Filming with Restraint

An exclusive look at one of those great films still looking for a distributor.

by Darren Amner

Anyone who has an interest in film will know the hardest thing about making a movie is the actual process of getting it green lit. Hollywood, year in year out, churns out countless films, whether huge blockbusters or unimaginative remakes - either way they seem to have no problem putting projects out there.

Outside of the system and specifically in Australia, the film industry is growing all the time. But for all the great storiesout there, many are never made, let alone seen by cinema audiences once completed.

Restraint is one of those films. Driven by passionate, talented people who have a story to tell, it’s a film about two young lovers, Ron and Dale, on the run from a murder, who end up seeking refuge in a country manor owned by Andrew, who happens to be agoraphobic. All three have secrets to tell and so begins a journey of discovery. We get to know our protagonists intimately as new revelations about their true natures come to light.

The creative team behind Restraint is producer Anna Fawcett and first-time feature film director David Denneen. They've worked together for 14 years doing commercials and have been building towards making a film for a long time. Restraint, written by Dave Warner, came along at the right time and was feasible to pull off on a low budget. Fawcett found the story intriguing but another major draw for her was that the film could be shot in Australia using people whom she and Denneen have known for a long time. Fawcett cites Denneen as someone who knows how to make things look good and adds "he gives [the crew] a lot of heart and soul, so everyone wanted to be a part of it."

Denneen set out to make a suspense thriller, armed with a great script and a big vision. Having honed his craft on commercials he was known to have an eye for images. Denneen chose to collaborate with Simon Duggan, who has been his director of photography for many years. Together they have conjured up a movie that looks much bigger in scope than its modest $5M budget.

Securing Duggan was a big coup; he has shot several big name blockbusters, such as I, Robot, the recent Die Hard movie and the third Mummy movie. He framed Restraint's photography with an assured elegance.

One unknown element that both Fawcett and Denneen chose to explore was with the film's casting, and Denneen certainly knew how to select photographic talent to capture onscreen. Inspired by the way Hitchcock would cast beautiful girls he decided on Teresa Palmer to play Dale, a role that would require Palmer to display incredible sexual confidence. At the tender age of 20, Palmer decided whilst in LA to visit some strip clubs to get a perspective on her character. Talking to the girls there gave her an insight into how they acted, the way they spoke and how they used their bodies. It was this research that enabled her to have the confidence to take on this emotional role which included sex scenes with both men, a first for her onscreen.

A second gamble was on former Calvin Klein model Travis Fimmel, who when he met both Denneen and Fawcett, gave them the impression that he was too good looking to play the role of Ron, a troubled young man to say the least. Fimmel blew both of them away with his second audition, by doing something with the character that no other actor had done during the readings – a star was born.

The one known quantity they did cast was Stephen Moyer as Andrew. Denneen describes him as the ultimate professional and one person who really knew his craft. Moyer is an experienced British actor who has had worked in television in the UK and also appeared in some features including Quills with Geoffrey Rush and 88 Minutes with Al Pacino.

Mixing known elements (crew) with unknown elements (cast), Denneen found the experience of making Restraint in his native Australia both rich and rewarding. He aimed to deliver a film that has a definitive attitude. Not a typical Australian movie, but one that would break the mould.

Having seen the film I can confirm that he has achieved that. Restraint raises many talking points and that’s certainly an achievement - most films lately disappear from your mind the minute you leave the cinema.

Restraint is currently awaiting release. With unknown stars and not fitting into a specific genre, it has suffered from being an original piece of filmmaking that some distributors think they may find hard to sell. Denneen assured me in a recent interview that the movie has finally received some solid offers and we can expect its release in 2008, which is great news for Restraint as the movie certainly deserves an audience not just in Australia but internationally.

If you enjoyed this article, check out our interviews with director David Denneen and star Travis Fimmel.

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