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One-on-one with Stephen McCallum | Local | News

The only Australian biker movie to get an immediate worldwide release, 1% is roaring down a road that even Seventies cult classic Stone couldn’t. We get the lowdown from the movie’s director

How did you get involved with the project?

I went to film school with producer Michael Pontin, who knew all about a short film I made there called Six Straws. It’s a colonial convict thriller that’s up on Vimeo now if you’re interested. He sent me a first version of the script because he thought it had similarities.

What drew you into this project, which is your first feature film?

I’ve always been interested in the subculture of one-percenter bikers and I was going to do a doco on the subject when I was at uni. I’m interested in what draws people to belong to such a dangerous world. I’ve found out it’s a family for people who perhaps don’t have family. A lot of bad comes out of that scene, but also a lot of good.

In recent years there’s been several biker series; Sons of Anarchy in the US and Bikie Wars: Brothers in Arms in Australia. Matt Nable played Jock Ross in Brothers in Arms and he plays the lead role in 1%, and he wrote the original script. How does your film fit into this genre?

I think it’s closer to a medieval clash, rather than just the tale of a bikie gang.

It goes behind the mechanics of a family in a way that’s been described by critics as almost Shakespearean (viewers will agree once they see the Macbeth-type role of the two leading female actors play).

Tell us about being selected for the Toronto International Film Festival (one of the world’s largest, with nearly 500,000 attendees).

It was incredible news! Especially in a world now when so many films now don’t get a mainstream theatre release but instead go straight onto the internet. Our movie is going to be distributed all around the world. It seemed to stand out in the buzz of the Toronto International Film Festival. It’s a bikie Australian crime film and that’s what makes it stand out. People were saying: “Is this real? Does Australia have this subculture?”

I think Sons of Anarchy (a US TV series that ran for seven seasons from 2008) is a vanilla version of this subculture. For example, you won’t find swearing in it, but our swear-word count is off the scale. It’s a realistic portrayal.

How were the bike riders gathered together for the film? Are they club members?

Some of the riders are club members but they aren’t one-percenters. We were very fortunate to get a great bunch of local Perth riders together with their own motorcycles after putting the word out on social media. They are a strong group of guys who have become good friends. Fraser Motorcycles were also great and provided a couple of ‘hero bikes’ for the main characters.

Are any of the film’s actors motorcycle riders in real life?

Matt Nable is the only one who rides regularly and he’s pretty shit at it! Only joking!

Where there any issues filming the riding scenes, especially the one through Perth’s Northbridge
Tunnel?

Not really. We didn’t have to shut the tunnel to shoot that scene but we had traffic management behind us to slow down drivers. Having said that, we had to be very diligent about safety with 40 motorcycles in such close company. We passed through the tunnel eight times both ways to get the shot right.

What were some of the Perth film locations?

Quite a few of them were around suburbs I grew up in. I didn’t want a picture-perfect setting, which Perth is so often promoted as, so places like O’Connor, Balga and Kwinana gave us the industrial-suburban backdrop we needed.

Where to from here for you, at age 37?

For the next six months I’ll be riding the train of promoting 1%. After its Australian release in October, it opens in the US and UK in February. Then it rolls out to Japan, Germany, Latin America and other places. The buzz of the film has given me a few more irons to put in the fire. Like most film-making projects, these can take years to develop. 

About the movie

A product of WA’s Screenwest’s prolific film program, 1% is a tale of brotherhood, loyalty, and betrayal set within the primal underworld of outlaw motorcycle clubs. The heir to the throne of a motorcycle club has to betray his president to save his brother’s life. Some critics have already compared it to Aussie classics Romper Stomper and Wake in Fright. The film stars Ryan Corr (Mary Magdalene, Hacksaw Ridge), Abbey Lee (Dark Tower, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Neon Demon), Simone Kessell (San Andreas), Josh McConville (War Machine), Matt Nable (Hacksaw Ridge, Riddick) and Aaron Pederson (most recently seen on TV’s Mystery Road and Jack Irish).

Other Aussie biker films

Stone (1974) A product of an Australian film industry awash with production money, Stone had some quality actors (Bill Hunter, Helen Morse, Gary McDonald, Roger Ward and Hugh Keays-Byrne). Although it repaid its investors within 18 months, Stone was never released overseas.

Cosy Cool (1977) A well-intentioned but dopey ‘road-buddy’ movie shot around Penrith, Sydney. Two young mates ride spindly choppers (one with crazy six-bend pullback handlebars) on yet another journey of self-discovery. Very limited release – but you can see it on YouTube.

Mad Max (1979 and 2015) Neither the first, nor the latest Mad Max films are totally focused on bikers but leather-clad warriors dominate many of their scenes. The first Mad Max movie had it all: supercharged V8s, Z1 Kwakas on nitro and Jim The Goose (a peroxide-blond-haired Steve Bisley). The film’s production values were top-shelf and this was carried over into the 2015 Fury Road version. The first Mad Max was Australia’s most profitable film at the time but didn’t set the screens alight in its US release. By contrast, Fury Road had its world premiere in Los Angeles and went straight on to Cannes.

Shame (1987) Deborah Lee Furness plays a leather-clad lawyer in this compelling feminist action flick. When a roo takes out her Suzuki Katana, Mrs Hugh Jackman-to-be limps into an Outback town and peels back the sordid underbelly of society. Despite getting rave reviews, Shame had a limited release and a tame version was filmed for a US cable network.

Hamish Cooper