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Power Down is a short and powerful drama about the implications of digital addiction.  The film follows the journey of five digital natives as they wrestle with themselves and each other.  A bus catapults them into an atmosphere both hostile and inhospitable.  A phone is stolen.  Somebody is pushed.  Another opens up.  Power Down explores what happens when we are confronted with the shadows of ourselves.  

 

Rewind to the dark cybernetic world they are all escaping.  So the dance between daylight and screen light begins as they bounce between the two.  Beth sits in a black corner of a bar drowned in techno.  She stares across a sea of phones iridescent in the gloom.  Her eyes find Tom, Emile, Jess and Ryan.  Each hold a dark secret.

 

The beauty of the bush starts to come alive.  They reach the mountain top.  Hands automatically search for dead phones.  Mary their guide, builds a fire and turns the bush into a theatre.  Caught up in the moment everyone forms a circle and words are spoken into the fire.  They speak of fear and loneliness and as they speak they finally slow down.  They allow themselves to stand still and receive. 

 

Finally Beth is removed from the noise.  She is placed into a world that is both seductive and warm, alien and ominous.  Her strong emotional side is set on fire.  Beth moves beyond herself to find something more.  Something she yearns for but has lost behind a wall of technology.  

Director’s Statement

The concept of the film was born out of articles written in Vanity Fair in 2009 (Shoumatoff, 2009) and Wired in 2017 (Simon-Lewis, 2017), revolving around the dark internet and teenage suicide. In 2009 Vanity Fair wrote about the internet suicide pacts of Bridgend in Wales. Young people were meeting online and were found hanging a few days later. Posthumously their friendship numbers took a sickening climb on social media. In 2017 there was a second article in Wired concerning the Blue Whale Challenge. Young people were following an online suicide guide. As many as 130 Russian teenagers were presumed to have taken their lives. This gained traction through fake news websites. Mental health warnings about the Blue Whale Challenge continue today on Instagram. In this film technological life was explored during the time of the digital native. Beth is a young woman fighting mental instability as she journeys from a dark cybernetic environment to the beautiful Australian wilderness - from an environment that is both minimalist and futuristic to an environment that is both lavish and wild. Our world is permeated with phones, screens, and devices and there is a dark side floating just beneath the surface of everything we do.

Marketing

Marketing will revolve around a dedicated website, online trailers, social media and film festival submission portals. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr have all been utilised to tell the story of the making of the film and share production stills. There is a dedicated website featuring all aspects of the film from cast and crew to trailers and release dates all linking back to the social media sites. Teasers, promos and trailers are all being released and promoted online. Film festival submission portals Withoutabox and Filmfreeway will be utilised online to track down the best options for release. 

Cast

Beth - Isabelle Ford
Ryan - David Brun
Jess - Jacinda McLaughlin

Emile - Mathew Dwyer

Tom - Blake Lovely
Mary - Kate McDowell

 

Kate McDowell plays Mary the bus driver. She inhabits an other-worldly space - and is able to bridge the gap between a cybernetic world and tapping deeply into a natural world. She is a conduit and guide to the light side. Kate holds a NIDA Postgraduate Diploma in Writing for Performance and is trained in dance and performance. She was NIDA Independent Resident Artist in 2014, Literary Intern at Belvoir in 2012 and Kate is currently an Associate Artist at Norpa in Lismore. She has worked on various productions, most recently Dreamland and Journey to an Unnamed World at Norpa.

Isabelle Ford plays Beth a Gothic Lolita punk. To the outside world she is strong and irrepressible. Inside she is consumed by something from her past that has infected her relationship with her mother. The further she travels into the Australian Wilderness, the closer she gets to discovering something magic hidden in the mountains. Isabelle holds a Bachelor of Arts in Acting from The Federation University Arts Academy and then joined the 16th Street Actors Studio. She has worked on various stage and screen productions most recently Daisy Moon Was Born This Way with Q Theatre Company and I Carry Your Heart with the Melbourne Fringe Festival. 

David Brun plays Ryan an artist and online gambling wizard. He is trying to come to terms with the breakdown of a relationship. As he travels up the mountain he sees beneath Beth’s loud, outspoken sense of self. He joined the 16th Street Actors Studio and this year did the Larry Moss Masterclass with the same studio. He has has worked on both stage and screen most recent credits include short films Positive S, Human Touch and Loophole and the web series Junk Male

Jacinda McLaughlin plays Jess a social media rockstar. The more likes she receives, the less she likes herself. She has a passion for electronic music and cocaine. As she travels up the mountain she begins to open up. Jacinda is a recent 16th Street Actors Studio graduate and studied at Nida. Her most recent credits include a TVC for Carlton Draught and Tupperware and on Nine for House Husbands.

Mathew Dwyer plays Emile a superstar DJ. His passion is Berlin Techno and the super club Berghain. He has a serious addiction to chat rooms that has led him on a dark path. As he travels up the mountain he starts to tap into a deeper aspect of himself. Mathew has worked as main presenter on Seven’s WA Weekender and acted in various short form material including The Amber Sky.

Blake Lovely plays Tom a gaming phenomenon. He has been known to spend too much time online. His presence in the MMO community is renowned. As he travels up the mountain he realises that there is something missing. Blake has studied at TAFTA, Screenwise Acting School and Point Break Drama School. He has worked on both stage and screen most recently short films Lives, Disconnect and Finito, and on stage with Summer of the Seventeenth Doll and Postmodern Follies. 

Key Crew

Writer/Director - Bradley Murray

Producer - Aaran Creece

Production Designer - Demelza Donohoo

DOP - Scott Tiedgen
Sound Recordist - Josh Bond
Composer - Simon Lewis

Writer/Director - Bradley Murray moved to London in 2002 to pursue his dream of becoming a cinematographer. He developed a passion for lighting and has worked on everything from commercials and promos to documentaries and sport. In 2013 he won a Bafta for Skysports. In 2007 he won an Emmy for How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Really Useful Group and the BBC. He also won an Emmy for The Amazing Race in 2009 for CBS. In 2015 he moved to Melbourne to pursue writing and directing and started a Masters of Film and Television at the Victorian College of the Arts at the University of Melbourne. He holds a UTS Postgraduate Diploma in Film and Television and studied at NFTS in the UK.

Producer, AD - Aaran Creece has worked on film and television across the planet after starting out in television at the ABC. He holds a Degree in Film and Television from Charles Sturt University. His most recent projests include producing feature films Musclecar and Troy’s Story. Aaran was the oracle of the crew and had a sixth sense of all on set machinations.

 

Production Designer - Demelza Donohoo spent 15 years in London working for an array of the best bands, restaurants and fashion houses in the world. Her most recent projects have been TVC’s for Nike, American Airlines and Virgin. Her vision is second to none and her Ikea hacks are famous. The earth mother of the crew - she was the glue that kept everyone tight. 

DOP - Scott Tiedgen spent many years shooting broadcast television for Channel Nine - everything from The Rolling Stones to Coldplay. His vision has taken him across the globe following some of the biggest bands in the world. He has an incredible eye for detail and obsession for light. Scott was a sea of calm on set whenever a storm was on approach.

Sound Recordist - Josh Bond spent many years doing sound for Channel Nine - everything from Bob Dillon to AC/DC. His sound skills have taken him around the world recording, mixing and assisting some of the biggest names on the planet. He has a formidable sense of humour and his laugh could be heard throughout the hinterland, often during takes.

Composer - Simon Lewis has worked and recorded with musicians from around the globe. He regularly spends time in southern India recording with KV Balukrishnan and other fine Indian musicians. He still tours with his live project Amanaska as far afield as Notting Hill Carnival and plays keyboard with some of the hottest musicians in Australia. He holds a Degree in Music from Melbourne University. Simon created three haunting tracks for Power Down and we feel privileged to have worked with him. 

Look

 

This is a film of two worlds and in the first world the lighting and camera work reflected a futuristic dark look. Static camera operation coupled with fast, modern lenses, provided the cybernetic contrasty look with very short depth of field to accentuate hypersensitivity. The characters were lit by screens giving the world an eerie phosphorescent feel. The natural golden world was diametrically opposite the digital world. This environment spoke deeply to a different side of our characters and was achieved by a combination of light and natural texture and this began the transformation. The choice of focal length had continuity with the first part of the film adding to the overall integrity of the cinematography and augmented a dreamy element to the story as we bounced back and forth between the worlds. The characters transformed too from a very dark look to the golden look as they wrapped themselves in natural fibres which became a second skin, increasing the sense of transformation. Fire finished the transformation representing the burning of the old and rebirth of the new.

Sound

The sound for each and every action was accentuated - loud and cinematic. Beautifully designed tension was built tangibly with a symphony of diegetic sounds. Sound recording revolved around a Sennheiser 416 boom microphone which gave the actors freedom to move around the set and provided outstanding and uniform sound. The music moved from a dark minimalist Berlin techno to a beautiful acoustic warm piano. The composer Simon Lewis has worked on music all over the globe and for this project has achieved something quite unique that accentuates change. 

Methodology

 

Production revolved around complete immersion of cast and crew in their filming environment. Production spanned 7 days and included flights in and out of Coolangatta, accommodation in Possum’s Creek and two cars and one bus for transportation. The director decided to shoot the film sequentially. The cast and crew of 12 people lived together for the entirety of the shoot, gathered from NSW, Victoria and Queensland. Nobody knew each other. Over the course of the shoot, as the story progressed from fracture and splinter to unification everybody started to gel. This had a direct result on the filming process. When cast were delivering final monologues exposing the depths of their addiction - there was a level of trust - this allowed for a depth of intimacy that far exceeded expectation. Cinematography centred around a full frame digital video camera the Sony FS7 and two Cooke cine primes the 24mm and 35mm were utilised. Camera movement was kept to a minimum to allow actors full absorption in the moment. The wider angle lenses allowed a larger space for mise en scene and action to take place. The Cooke cine primes gave the look a velvety yet sharp quality that added to both the dark world inky blacks and gold world short depth of field. This helped engage the cast fully - many of the monologues were lost during post production but during filming they proved invaluable in cementing the production process. Characters rang true - the theme, conflict and empathy of the characters gave the actors structure. A Stanislavski system was utilised - emotional memory, observation, motivation, relaxation and subtext all coalesced to make the acting as naturalistic and effortless as possible, (Weston, 1996). In this way the writing, acting, vision and diegetic sound were all solidified by the production process. The simplicity of production allowed the director to move quickly between shots and be able to problem solve efficiently.

Conclusion

The production took a group of technologically addicted students and changed them into beings that learned to engage with one another. A generation of disconnected and disengaged took a powerful journey of transformation. A framework for creativity was implemented on day one and permeated the entire production. The biggest lesson was in collaboration. A small family was created with Power Down and each member was strong in voice - the authorship of the film moved beyond a singular voice to a group voice with a singular vision.