The Big Issue : Edition 573
32 THEBIGISSUE.ORG.AU 19 OCT–1 NOV 2018 THE AUSTRALIA HAS A long tradition of gritty genre cinema, and Stephen McCallum is excited to become a part of it. “Romper Stomper, Ghosts of the Civil Dead and Snowtown are some of my favourite films,” says the director. “To be able to dive into a genre I love with my first feature was really a dream come true.” His new film, 1%, is the hard-edged tale of a Perth-based bikie club tearing itself apart. For the last few years, the Copperheads have been run by their savvy vice president Paddo (Ryan Corr), who plans to take them into a profitable future based around organised crime and working in partnership with rival gangs. But two things stand in his way. One is his brother Skink (Josh McConville), whose bungled attempt to move into drug dealing forces Paddo to make a deal with enemy Sugar (Aaron Pedersen). The other is Knuck (Matt Nable, who also wrote the script), the gang’s president now fresh out of jail and hell-bent on taking the club back to the old, violent ways he knows best. It’s the kind of story that could have easily been spun as just another underworld gang face-off. Instead, McCallum turns this into a thrilling saga, with the rival leaders scheming against each other, egged on by their respective partners (Abbey Lee as Paddo’s ambitious girlfriend Katrina, and Simone Kessell as Knuck’s regal consort Hayley). “It was originally more of a 70s or 80s film, more of a gang-war film. What I wanted was to bring all the conflict A new Australian film brings a Shakespearean flair to the treacherous world of an outlaw motorcycle gang. 1% THEY ARE inside one club, to tell this house-divided, Shakespearean tale. And then to give it a look more like Romper Stomper than something like Easy Rider – a bit more brutal, gritty, hard, a bit skinhead punk. And I think [the producers] responded to that. They liked the visceral nature of what I wanted to bring to it,” he says. Adding that Shakespearean slant meant beefing up the role of the female characters, and McCallum had Lady Macbeth in mind as a model. “I really wanted the female characters to be just as brutal and vicious as the men in the film, if not even more so. They’re smarter, and they’re scheming as well – they’re roles that required real strength.” In casting the film, McCallum started with a high benchmark. “Matt wrote the script, so he was always going to play Knuck; he was the cornerstone we based the rest of the cast around. I was looking for personality first. I was looking for what the actors could bring to the characters rather than what they could play.” The biggest challenge came in casting Paddo. The goal was to find an actor who could convincingly face off against Knuck, while not simply being another version of him. “I wanted an actor who could bring a real sense of humanity and an honour to his character that the audience could connect with straightaway. It’s not just two bulls going at each other, it’s a young colt and a bull.” McCallum’s desire to go beyond the usual bikie clichés led him to do a lot of research into gang culture. There’s only so much you can learn from books and documentaries, though, and eventually he found himself face-to-face with some dangerous people. “One of the people I talked to was the sergeant-at-arms of a motorcycle club – I won’t say which one – but he followed me on social media, so I contacted him. We sat down and had a lengthy chat about the film, and the history of how he joined the club,” says McCallum. “For this guy, the club really saved his life. He was going down a path that could have ended in real tragedy; the club was able to give him a real sense of direction and focus. That was really interesting, to see what positives could be taken from belonging to this group.” All that research firmly pays off in the finished movie. But perhaps its most memorable moment is the opening sequence, with the bikie gang in full force, roaring through the streets of industrial Perth, soundtracked by noise-band Swans’ distorted guitars. It’s a potent reminder of what underlies all the scheming and plotting to follow: this is an organisation that operates through sheer force and intimidation. “It was something I really wanted to open with,” says McCallum. “The sound of the bikes bouncing off the tunnel walls was one of the loudest things I’ve ever heard. The noise in real life is like being dragged into hell.” by Anthony Morris (@morrbeat) » 1% is in cinemas now.