Friday, 9 April 2010


Moving to Sandridge Beach, as the council had suggested, was not the end of our problems. Again, the official permit woman disappeared, and we were passed to some half-competent newby, who first was waiting for various mysterious 'recommendations', and then said she wanted us to go to Elwood. Furious, I wrote an email to the councillor. I didn't know him personally, but I knew he was French and supportive of the arts. He answered my email rightaway, and was extremely helpful. He couldn’t and wouldn’t impose anything on the council, but he could and did shake the machine a bit, asking a few questions, and suggesting that they get someone to actually deal with  my permit application before shooting was due. It wasn’t absolute magic – I still had to wait about a week for various recommendations and other meetings to take place. And after a few days of excruciating anxious waiting, I got a phone call from the helpful second woman, recommending... Elwood again. I think I got a bit sharp and crisp. I firmly said, I cannot, this is a scandal, and I'm not happy. The tone was right. She rang her supervisor, and agreed to go with me to Sandridge, in order to assess the location together. She did get out of her way, big time - I called her civil servant of the month! - meeting me at 7h30 on Sandridge Beach. I’m not sure what it was for. I told her where the camera would be, where the lighting would be. She couldn't see a problem. It was, apparently, just about assessing the risk of disturbing residents. And she agreed that it was a beautiful place for a film.

Cathy did advise we should hire a security guard, though. There had been a violent attack in the previous year, and it was a remote location. Also, I had to come back in the evening and drop letters in the residents’ mailboxes, to inform them of the shooting dates and time. So I took the bus 250 from the top of Clarendon, did my mail-dropping, and met with my partner on the Albert Park Beach to have a relaxing fish and chips.

The following day, I got the permit in my inbox. I did think and hope everything would be simple and settled once we got the permit. It wasn’t. 5h45, I got a phonecall. 'Hello, I’m a resident, and I’m wondering about your project. You're shooting a film, what's the film about?' I told him ‘it’s a comedy’ – I knew my line of argument. But he wanted more details. So I told him the while storyline. ‘It’s a gay film then.’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you realize it’s the biggest beat in Melbourne. Hundreds of men come to have sex here everyday. It’s wrong. You’re encouraging it. Don’t do it. We’ll prevent it. My neighbours, they're very angry with it. They'll have their dogs barking.’ I spent half an hour on the phone, diplomatically trying to explain that, I’d been tossed around by the council, that I had invested considerable and a bit of money in the project, and, also, that Honey Pot was about a man deciding to NOT have sex in the beat, so that if anything, I was 'discouraging it'. He never quite got that last point - 'that's shit arse' - but the other ones, when repeated often enough, somehow broke through. Particularly the fight against helpless bureaucrats. I promised I would ‘try to talk to the producer and council about what could be done to shoot somewhere else’ – I did, I always keep my promises; Nghi said, shoot on Sandbridge. The council didn't answer the phone. He threatened a bit more, but said he’d ‘let me go’ cause he could see that I was a ‘fair bloke’, and I'd been 'conned by the council'.

That phone call did make me feel threatened however. I called Nghi for advice, and he agreed that we should get a security guard. National security services normally takes care of the place. They're in charge of locking up and patrolling at night. We phoned them for a quote. It was expensive, at about 45 dollars an hour, it would be close to 500 for the whole two nights – it was Easter week-end after all – but the guard they sent us, Joe, was extremely friendly, reassuring, and helpful. He gave us Easter egg chocolates, and offered to drop two our crew in Brunswick on his way back home – we gave him a thank you bottle of red, and a warm gush of praise when the company called us for feedback.

In the end, there were no resident issues, no marches or even  barking dogs. But there were people passing by, wanting to use the bathroom. So Joe directed them to the women’s, while keeping an eye on our generators. I had a moment of concernt on the second night: a resident went in the males to have a shower after his evening run, while Nick and Matthew were changing. Joe let him go in, though we officially had the place to ourselves already – it was after sunset – but he warned him that he should be quick, as we'd start shooting soon. The resident didn’t protest or do anything to block off the shoot. He had his shower, then peacefully retreated home. And everything went smooth.