JJ DeCeglie’s Can’t Win. Do Try. is a hilarious Perth-set comedy shot during a scorching West Australian summer.
Bunked up in a rented Cottesloe abode, the cast and crew – many who have never worked on a feature film – formed a tight bond and created lifetime memories which they share below.
“We spent much time getting the casting correct,” DeCeglie told Cinema Australia.
“Some of the parts I had people in mind for, actors I’d made Jugular with in Melbourne (Christopher Millington for Jez and Matt Furlani for O’Hara), but I still made everyone audition either in person or on tape to be sure.
“I scoured Perth for the rest of the cast, auditioned a heap of people, some parts were harder than others to find the right person for,” DeCeglie said.
Can’t Win. Do Try. is about to embark on a national Q&A screening tour which makes this the perfect opportunity to introduce you to…
Harry Quinlan – Gordon
JJ first got in contact with me through the website StarNow.
I’d made an account purely so my brother and I could apply to be extras in the movie Kill Me Three Times. For some reason this required a premium subscription with a monthly fee which I completely forgot about. When JJ messaged me my first thought was I had to cancel that membership because it had been charging me $11 every month!
The only thing I had on my profile was a short video I had made of me talking to myself. JJ saw it, thought it was funny and asked me in for an audition. He then offered me a part in his movie.
The feature film we eventually made had a micro budget but the film we set out to make then had no budget. It was literally JJ with a DSLR on his shoulder shooting in a holiday house he had rented for a few weeks when the actors were available. It was pretty chaotic.
We shot a few scenes that way but eventually it fell apart. JJ realized the scope of the script was beyond the way we were working and there were a lot of issues with scheduling actors. JJ edited what we shot into a little sizzle reel and I thought it was done.
Months later JJ told me that he had a producer and the whole thing was back on. Suddenly it was a legitimate production – still micro budget, but with a big, fancy camera, lights, camera assistants, even a sound guy!
It was disconcerting to have a crew of professionals working around me, an amateur actor. I had total imposter syndrome the whole time we were shooting, not helped by the fact I was playing a 25 year old man with a fiancé when I was a skinny 22 year old (the characters age was dropped from about 29 in the script). Shooting the movie was, for me, a crash course in acting for film. I had to learn how to hit marks (for the uninitiated this is a piece of tape on the ground you have to stop on without looking at it while making it look natural, also it’s impossible). I had no idea how to memorise that many lines, I had acted in plays before, but you pick up the lines over a long rehearsal period. Here we were shooting in long, unbroken takes, so on top of the lines you had to remember your blocking. Those long takes are nerve racking for the crew and the actors for that reason but also exciting because if they work, you have something very filmic.
There are a few shots in this film and the crew should be very proud of it. By the time we wrapped shooting I definitely felt like less of an imposter than when we began.
I also felt like I had heat stroke. It was super hot. And humid. So, of the two jobs I got out of my StarNow premium subscription, this was definitely the better, not least because me and my brother’s scene got cut out of Kill Me Three Times. I hear tell JJ tried to cut me out of this movie too, turn the whole thing into an avant garde art film, but changed his mind because it ran under by about 98 minutes, so thanks JJ.
Fiannah de Rue – Molly
This was my second opportunity to work with JJ after starring as Janie in his debut feature Jugular. Working with someone on multiple projects, you’ve already established that working relationship so getting straight into the work becomes easier.
Can’t Win. Do Try. was very different to Jugular in that there was actually a full crew, rather than JJ doing everything, which took some adapting to but was a great experience overall with everyone being so skilled in their roles.
Being based in Melbourne, it was great to visit Perth for the first time and stay right on Cottesloe Beach, and staying in the house that we were shooting in along with some of the other actors was an interesting experience! There were certainly times where the themes of the film rang true after the camera had stopped rolling! There was always something being filmed somewhere around the house and at times my room doubled as a green room or change room; it was always a lot of fun.
Christien Reid – Boy Meets World
I came on board Can’t Win Do Try. as BMW when JJ was looking to shoot it in early/mid-2014. We did a few scenes but JJ ultimately decided to hold off and make it a little later with a bigger budget. Luckily when that time came around he was still keen for me to play BMW. I’m used to being the oldest, I’m an older brother and the oldest of my mates, so it was a fun experience to play the mischief making tagalong that was BMW and to be somewhat of a junior in the movie and on set.
We shot the majority of it in a house in Cottesloe, on a street back from the beach, where a few of the cast and crew stayed throughout the shoot. The best thing about it was just rocking up to set each day and hanging out, going to the beach in breaks and being able to play out these ridiculous lives with a bunch of good people happy to chill out over the summer. It was hot nearly every day we filmed, so when we shot scenes outside of Cottesloe, especially in the Rat Shack (my humble abode), it wasn’t pleasant, and wearing a jacket, beanie and trackies throughout most of the movie was questionable on my behalf. It’s been a while since I wore those trackies, jacket and beanie and walked in BMW’s shoes. I haven’t rode my bike off of a jetty, I haven’t filmed a threesome, and I haven’t been dry-humped. Strangely enough, I sort of miss those things. Maybe it’s time for round two.
Christopher Millington – Jez
I was lucky enough to work with JJ on his first feature, Jugular, and when he sent me the script for Can’t Win Do Try it was really the first script that I couldn’t put down. I couldn’t stop laughing the whole way through it. So when he said that he wanted me to play Jez I was very excited about it. Jez was the character that I could relate to the most as the kind of guy who loves the craziness of everything but also being very laid back and seeing everybody around him enjoying themselves.
Other then the script, the thing that really appealled to me about the project was the challenge of us all living in a house for two weeks and just shooting the film everyday. It was something I had never done before and really wanted to give it a go. At times it was really exhausting, working such long days – plus some days that Perth heat made it really tough. But I think because we were all so close together all the time, it really helped make the chemistry on screen look authentic and that made the film even better. The laughs and the enthusiasm that was going on everyday while we were making the film made it so easy and so much fun. The time just went so fast and before we knew it the film was wrapped. I think everybody really put in such an amazing effort and it really shows with how great the film has turned out.
Matt Furlani – O’Hara
Lots of scenes and locations, everyday. We built up a great momentum and “no excuses” attitude which I can see in the film. Inviting backpackers over from the hostel next door to get drunk in the background of our shot. Spending 40+ degree days in a shed in some Mad Max-style Perth industrial suburb. Working with the brilliant Dave Le May. Watching him craft the Perth sunlight until a shot was perfectly lit. He and his camera assistant (Ben Berkhout) were instrumental translating JJs vision to screen. Working with JJ, finding out the right way to break BMW’s spirit and self esteem, hearing so many stories about the real O’Hara – none of which are re-printable in a publication such as this.
The house became a character, it really helped to live there for the duration of the shoot. It was our set, rehearsal space, command centre, ashram and still managed to shelter several French backpackers – mon dieu!
My character is a force of nature: grotesque, hedonistic, merciless to his foes and utterly loyal to his friends. It was really therapeutic to go into each scene with the goal of keeping all the other characters on their toes and turn up the insanity…he’s got the whole world figured out and lives by his own (im)moral code, training his apprentice in the ways of rear choke holds and alcohol-fuelled incontinence.
Bianca Roose – Sloane
Working on this film was so rewarding because the shoot itself was condensed into a very small amount of time, especially for a feature film. The cast and crew were also quite small and so energetic to work with. All of the locations that we shot at were places that I grew up, and the style that JJ, Simon (producer) and Dave (DOP) work with compliments it so well.
I learned so much on this film because the way that we worked was so open. JJ would talk to us about what he was looking for for each scene while the crew would set up the shots and we would work for most of the day just talking about films that we had seen and that we loved, and so it never felt like work. This easygoing approach to film making is something that I think we were all lucky to be a part of. It was so great to be able to work with local talent from all walks of the Perth arts scene, whether it be screen or theatre, who enjoy what they do so much.
The first day of filming, and also the first day that I met a lot of the cast that I would be working with was a 40 degree day and we were filming in a tin shed and I was amazed at the dedication and work ethic of everyone involved. The chemistry between the whole cast was quite strange because it was the first time that a lot of us had worked together, and we hadn’t done any screen tests together because none of our schedules aligned and some of the talent were coming over from the East. JJ had a strong vision for the film, and in turn he was able to find a cast that had fantastic qualities both on screen, as well as on set.
My character of Sloane is someone who doesn’t have a concrete place at the beginning of the film, and she embodies a character that is quite defensive because of this. Throughout the film she joins forces with the boys on their shenanigans and provides a lot of dry humour to the film.
Chelsea Gibson – Jemima
I found out about the project through my boss at the time and was super keen to just try out. The script was witty and crazy and I loved it. I was so stoked when I got the part but totally terrified as well.
This was my first time on film and it was a couple years ago now. I really had no idea what I was doing but jj and the other actors i got to work along side with made me feel a whole lot more comfortable about it all.
Adriane Daff – Kelly
I remember when we were filming this it was one of those perfect West Australian summers. I was also performing in two different shows as a part of Fringeworld that year, so heading to Cottesloe to film during this time was pretty joyful. It’s summer, your making a movie with a bunch of really passionate people and you’re are in what is arguably one of the most beautiful places in the world. When we wrapped, at the risk of sounding like the biggest cheese ball ever, sitting down at that beach and drinking beer and watching the sun go down it was like we were in an advertisement for ‘the summer of our lives’. When I first saw the film I thought wow- it really captures that feeling and those colours really well. It’s so vivid and tangible. That’s really what it was like to be there.
Can’t Win. Do Dry. will embark on a national Q&A tour over the coming months. Stay tuned to cinemaaustralia.com.au for details.