Riding the wave

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Bondi Tsunami writer/director Rachael Lucas threw her hands up in frustration and turned her back on the filmmaking system. Only then did she make it big.

It's hard not to be swept up in Rachael Lucas' passion and enthusiasm for what she's done with Bondi Tsunami.

Where many films are the product of a few meetings between a scriptwriter and producer with some money to spend, Lucas' Japanese surf subculture music video cum road movie is evidently the result of years of observation and preparation by the young director.

After a background in music video, Lucas spent a lot of time taking notice of the way media is consumed, something that's had a strong bearing on the end product Bondi Tsunami has become.

"I noticed how trendy it was becoming to run music videos in pubs and clubs," Lucas says from Sydney where's she juggling leads and publicity duties that may lead to Bondi Tsunami making its way across the world. "And you only have to look at Foxtel, some people who have it at home just leave it on the music video channels all day. I thought it'd be interesting to expand on that."

According to the laws of cultural shift, Lucas also thinks it's something we'll see more of in the future as the lines between media blur. Described as a multimedia product, Bondi Tsunami is also what she considers a mass-market phenomenon, one younger viewers (who will by extension become the new generation of filmmakers) can relate to.

"What's going to be interesting is that I think a lot of people born in the 70s and 80s are going to do similar stuff because they've been raised on television, music videos, video games etc. I think [Tsunami] is a product of growing up on that mass media."

It's hard to know how to take Bondi Tsunami, and it's a shame theatrical releases don't come with commentaries. It makes you realise how narrow our view of cinema is. You'll undoubtedly sit down expecting a story and a plot, and if you keep watching for one you'll be disappointed. That was never the point to Lucas, who describes it (on the very lively and informative commentary) as being more like a chillout music album than a story.

And as she found while in putting the film together (about the travels of a Japanese surfer, Shark) media consumption differs between countries and not just generations.

"It's a very Western thing for a movie to have a resolution or result," she says, "this thing we have of the heroes journey, it's a very western phenomenon. In Japan they don't argue back, they don't flout authority, they're more interested in 'being' rather than 'doing', and the film reflects that."

"It's a multi platform piece. You could sit down and watch it from beginning to end or you can have it on in the background when you're having a party or you're at a nightclub or whatever. It's been quite consciously designed to run in the background."

And if it wasn't for the experience she had in Australia's fickle, egocentric and notoriously political funding system, Bondi Tsunami would have been a very different beast.

"When I started writing it and trying to shop it round the conventional traps, I was told to make a character gay, add a car chase, a drug running theme, a sex scene or a murder in order to get funding," she remembers. "I spent two years trying to rewrite my script into this lame piece of Kangaroo Jack -style crap so I could get money to make it and keep relationships with contacts I knew. When you're 24 years old it sounds like the right thing to do because you assume the older people in the industry have experience. But in mid 2002 when SBSI rejected it, I couldn't stand any more of the agony of trying to please people who were more talk than action so I severed contact with all the traditional avenues of movie making."

Bondi Tsunami will find its natural home on DVD, where it's much more suitable than in the traditional sitting-in-a-large-dark-room-watching-it-beginning-to-end format of cinema. And that's the experiment it seems Lucas was interested in making.

And as you can imagine, she's a very keen advocate of the democratising power of DV in filmmaking. "The day I gave up on the system and returned to the my original music video concept film was the day it all turned around, I raced out, bought a video camera on credit card and never looked back."

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