it in dirt and mud.

Working with Emma Booth was a dream and her dancing skills really came to the fore when we were shooting the final tango scene. It was around midnight and about 2 degrees when we had to get the final shot where she spins into camera, the tango dress flies up and we see which undies she ended up wearing. I thought it would take hours, but Emma nailed about 5 great takes in about 2 minutes. Her professionalism was impressive…as was Denson Baker’s artistry on the camera and Aurelio Costarella’s stunning dress design. It was a wonderful moment.

Back in Perth, we could then complete post-production at a much more leisurely pace. The main challenges here were capturing the authentic tango music, whilst also making the music work for the film. Our award-winning composer Guy Gross (Priscilla Queen of the Desert) did an amazing job and recorded all the music live with tango musicians in Sydney.

We are so proud to have had a great run of festival screenings, prizes and also some sales to SBS, Qantas and some International TV networks. It has been wonderful to know that the film has made it out to a big audience, across both Australia and the world, and has been appreciated. We were especially championed by Flickerfest which selected Tango Underpants to screen on Opening Night of the festival and then toured it around the country to over 50 Australian cities – a filmmaker’s dream.

Carolyn (Emma Booth) considers her undies. Photo by Tungsten

Carolyn (Emma Booth) considers her undies. Photo by Tungsten

The best compliment I heard someone say after a screening is that they wished the film went longer – they wanted to know what happened to our hero. Well stay tuned, there may just be a feature film in development…

Look out in the upcoming months for the Australian release of Producer Tania Chambers’ film Kill Me Three Times – starring Simon Pegg and directed by Kriv Stenders of Red Dog fame – this is one not to miss.

We are also about to run a new crowd funding campaign for another short film Library of Love. Library of Love is a short musical romantic comedy about Isabelle, a librarian and a hopeless romantic, who spends her days reading too many romance novels and dreaming of true love. It is only when she decides to make some changes in her life that true love finally comes her way.

We have been selected to be part of Creative Partnership Australia’s MATCH funding which means for every dollar we raise the Federal Government will match it with a dollar. We are all excited to be embarking on another crowd funding adventure – the campaign launches on Pozible on 4 May 2015.
REV Screening

We are thrilled to be part of the REV screening program, especially playing before Phillip Noyce’s Newsfront. Phillip has been a directing hero of ours forever and it is amazing to have our film playing on the same screen as his. Thanks REV and Backlot for supporting Australian filmmakers and for screening our film with great picture and sound in the funky new venue!

Tango Underpants will screen to a sold out audience as part of this month’s Australian Revelations screening of Newsfront. Stay tuned to Cinema Australia for details on next months screening.

To find out more about the film you can visit http://www.tangounderpants.com.

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