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Nothing Else Mattress

Bryn Chainey, Christopher Sharp

Australia

TFL Awards

TFL Production Award 2015 (€ 50.000)

synopsis

A comedy-drama set in the melting hot suburbs of Australia in the mid- 1990s. Rhys is a neurotic teenager with an over-active imagination and a bizarre dirty secret under his bed.

He falls in love with Iris – the nastiest, coolest girl at school – who is a guitar goddess, has a pet tarantula, and is totally out of his league. His world gets even weirder when his parents separate and his mum decides to emigrate to the UK.

Convinced his human rights are being attacked, Rhys makes a plea to the government for help, which only makes his mother tighten her clasp. He becomes increasingly alienated as he reinvents himself as a grunge rocker to impress Iris, emotionally blackmailing his dad to buy him an electric guitar.

However, the only thing that comes naturally to Rhys is disaster and everything goes balls up. The more he pushes for things to stay the same, the more they change. Running out of options, he hijacks his family’s demountable house and drives it into the desert. But even in the most vast, barren environment on the planet Rhys cannot outrun his mother.

intention

Nothing Else Mattress will be my debut feature and a more personal continuation of themes in my previous work. My last two shorts were magical realist takes on domestic trauma. Jonah and the Vicarious Nature of Homesickness (2010) was a B-movie-inflected tragicomedy looking at the emotional consequences of a man’s decision to leave his family. Moritz and the Woodwose (2013) was a modern fairytale looking at the coping mechanisms created by children to deal with domestic trauma. Moritz was a more realistic portrait of a family but also gave equal weight to the protagonist’s imagination; reality and fantasy were treated as equally natural.

By contrast, Nothing Else Mattress will be my first film to take place almost entirely in the real world, if you can call Australia that. I want to look more directly at family dynamics and how damaged people attempt (and fail) to relate to each other and their environment. The story is partly based on my own experience of sudden divorce and emigration, which was a strange and difficult time for a kid who already had his fair share of neurosis. The time which has passed since has given me enough distance to be able to look back and laugh – not a purely ironic laugh but also an empathetic one, and although the film’s humour will derive from our ironic distance to Rhys and his desperate attempts to maintain control, it is equally important to understand the sense of dread driving him. We need to share his dread, otherwise the film would become a farce, and so it will be important to strike the balance between irony and empathy to make this film not only a comedic experience but also an authentic, cathartic one.

Although the film is told through Rhys’s unreliable worldview, it is the story of his whole family and how each of them feels ill-equipped to deal with the dismantlement of the family structure. When chaos enters the home, they turn on each other and there’s no way back. I am not interested in seeing characters heal on-screen, rather in getting them to a place where they have no choice but to expose their wounds to each other. In order to move forward they will need to rediscover each other on new, slightly damaged terms, and ultimately Rhys and his family must accept being lost not as a weakness but as a strange and unmistakable cause for optimism.

References include Submarine (2010), The Squid and the Whale (2005), Thumbsucker (2005), and the book The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3⁄4 (Townsend, 1985).

budget & financing

Revlover Films is a new production company based in Sydney, and Nothing Else Mattress will be one of the company’s first productions. Screen Australia is our national film funding body and they have been tracking Bryn’s work for some time. They are very supportive of Bryn’s emerging career and have been closely monitoring the progress of this project’s development. Earlier this year they funded a short film which we developed to increase interest in Nothing Else Mattress, and which we intend to have completed by mid- November. We are hoping that the short (Kill Your Dinner) will have a positive festival life and bolster our ability to finance the feature film. The feature has also received development funding from Screen Australia. Given Screen Australia’s support for Bryn at this stage we hope this will translate into production finance for the feature, and we will be requesting around 25-30% of the budget from them, with a further 10% likely to be attained through regional government production funding. This will leave us with a gap of around € 325.000, for which a TFL production grant would make a huge difference and could possibly be used to leverage a bigger chunk of production investment from Screen Australia and/or our regional funding body. We have a second draft of the screenplay available to read and after TorinoFilmLab we intend to begin the task of attaching an actress to the role of Jenny that will enhance the film’s appeal to distributors and audiences alike. Our ambition is to commence production in 2016.

distribution & sales

Nothing Else Mattress will be positioned as a clever, endearing coming of age comedy from an exciting, young new voice in Bryn Chainey. There has been a wave of excellent directors to emerge from Australia in the last five years and we intend to position this film in the international market as another example of the talent being developed in that region. Our hope is that the film, which is intended to be received as a funny and heartfelt account of a boy struggling with major upheaval in his life, will play well outside of Australia. Sometimes comedy can be hard to translate from one culture to another, but the film’s perspective on Australia and its culture is one with an outsider’s capacity to see the ridiculous amidst the everyday. It is the way that Bryn sees his world. And we think that will resonate with non-Australian audiences. In order to apply for production finance from the Australian government, we will need to have an Australian distributor in place that is committed to releasing the film theatrically in that territory. Securing that distributor will be one of our first tasks after TorinoFilmLab. Throughout the rest of the world we hope to find similarly minded distributors, although the realities of the market might mean that the film is released straight to VOD platforms in some territories. But as with all things in this regard, we will be led by the guidance of The Match Factory, our sales company.

videos

After his parents separate, a neurotic teen must sabotage his mother’s plan to move him and his brother to Wales.
139-bryn-chainey
Bryn Chainey

Film Director

661-christopher-sharp
Christopher Sharp

Production

production notes

directed by
Bryn Chainey

total production budget
€ 1.300.000

current financial need
€ 780.000