September 17 saw Rosebud Cinemas swing open its doors to three cast members of the ‘feel good think more’ movie The Merger, and people were excited. Lovers of authentic Aussie stories dropped by to say hi and support Australian movie-making at its best with the down-to-earth flick that brings love, grief, assimilation and small-town politics to the big screen.
Punters didn’t want to miss the chance to quiz the movie’s writer and actor Damian Callinan, who plays Troy Carrington, and his co-actors Michelle Brasier (Gretchen) and Sahil Saluja (Suresh). Here’s some of what they asked.
Where does the story come from and is there a book?
Damian: There’s everything except a book! I’ve been doing The Merger as a one-man show playing all the characters for years after being commissioned to write a show that subtly tackled the issues of racism in regional communities by Arts Victoria and VicHealth in 2009. I also do the Bodgy Creek Football Club podcast.
Do you have a football background?
Just a bit. I played footy until I was about 30 in country Queensland. We used to travel 350km for a game. I’ve also played in Japan on a five-storey building where the footy kept going over the edge because the barrier wasn’t high enough.
Is the movie going to be released overseas?
Damian: Well, not sure. It’s tricky when you’re competing with big-budget movies that get released everywhere. We are what’s called a low-budget film with limited release. It’s a wait-and-see thing.
Is social media used much to promote movies?
Damian, Michelle: Sure is. Some movies have millions of dollars to spend on social media campaigns. We had $100,000. You can see the difference.
What was it like working on the film?
Michelle: It was life-changing, and everyone was so easy to get along with. It’s such an important Aussie story.
Sahil: I had gone back to India to try to do some Bollywood after feeling like nothing was happening for me. It was great to be part of this when I returned to Australia.
It’s a fantastic movie. It reminds me of The Castle.
Michelle: Well, people really relate and connect to great storytelling.
Damian: It’s set in an Aussie town where people live everyday lives with family and friends, and it’s a comedy even though there are some very heartfelt moments too. Lots of people have told me they’ve laughed and cried — like when Sayyid (Fayssal Bazzi) is waiting at the bus stop for his wife and child to arrive after not seeing them for years. Composer David Bridie worked with Kurdish asylum seeker and musician Farhad Bandesh, who’s been detained on Manus Island, to compose music for this moment. That’s special.
Get along to see The Merger at Sorrento and Rosebud Cinemas before it’s too late.