World Premiere: Friends, Foes & Fireworks
Filmed in a Single Night
On New Year's Eve
Australian filmmakers Ivan Malekin and Sarah Jayne of Nexus Production Group achieved something quite remarkable on New Year's Eve – they shot a feature film in a single night, entirely improvised, in seven locations around St Kilda.
The result is ambitious drama Friends, Foes & Fireworks, exploring an intimate New Year's Eve reunion of five female friends, which becomes a test of relationships when old tensions spark, truths are told, and rivalries are reignited.
Will the group make it through the night together or will their friendship fizzle out like an overzealous fireworks display?
Inspired by the improvised and relationship-centric dramas of Joe Swanberg (Easy, Drinking Buddies), and the naturalistic camera work of Tangerine (dir. Sean Baker), the Melbourne filmmaking duo have crafted a unique Australian indie leaning heavily into the mumblecore genre, described as an 'indie gem' (Indie Film Hustle) and 'brave and bold' (Cinema Australia).
The world premiere of Friends, Foes & Fireworks will be at the Classic Cinema Elsternwick, Wednesday March 21st, 7pm, followed by Q&A with Cast and Crew, including the directors. Following the premiere there will be an additional four sessions so don't miss this exclusive and limited run.
Book your tickets here: https://www.classiccinemas.com.au/Movie/Friends-Foes-Fireworks
Friends, Foes & Fireworks
Question: What inspired your passion for filmmaking?
Sarah Jayne Portelli: As a writer I've been a storyteller since childhood and my inspiration always comes from that around me, what I observe, feel and experience as a human in this world. My subject of interest is human behaviour and I am fascinated with what makes people behave a certain way, their motives. As a woman, I feel blessed to be in this position as I have the power to change the narrative and say something meaningful from a female point of view. My screenplays tend to lean towards activism or being driven by a female voice with something to say, a message touching on the state of our current society.
Question: How would you describe Friends Foes & Fireworks?
Sarah Jayne Portelli: Friends, Foes & Fireworks is a slice of life, a real relatable story of friendship, love and reflection. It is a conversation driven film, with a mumblecore base that invites the audience into the lives of its characters for this single night. Their relationships shift and change, forcing each to reflect on her actions and think about who they want to be in the coming new year.
Question: Where did the idea for the film come from?
Sarah Jayne Portelli: From real life! Ivan and I have both been part of the indie film scene for over a decade each and both of us have met and worked with a lot of actors, so funny, strange and even sad behaviour on set was experienced over the years. As a writer with an interest in people this inspiration is hard to ignore. It is said that you should write about what you know, so for both of us building the characters and placing them in this realistic world was fun and we had a lot to draw upon. The idea to shoot on NYE came about after many failed attempts to enjoy of NYE.
Question: Why did you decide to film the movie on NYE?
Sarah Jayne Portelli: Ivan and I have never been excited by NYE and all the hype around it. Whenever we spend a lot of money trying to celebrate it we go home disappointed, so instead we wanted to do what we love – make a film! Plus, NYE seemed like the perfect backdrop to explore how overrated a NYE party can be, play around with the idea of new year's resolutions and reflecting on our own behaviours and experiences in the year which is about to end. Our characters deal with all this in the film, while projecting their own tensions and insecurities on their friends, with disastrous results. It also meant we had a cool backdrop for our story, with real crowds and fireworks and an interesting angle to pitch our film on down the track.
Question: Can you share the challenges associated with an entirely improvised film?
Sarah Jayne Portelli: There are a few as you can imagine. The challenge of working improv, without a shot list or script means you must think on your feet all night and work quickly with your cast and crew to get the best shots. The challenge here was that we had one night to get it right so time was crucial. Creating a schedule and call sheet for the shoot was a challenge, as we guessed the time we would need to move location with cast and crew, with improv we never know how long each scene will run for. Pre-production was a fun challenge, we had to be sure our actors were ready, that they knew their characters like a second personality to insure that the acting looks and feels natural to the audience in the finished product. The challenge here came from creating the best pre-production rehearsal model we would use to build characters and scenarios with our actors and making sure they have enough info and prep down.
Question: Are you able to tell us about the seven locations you filmed in?
Sarah Jayne Portelli: The film was mainly shot in our community of St Kilda and due to the nature of the shoot we wanted to not wander too far between places if possible. Some scenes were even shot simultaneously, so have to shift cast and crew around between scenes strengthened that theory. The apartment location I secured through a community FB group, I put the call out there and a lady called Joy offered her place, which was perfect. St Kilda locals will notice Acland Street, Cantani Gardens, Middle Park Beach, Middle Park Pier, Mary Street and the most furthest location - Half Moon Bay beach in Black Rock, which was my last scene to direct on the night.
Question: How did you go about the casting process for Friends, Foes and Fireworks?
Sarah Jayne Portelli: This film to us was about having fun with friends on NYE and working with people and actors we knew or had worked with before was our aim. At the time of writing the breakdown and the character backgrounds Ivan and I had actors in mind and we approached them first with the idea to gauge interest. The way we went about selecting the actors worked for us because we knew our actors, we have worked with them all before, so we knew they had the skills to do improv and nail it.
Question: What should we expect from the upcoming premiere of Friends, Foes and Fireworks?
Sarah Jayne Portelli: I guess a shared experience, which is what film is about. A true indie cinema experience with a photographer to take our pictures, champagne, smiles and a night to relax and sit together and enjoy a fun film that will make you laugh, gasp and also perhaps shed a tear. It is going to be a fun night, I can guarantee that, the venue is wonderful – a true supporter of indie and arthouse films and I look forward to returning to my old 'hood. Ivan and I are flying down from Malta, where we are now based and the Q&A after the film will be the opportunity for the audience to meet not just the directors, but four of the five female lead actors and get a further insight into how we made this film. We also have secured four more sessions for FFF within a week after this premiere, so this premiere event is the kick off point.
Question: When and why did you start Nexus Production Group?
Sarah Jayne Portelli: I didn't actually start NPG – Ivan did way back in 2007 with our other partner Patrick, because they wanted their projects to be under a recognisable title. At the time Ivan and Patrick were producing music videos and short films. I became part of NPG in 2013 after Ivan produced my first short film Dusk and from there I went on to write, direct and even produce four more films under NPG, including two feature films. Ivan and I met in 2009 at Tropfest when I was a Production Designer. Both of us were attending to support a short film which made the final – at the time of shooting this short in Melbourne, we never met on set as I worked FT and dropped props off to set and dressed the set at night. From that night at Tropfest, Ivan grew to be good friends and I became his go to Art Dept person, so you could say I had a longish NPG initiation period.
Question: Can you talk us through the motivation of working with your partner, Ivan?
Sarah Jayne Portelli: In terms of my motivation to working with Ivan I would say that what drives us to work together is our shared fascination and love for real human stories and bringing that to the screen. That would be the case for the last two features we have co-directed, but our overall motivation as a team steams from the fact that we feed off each other's opposing views on life and how things are in the world, which makes for interesting debates. We both have a different skill set – he is a wonderful producer, editor and is really organised, yet I am more visual and my skills are hands on like building sets, writing and coming up with the insane ideas, which most of the time Ivan runs with and we make it work together. Our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to being indie filmmakers are known by the other person, so our mutual love and respect for each other allows us to accept each other and work together as a functional unit. What I lack he fills in and vice versa.
Question: What's next, for you?
Sarah Jayne Portelli: A much needed break. Just kidding, I don't enjoy being idle, plus I suck at it. Ivan and I just returned back from Berlin early March where we completed shooting the fourth and last story for our international feature film. 'In Corpore' is a completely improvised feature film that touches on love, sex, monogamy and infidelity as explored through four relationships. Set in Europe, Australia, and America, 'In Corpore' tackles traditional relationships and the idea of breaking free of expectations, exploring what it means to give in to your body's desires, with and without moral judgement or shame. The film is currently in post-production. Other than that, I am keen to turn my short film Daughter (starring Katherine Langford 13 Reasons Why) into a series of some sort so I need to get back into the writing process and I also have a short horror story I want to publish. Of course, marketing and selling FFF, being part of the In Corpore edit and continuing to push Daughter are on my to-do list.
For tickets to the premiere screening and to view trailer go to https://www.classiccinemas.com.au/Movie/Friends-Foes-Fireworks
For more info on NPG go to www.nexusproductiongroup.com
To be part of NPG's Patreon community go to https://www.patreon.com/NexusProductionGroup
Interview by Brooke Hunter