Thursday, February 16, 2012

Students meet Melbourne moviemaker

Australian director explains production to students while abroad

By Alison Haywood, A&E Reporter

It’s rare to see a tasteful movie about poop, let alone one that gains national attention. However, Clayton Jacobson made it happen.

On a J-term trip to compare the differences between American and Australian media, a group of 16 Pacific Lutheran students had the opportunity to meet with Jacobson, one of Australia’s most popular filmmakers.

The award-winning Melbourne-based director came to Newman College where the students were staying and talked with them for more than five hours about the making of his best-known film, "Kenny."

The 2006 mockumentary "Kenny" follows the story of a man who works for an Australian port-a-potty company called Splashdown. Despite its unlikely subject matter, the film was immensely popular, running in theaters for six months and becoming Australia’s 25th-most-popular film, according to shanejacobson.com.

"I was brought up in a strong working class area and so I wanted to represent this world in a more truthful way - and celebrate the theme of decency through the character of Kenny," Jacobson said. "I had cleaned toilets to pay for my film education in the 80s so I understood what it was like to be on the receiving end of public disgust."

"Kenny" is not only unusual for its plot, but also in the way it was produced. Starting out as a short film, Jacobson entered it in a film contest, where it was received with widespread popularity.

Although Jacobson was initially reluctant to do so, a generous sponsorship from the real Splashdown company convinced him to meet audience demands and turn it into a feature-length film.

Even with support from Splashdown, the film was produced on a remarkably low budget. All of the cast and crew were friends or family members of Jacobson, and his brother Shane Jacobson played the title role.

Clayton Jacobson shot, produced, directed, edited and marketed "Kenny." He used a Sony PD170 camera. Junior Jake Ooley and senior Linnea Anderson are both in MediaLab and said their cameras are better than the cameras Jacobson used.

Ooley attributes the film’s success to its likeable characters.

"He [Jacobson] kind of made Kenny into a loveable guy who just didn’t take things to heart and just made the best of every situation," Ooley said. "You just want to give him a hug because he’s such a great guy."

Anderson said she was impressed by the amount of work Jacobson had put in to the film, especially marketing "Kenny."

"Not only did he produce, direct, edit, but he also marketed it, which was incredible, because, how do you market a movie about poop?" Anderson said. "The main thing I learned from him [Jacobson] is if you have a story and you’re passionate about it, go for it."