Making Meggido: an Australian sci-fi film

This article was originally published in Frontier magazine Issue 1 April 1996. This republication was edited May 2024.

“The Wizard of Oz meets Judge Dredd.” That’s the description David Redman gives me when I ask what his latest movie, Meggido Finn, is about. When pressed to explain the similarities between his film and these however, he’s more evasive; he doesn’t want to give the plot of Finn away.

I met David and Justin Dix, associates working together on Meggido Finn, at the offices of Corporate Video Productions in Richmond, Melbourne. I’ve come to learn more about what is Meggido Finn, which is in the last stages on post-production.

So if they are unwilling to reveal the plot of the film, what was their goal for it?

“We tried to go for a formulaised film,” David says. “Rather than getting really carried away with being original and clever and tricky. We’ll do something in our own style, but with a formula. It’s a story about heroes who through their journey discover themselves and become better people.”

David relates how the original concept for the movie was a comic book, and that’s how they wanted the film to appear on screen. “We tried to go over the top a little, not in everything though. A lot of blood and guts, senseless violence here and there.”

The success of other comic book related films must have been inspiring, but the actual shoot itself was not as easy as everyone thought it would be. “It was a long shoot,” David says. “Eight months, shooting on weekends.” So much so that Justin “takes his hat off” to everyone who turned up for the first night of shooting.

What was so hard about the first night? “It was at a (paintball) skirmish field out in Coldstream, with trenches and mud. We started at about six or seven in the evening, and when we got home it was about six the next morning. The light was coming up.

“We were running the film equipment off a generator, so when we weren’t filming we’d save petrol by turning it off. Everyone would then be walking around in the dark with torches to find where to go.”

“We were supposed to be away by about one a.m.,” Justin puts in. “When we got there, it wasn’t raining, but the moment we set up the cameras it just started coming down and didn’t stop all night. I remember trying to get the hero badges (that the main characters wear) dry as I was walking up to the trenches for the first shoot… I’ve got this plaster and it’s still wet and I take it out of the mold… and I know this isn’t going to work. We were doing makeup in the rain with nothing to dry it.” He grins. “Yet somehow it all worked.”

Yet it didn’t end there. “Everyone got bogged leaving.”

That was the first night, and both of them are proud at how the people who were there stuck through it. Says David: “Everyone involved with the film did it on a voluntary basis, for a credit and the love of filmmaking. And because it wasn’t by any means a full-on professional set with two hundred people standing around, so many people did so much of everything. That (first night) was the hardest part and people were volunteering, so we knew they would stick it out until the end.”

So the first night was the hardest night of filming, but apparently it contrasted heavily with the next weekend’s shoot, on a beach at Portsea. “That (first night) was the Saturday night,” David explains. “ANd then that Sunday were the worst storms in twenty years. Two weeks later we were down at the beach, and it was the hottest weather in November for something like ten years.”

Despite these hardships, David says it was a less stressful production than some in which he’s been involved. “I didn’t get as stressed on this shoot as I have in the past,” he says. “But we planned this a lot more. Every single shot in the film was storyboarded. That smoothed things when we were shooting, because we knew what we were doing, where things had to be. It worked out quite well as I was able to do rough edits to each scene as we went along, and people could watch previous scenes to get an idea of how they were supposed to be in the scene we were shooting.”

There are plenty of effects shots in the film. “There’s over 100 visual effects in the film,” David continues. “Including lasers, explosions, various split screen shots, computer animation and blue screen shots. Probably about four or five sets that were computer generated as well, they weren’t in it for a long time so we could get away with it.” He grins. “Leading up to the shoot, I remember thinking: ‘How the hell are we going to get through this, how are we going to do this?’ Down at the beach nearly ever second shot is an effect shot,, with something flying overhead or whatever… a lot of the time we’d just go ‘Right, we’ll just shoot a nice safe shot with a bit of head room and we can put something in there…’ and it worked out fine. All the actors had to have great faith in us to tell them what to do in relation to the effects…”

Even with lavish effects, the budget for the film was not very large. “We budgeted for around six thousand dollars,” David says. “For a fifty minute program of this quality and style, that’s very cheap.”

Justin, who designed most of the real sets for the film, explains. “We went out and somehow begged, borrowed and stole bits of sets. One was even part of the old Hinch set. It meant we were able to build things a lot cheaper. For example, the budget for the pub set was about six hundred dollars, when all it cost was three perspex buggles for lights, and that was it… everything else came to us free. Generosity of a lot of people saved us… we were able to use a lot of equipment and talent for free basically.”

This sort of attitude has meant that both men have greater ambitions for the future. “All these people we didn’t know before who helped with it,” Daivd says, “from that they became really good friends… and some have such talent that we say ‘oh, why didn’t we know you three months ago.'”

So what do they hope to get out of this film, considering that so much talent, equipment and time was voluntary?

“Personally, I’ve done it so we can try lots of different effects, lots of different ways of shooting,” David says. “Everyone else has done it for their own separate reasons. To get it shown is a bonus. It would be good to know that an audience liked it, though that’s not necessarily the main purpose.”

Justin jumps in here, eager to explain his own point of view. “Everyone says ‘what are you going to do with it, what’s it all been for?’ I always reply that it’s a learning experience… I have learned so much, met so many new people… and we’ve learned our limitations, what’s better to let other people do, what we can do on computer. So many new ways of how to do things. So when we do the next one, we can apply these things.”

“It’s been shot on tape,” David says. “But the end product… it has been shot, and lit, and post-produced with a very film look to it. We’re going to try and get it into various festivals around the place, that’s about the only opening we could hope for.”

So they are not doing any video rental or sell-through stores?

“It’s a very hard line,” David says. “Because no one did it for money, everyone did it voluntarily, if we start making money out of it it will go behind what we want.”

That said, both are pleased at how well the movie has come out. “I’m very surprised,” Justin says. “It’s come out great. It’s a huge leap from previous projects we’ve done. It’s come up looking a lot more professional.”

David jumps in here. “It’s not like we don’t know what we’re doing. I’ve been doing this since I was eleven or twelve, and now do it as a job. Justin does what he does professionally as well. There’s been a lot of preparation, a lot of thought and a lot of time put into it.”

The film premiered on March 1 at the LeMac Theatrette in Richmond, to an invitation only audience of those who had worked on the film in some way. It was well received, and everyone was excited about it. But now it’s completed, it’s time to move on to other things. The new project is Bounty Trail, a Star Wars fan film. And after that?

“I’d like to do a horror,” Justin says. “Get away from science fiction. It’s just so hard to do.”