Murdoch-made feature film is surprise award winner

July 1, 2015

Jeff Asselin (centre) with his lead actors  from Pinch Craig Hyde-Smith and Alla Hand

Jeff Asselin (centre) with his lead actors from Pinch Craig Hyde-Smith and Alla Hand

A micro-budget feature film made by Murdoch University’s Media Production Manager Jeffory Asselin and crewed by graduates and undergraduates from the University’s screen production courses, has beaten big budget, industry-made rivals to win the main award at the West Australian Screen Awards (WASAs).

Gritty drugs drama Pinch which was written, directed and produced by Mr Asselin, was named Best Film beating box office hit Paper Planes, John Soto’s The Reckoning and Kriv Stenders’ Kill Me Three Times.

In the run up to the event at the Heath Ledger Theatre, Mr Asselin said he thought he had ‘no chance’ of winning the category, especially considering his film was up against movies starring the likes of Sam Worthington, Jonathan LaPaglia and Simon Pegg.

“The award comes as a total shock, it’s a great honour,” said Mr Asselin, who is still seeking a distribution deal for Pinch so that it can be screened in cinemas.

“Pinch was made out of passion and we begged, borrowed, stole and did everything we could to get it finished. We wrote our lives into this film.

“The award is a testament to the community who got behind it and made it happen.

“There is a really big push for Australian filmmakers to make commercial and genre movies, which are really important, but it’s also essential that we preserve our Australian culture. For me our filmmaking, and more specifically Pinch, is doing that.”

The film’s music by Ash Gibson Greig also won an award for Best Original Music (long form) and Pinch was also nominated for Best Cinematography (long form) and Best Sound (long form).

Another homegrown Murdoch film, paranormal thriller short Pale Blue Eyes, won its makers Joe Henderson and Cameron Whiteford the Best Student Film award.

They made the film during their Masters year at Murdoch and it was also crewed by students on the Graduate Screen Program.

“Pale Blue Eyes was a labour of love for us,” said Mr Henderson. “We spent about a year slaving away on it full time.

“I think being students gave us the opportunity to experiment with narrative and story structure with the safety net of working out of Murdoch University.”

Mr Whiteford added that the Graduate Screen Program gave them freedom as well as guidance.

“We made our own decisions on how we wanted our script, film and edit to turn out. This method worked for us as we were allowed to make mistakes and learn from them,” he said.

“Working on Pinch prepared me to work smarter, not harder. I already had a sound logistic mind coming from my psychology undergraduate course so it made me push myself further and solve issues in real time. Through Jeff and also Antony Webb (the cinematographer on Pinch), I learnt so much more about the on-set etiquette. They also taught me that film making can be fun and serious at the same time.”

Pale Blue Eyes was also nominated for Best Cinematography (short form) for Grad Screen alumni Joel Crane, Best Sound Design (short form) and Best Editing (short form). Mr Henderson was also nominated in the prestigious Young Filmmaker of the Year category.

Notes for editors

Pinch was shot over 28 days in winter 2013 in locations in Cockburn and Kwinana with 18 Murdoch students working closely with a raft of industry professionals. Murdoch senior lecturer Melanie Rodriga, from the School of Arts, served as Executive Producer.

The plot follows a teen living in a struggling industrial area who ends up working at a second hand car yard that is actually a front for a drug syndicate. His mother is sick and needs an organ transplant, so the teen decides to rip off the criminals.

“It’s a hero’s journey, based around a fairly straightforward premise and shot in an indie style,” added Mr Asselin.

The acclaimed drama Winter’s Bone, starring Jennifer Lawrence, was a major influence on the film’s gritty themes of drug abuse, heroism, survival and temptation.

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