Stars in their eyes
Baz Luhrmann, Gillian Armstrong, Mel Gibson ... Australia has its fair share of talent when it comes to filmmaking for the big screen. With two award-winning movies already under their belts, we catch up with a couple of talented young Sunshine Coast filmmakers who are well on their way to seeing their name in lights.
When creative dynamos Terrance Young and Ashlee Jensen met 11 years ago, they knew they had a special connection. Both hailing from creative backgrounds, with a passion to tell a great story, the couple lost touch for a few years before joining forces five years ago and began writing movies together. It’s an adventure that’s led them on a wild rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, but they wouldn’t change it for quids.
From very humble beginnings, and on a shoestring budget, the talented duo worked their magic to weave a story that would win them several awards for their first short film, 500 Miles, and have recently launched an independent feature film that has earned them a reputation in the industry as very promising young filmmakers.
I’ve always been creative,” says Ashlee. “I was really sick as a child and spent a lot of time in hospital on quite extensive medication, including antibiotic steroids for about 12 years to keep my airways open. With that comes an array of problems, I was overweight and I was subjected to a lot of bullying at school. I was always different to everyone else from a young age, so anything creative; writing, drawing and drama was my escape, it was how I expressed myself, it was how I connected with the world.
“Then I met Terrance and we just clicked, he already had an idea of what he wanted to create and we started putting together some drafts.”
“I always wanted to write a cool gritty love story,” adds Terrance. “Something real, not a fairytale.
“We kept putting it on the back burner and then we were fortunate to meet Pete Valley, who starred in the movie and also helped finance it.
“We managed to pull together a measly $50,000 and we had a great crew who worked for free on a deferred contract and we shot the movie. We had a couple of premiers in the US at the International Film Awards and we won best feature in Cincinnati, best emerging filmmakers, and audience favourite at the Palm Beach Film Festival.”
“It was such a humbling experience,” says Ashlee. “All of a sudden we are in this big world on the red carpet at Palm Beach, Florida. We had come all the way from the Sunshine Coast where we worked with all these other people for free, to create this beautiful masterpiece.”
Based on their initial success and knowing how well they worked together, the pair decided they were ready to make an independent feature film and the idea for Project Eden Volume 1 was born.
“We were walking along the Stone Arch Bridge, which goes over the Mississippi River in Minnesota. I remember the city was so alive and the water was gushing underneath. By the time we walked from one side of the bridge to the other we had sewn the beginning and the end together and we had this great story,” says Terrance.
It’s based on the story of a woman whose son is stuck in a catatonic state. It starts off as a conspiracy thriller and grows into something much bigger. It was so big we had to make volume one and two.”
Jumping straight in at the deep end, Terrance and Ashlee knew they were taking a big risk, and after securing an initial investment of $150,000, they shot the first 20 minutes of the movie.
“If we weren’t prepared to take a risk, how could we ask others to take a risk on us. So we jumped in and showed what we could do with $150,000. It’s definitely not conventional and we wouldn’t do it again that way. This was our Everest,” says Ashlee.
“We thought we could make this movie for around $200,000, but it ended up costing more than $1.5 million, which is still a very small budget in the movie world.”
With the help of a key investor, the duo finished the movie, which won best SciFi Vision Award at the Boston Film Festival. It has since been released by Umbrella Entertainment on DVD and video on demand, and has also been released in cinema in the US, the UK and China. It premiered in Sydney and Brisbane earlier this year to much acclaim.
But apart from the awards and accolades, the duo agree it has been the experience and lessons they have learned along the way they value the most.
“We worked so hard,” says Ashlee. “We both had full time jobs and families, I was doing my advanced diploma of screen and stage acting. We would work until midnight on Skype with the team, creating pitch documents and platforms for people to get funding,” says Terrance.
“Professionally and personally it has been a huge learning curve, we are not the same people we were before.
“I definitely had moments of, ‘Is this really happening?’ Being on a multi-million-dollar set, with 60 to 100 crew and working with well known actors like Erick Avari, it was quite surreal to think this is what we do now.”
For me, it was seeing what was in our head and on paper come alive before our eyes, I think that’s the magic,” says Ashlee.
But despite their success, Terrance and Ashlee are quick to point out, like most artists and creatives, they are yet to reap any financial rewards from their years of hard work.
“Everyone has this perception of directors and producers living in these mansions, it’s not the case. We pay our cast and crew and investors first, we are the last cab off the rank,” says Terrance.
The moment we get an actual paycheck, where we are being paid for what we are doing, that is the moment I will sit back and go, ‘Wow,’” says Ashlee.
So what’s next for the dream team?
“We are currently working with Screen Queensland to get some development funding for our first mainstream cinema release, that’s the next step,” says Terrance.
“We will always have that essence of being independent filmmakers, there is something truly beautiful about not handing over all your creative control, but it is also nice to take that next step and be recognised,” says Ashlee.
Watch this space.