Aussie Exploits - Mark Hartley Interview
Debut director Mark Hartley has just made a film about the “wild, untold story of ozploitation”. Explosive, stylish and hysterically funny, Not Quite Hollywood is not only the best Aussie film of the year, but also the most surprising. 3D’s Anita Connors recently caught up with the filmmaker.
“I never thought of myself as a documentary filmmaker and I’m sure other documentary filmmakers would agree and wouldn’t agree that I’m a documentary filmmaker either after seeing Not Quite Hollywood, ’cause I think it’s probably the most wildly undisciplined documentary ever made in Australia,” laughs Mark Hartley. “And I certainly did want to make it feel more like a music video, I really wanted to have a rock n roll sensibility.”
Armed precisely with a rock n roll sensibility, a fiery pace and a glossy, high octane finish, Not Quite Hollywood seems to cover every ozploitation film made between 1970 and 1985 whether they be horror, comedy, action, werewolf or kung fu movies. Despite them all being violently different Hartley says they do share one common ground.
“There is a very larrikin, Australian energy to them. And I hope you get a sense of that when you’re watching the doco and maybe that’s an energy we don’t have in our films anymore.”
Tracking down and researching the films were massive tasks; it took Hartley 10 years to make his film. After the first four years, the Melbourne-born director got disheartened and decided to shelve the movie. He only got back on track after getting some encouragement from a very unlikely source.
“I read an article with Tarantino where he spoke about showing…the Australian film Road Games to his cast and crew on Kill Bill,” remembers Hartley. “At that point I had about a 100 page research document, so I found Tarantino’s assistant’s email and just sent him it… it wasn’t about luring him for the project, it was just something I thought he might be interested in having a read of. And I got an email back the next day from his assistant saying, ‘Quentin has read your document from cover to cover and whatever you need him to do to help get your project up he’s willing to do.’ So we flew over there and shot a three and a half hour interview with him. And I sat there as he was talking going, ‘This is gold! This is gold! This is gold!’ And that kind of really just reinvigorated and renewed my interest in getting this project up. And it took us another three years or so, but now it’s about to hit the cinema screen so all is right with the world.”
Tarantino’s interview is one of the highlights of the film. As it was, Hartley says, about hearing “film directors setting themselves on fire to prove to the lead actor that it can be done…[stories] about putting mice in werewolf foetus suits and stories about Dennis Hopper being pulled over by the police and getting told that he was legally, clinically dead because of the amount of alcohol he had in his body…you know, told that he was never allowed to not only drive a car in Victoria, but was never allowed to be a passenger in a car in Victoria ever again.”
“Let’s not pretend,” he interjects. “The film doesn’t at all pretend that all these films are great – far from it. It’s a pretty irreverent look at these films, but I think when you’re watching it, you do realise that some of the films are pretty good and that some of these filmmakers are pretty good. And I always knew that a few of these filmmakers were just as talented when it came to the craft as our more lauded filmmakers like your [Bruce] Beresfords, [Peter] Weirs and your [Fred] Schepisis. And I knew the spotlight had never been shone on these people and I hope that in some way this film gives them a bit of begrudging respect.”
Not Quite Hollywood is screening now. More information from notquitehollywood.com.au.