Sugartown – the making of a cool indie movie.

Sugartown – the making of a cool indie movie.

A chance meeting over coffee in Vancouver between a Frenchman living in Canada and an Englishman living in Australia led to Sugartown.  

Actor, producer Michel Duran was looking for his next movie project and writer Ed Chatterton had a script which fitted the bill: a cool comedy drama able to be produced for under a million dollars. The script was a short written for the Australian ‘Tropfest’ film festival and was originally called Low Budget

Ed then wrote a feature length script which became Sugartown. Shortly after a partnership between them was set up in Vancouver BC – Sugartown Media Inc. The movie is currently being set in Australia ...but is adaptable for several locations and has been written with that flexibility in mind.

Sugartown is a darkly comedic movie centered on the efforts of two struggling independent film-makers who embark on a series of robberies in a desperate attempt to raise funds for their movie. Harry and Oslo are in the middle of another unsuccessful attempt to raise capital to fund their movie, Sugartown. The shiny dreams of Hollywood both started out with have been reduced to the dispiriting reality of camping rough to save money and cold-calling reluctant dentists as potential investors. We meet them as they drift across countryside arguing about such important topics as which actors could convincingly play ‘man in a tent’, and how often Ryan Gosling gets his balls waxed.

‘This isn’t exactly what I had in mind when we got into the movie business, Harry. I mean, like, y’know, tents, dude. Jesus H Christ.’

‘This isn’t exactly what I had in mind when we got into the movie business, Harry. I mean, like, y’know, tents, dude. Jesus H Christ.’

While Oslo, the younger and more resilient of the two, takes a more laid back approach to life, Harry is almost at the end of his tether. For him, this really could be his last shot at redemption; might be, in fact, his personal last train to Sugartown.

‘I’m on the phone, dickhe– No, sorry, not you. Is that Mr Kunyaki? Oh, right, Mrs Kunyaki, OK.’

‘I’m on the phone, dickhe– No, sorry, not you. Is that Mr Kunyaki? Oh, right, Mrs Kunyaki, OK.’

The making of such a project requires various steps. It all started with assembling the vision of the film, the style, the atmosphere both with the characters and the locations. 

At the moment the project is presented to various producers, directors as well as distributors both in Australia and in North America. The story by itself being very adaptable to both an Australian or North American backdrop. The idea being to forge artistic and business collaborations with like minded individuals and organizations. 

Indie movie-making is a hard road so it helps enormously when you have creative partners who are enthusiastic and easy to work with.
— Ed Chatterton - Michel Duran

That's been the cornerstone of this project so far: everyone we've involved has brought something to the table. When starting visuals, photographer Fang Tong and actors Nathanael Vass and Stephanie Izsak came on board. A stage adaptation has been written and is developed hand to hand with the movie. Pat Davern, an Aria award-winning musician, Grinspoon guitarist and APRA-nominated songwriter of the year and a close collaborator of Ed Chatterton started on the score and soundtrack while early connections has been made with British singer-songwriter, Låpsley. On the producing side to develop the project in Australia, collaboration has started with  Will Gammon and Jon Cox.

Content is king –  In a recent article published in Indiewire, Distribution - the new reality, Paula Bernstein outlined contemporary trends which are causing seismic shifts in the way content providers go about their business. ‘Our binge watching, on-demand culture has become increasingly impatient and therefore less sensitive to how long a film might be in a theater or if it even has a theatrical run at all.’ What Bernstein calls a ‘new consumer mindset’ has pushed Netflix, Amazon, iTunes and others into becoming increasingly active as content providers. There is a hunger for content.

Why is the budget below $1M? According to a January 2017 Fox News article ‘despite big names, bigger budgets huge films are flopping at the box office.’ In contrast, movies typically made with a budget below the million dollar mark have a far stronger chance of making a return. With this in mind, Duran and Chatterton made the strategic choice to enter the market with a strong character and dialogue driven movie produced with no star attached. The shoot is entirely on location and with a flexible approach that builds in an ability to cope with change, in a way not accessible to movies with larger budgets. Our focus is centered on the premise that ‘content is king’. Indeed, Sugartown was scripted partly as a riposte to the idea that a large budget indicates quality. Backed by a coherent, cohesive and thoroughly embedded marketing & promotion strategy, Sugartown represents the new delivery reality outlined by Bernstein. As a financial partner, any investment becomes easier to recoup and with less risk attached.

Their message is simple: they have content, come get it.

Editor-in-chief
Moving from France twenty some years ago, I became a Frenchman outside of France carrying in his baggages a bit of French culture spiced up by new discoveries.