This Is It
Team MESS @ Adelaide College of the Arts – XSpace
6:30pm, Wed 29 Feb 2012
As a result of the seemingly ambiguous Guide blurb, I know two-fifths of bugger all about This Is It before walking into the XSpace; of course, the précis turns out to be far more prescient than I ever thought possible, which acted as a friendly reminder that I really should read these things more carefully.
This Is It is pitched as a press conference and, after a tense and dramatically cut trailer for the titular movie was shown on two large screens bookending the stage-centre table, Katrina Sedgwick (ex-Fringe and Adelaide Film Festival director) came onstage to chair the panel. After she pitches the movie in ludicrously veiled terms, another four or five short trailers are shown – different snippets of eerie forests shows, creepy camera lunges at characters, first-person views spying on their prey. And then Sedgwick announces the arrival of the actors… they walk in separately, smiling for the “cameras” at this mock press conference, as strobes flash a convincing hungry-media effect (which continues intermittently throughout the rest of the performance). Once all three actors are onstage, they group together for cast shots, then pair up for more photo ops. Natalie Kate Randall and Frank B. Mainoo are always smiling, and always waving – but Malcolm Whittaker, who plays the male protagonist Jim in the movie, appears solemn and circumspect.
After four or five minutes(!) of photo ops, the cast sits at the table, and Sedgwick starts asking them a series of questions about the movie and their roles. Her initial questions promote the idea that these actors are brainless goobers, as they respond to simple questions with lofty answers that create a sense of self-importance and general cluelessness. Later questions establish a bit of mystique around director Dara Gill – he wants to appear enigmatic in his techniques, but the actors’ descriptions indicate that he’s a sexist buffoon who pisses everyone off.
Sedgwick eventually opens questions up to us, the audience – “the press” – and it’s slow and tentative going at first… everyone’s a bit shy, and their questions only prod at details already mentioned. But then someone goes completely off-script, asking about Gill’s alleged racism; others pick up on the opportunity, and before long there’s queries about the rumours that Gill was shot on set. The actors dealt with this ad libbing incredibly well, maintaining the façades of their clueless characters. Alas, after a flurry of audience questions – and with plenty of arms straining in the air for attention – the performers left the stage.
This Is It was quite an experience. Team MESS have shone a light on the culture around movie and actor worship, and created a framework with which the rest of us could perform, too. The inclusion of Katrina Sedgwick was a masterstroke, and the “Press Kit” – a glossy twenty-page booklet available on entry – is an absolute blinder; Gill’s Directors Notes are a near-impregnable load of bollocks, with Randall’s comments on the production of the movie a fantastically naïve description of the process. But the real gem is the reproduction of the short story, Forest, used as inspiration for This Is It: it’s an astonishing piece of writing, broken and pointless and just plain wrong… but it somehow makes the rest of it make sense.