Throbbin' 84 is the 8th feature from Boronia boy Timothy Spanos but just because this number is inscribed in the opening titles doesn't mean there's any pretension going down here, just some of the characters. So, like his previous film SizzleR '77 that premiered at MUFF 2015, you can rely on Throbbin' 84 to be an all-knowing and all-glowing action comedy of tension and violence that features a returning core of actors (the cops and his favourite, Tim Burns) with excellent eyewear firmly encased in a twisted tale of crime delivered with all the drama and aplomb we've come to know and expect.
If you don't recognise the preponderance of perms and Michael Jackson influenced fashion then the choice dialogue is sure to historically orientate you like the opening Elton John banter coming after an action sequence merges into a dance clip. Tim Burns is Billy Bitchmouth self-styled backstreet porn king chasing the pink dollar in the then exploding world of video production. 'VHS is here to stay", he gushes while overseeing a boy gang who act as his enforcers, video production staff and talent scouts as they run around the lane ways of Melbourne thieving and knocking themselves and others out.
That is until Billy encounters the oldest and most dangerous girl gang yet to be captured by any sort of camera.
Other highlights include an adherence to the 80s Australian convention of using hairdryers as weapons, the most economic flashback in film history, a shout out to Bombay Rock, many laugh out loud one-liners, an expectedly throbbing music soundtrack and a finale involving leather harnesses, dog collars, bikini briefs and cracked eggs. In the end Throbbin' 84 is a hi-energy no-budget spectacular of sleaze that's bound to please.
Question: How would you describe Throbbin' 84?
Timothy Spanos: I would describe Throbbin' 84 as a character based action comedy about and petty crime in the 1980's.
Question: Can you tell us about the casting process of Throbbin' 84?
Timothy Spanos: As Throbbin' 84 is based on a handful characters of a previous film, 'Sizzler -77", I was lucky enough that the original actors Alan King and Terry Yeboah, the cops, and Tim Burns and Oti Willoughby, the criminals were available to reprise their roles. The remaining characters were written for actors whom I already knew personally and/or have worked with before. I tend to work within an ensemble of actors, but also love discovering new talent of all age bands. The young guys who play Billy's boy gang were all ex-students of Tim Burns, and so they had a natural attitude towards him being a mentor with strong leadership qualities.
Question: What inspired you when filming Throbbin' 84?
Timothy Spanos: I was inspired by the work ethic of the actors Alan King and Mercia Deane Johns. Both actors were sick when they were filming, however with the quality of their performances and their dedication to their craft, they are a stand out in the film. I love and admire them both. They are a director's dream. I have known Alan for 30 years and have been watching Mercia on TV for just as long.
Question: What did you find most difficult when filming Throbbin' 84?
Timothy Spanos: The most difficult aspect of filming Throbbin' 84 was scheduling all the actors and the crew to be at the same place at the same time. Once everyone was there is was a very smooth shoot. I found filming on top of a roof of a theatre very difficult as I discovered once up there that I had an irrational fear of heights. I couldn't wait to get down and found it a little challenging to direct actors and crew whilst up there. I won't be writing a scene like that again in a hurry. However, when I look at the scene in context with the film, it was worth it.
Question: Why did you choose to set the film in Melbourne?
Timothy Spanos: I grew up watching a lot of television made in Melbourne, and the most successful local series apart from Neighbours, are shows like Homicide, Cop Shop and Prisoner which are all based on crime, and utilised much of Melbourne's unique inner city streets and laneways. I wanted to capture that historical established look. Also I don't have the budget to film anywhere else with twenty cast members.
Question: This is your eighth film; what have you learnt about yourself whilst directing movies?
Timothy Spanos: I have learnt that I can make people laugh and generally feel good for a short amount of time through character and plot. I think there is enough pain in the world, and am tired of exposing the horrors or filmmakers preaching to the converted. Living is good, let's share it.
Question: What was your main motivation to begin making movies?
Timothy Spanos: I've always wanted to tell stories. If I was born 200 years ago I would have been the village storyteller or jester entertaining everyone. However as I am from the 20th century, I discovered very early that film was my most passionate medium to tell stories. I tried theatre, but didn't like the fact that only a selected few would see the production; however a film is there forever.
Question: What was the best part about being on set for Throbbin' 84?
Timothy Spanos: The best part of being on the Throbbin' 84 set was working with actress Mercia Deane Johns. She plays a character called Bulldozer who is an ex prisoner with a secret. I have always admired her work on film and TV, and it was easy to trust her with the dialogue, as I knew that she would extend it. She was incredibly dedicated to the role and created a great atmosphere on set. Mercia is one of the best souls in the world, she is utterly truthful. She created a character with soul. I didn't tell Mercia what her character's secret was until we filmed the scene where it was revealed. And she didn't tell me she had decided that her character had lesbian tendencies until the end of a scene we were filming and she started passionately kissing another actress. It brought another fresh angle to the film.
Question: What's next, for you?
Timothy Spanos: I will be doing a third film based on the characters from Sizzler 77 and Throbbin' 84, set in the mid 1990's, but that won't be for a few years yet. Before that I have some new characters to explore and some older one to re visit. But I promise no matter which film I will make next it will be funnier and smarter than the last.
Interview by Brooke Hunter