9 Dec 2008


When John L Simpson and Michael Joy got together to create the award winning film ‘Men’s Group’ they had little more to work with than a few tales and an idea of what the concept would be.

This meant their choice of actors for this ensemble piece would have to be chosen very carefully if their ideas were to bear fruition.

The film had to be filmed in chronological order to maintain the sense of realism that was crucial to the success of the film and it was during the filming of one of these scenes that Simpson and Joy realized what a considerable movie their concept had become and how well they had chosen their cast. At one stage shooting had to stop completely as one of the actors so fully immersed in character had to take a few hours to get things back together again after a startling revelation about one of the characters was revealed.

With Men’s Group, Simpson and Joy were attempting to bring something new and fresh to the table. Six months before filming started the pair began building a story around a group of strangers that get together once a week at a strangers house to talk about their issues.

“We were fascinated by Australian male culture and we wanted to make a film that was sometimes touching, sometimes devastating, sometimes uncomfortable, but always grounded in the truth,” said Simpson.

Selecting actors with extensive television and stage experience, the pair then sent those coming aboard out in public in character with a specific scenario in mind to interact with the general public. After almost two months of preparation, and a week before filming began the actors were all assembled together on a set constructed at Fox Studios in Sydney’s Moore Park Complex. As previously instructed, none of the actors were allowed to give away anything about their characters.

Inspired by cinéma-vérité, the duo attempted to make up their own rules while work shopping their actors both individually and collectively and feel that audiences have responded well to the film although some have come out of the cinema a little confused due to the strength of the performances and the realism created on the screen.

Simpson says this preparation was necessary to allow the characters to react more naturally as bit by bit each scenario was revealed throughout filming and also meant the film would be made up primarily of first takes bringing more realism to the performances.

Around the same time ‘Men’s Group’ was being created Simpson launched his feature film distribution company TITAN VIEW with the aim of bringing Australian Films to Australian and International audiences. The first film for distribution was ‘The Jammed’, which went on to become the highest grossing independent feature on Australian cinema screen average EVER in it’s opening two weeks.

While initially struggling to find distribution due to its sensitive subject matter (the main commercial ventures saw the film as being too much of a risk for Australian audiences), Simpson saw the need to get such an important film onto Australian screens and took a risk pushing for the film to reach widespread distribution.

His instincts were spot on as ‘The Jammed” went on to win Best Film, Best Score and curiously Best Script at the Inside Film Awards in 2007 as well as winning the inaugural SPAARTAN and 2007 DigiSPAA award before being invited to attend the Rotterdam Film Festival, Warsaw and Copenhagen Festivals and the Melbourne and Sydney International Film Festivals in 2008. The United Nations were so impressed by the film that they selected it to be screened at a conference on human trafficking in Vienna in 2008.

After studying producing at AFTRS, Simpson did his apprenticeship on the feature film “Thunderstruck’ working with executive producer Al Clark. His films have screened at Montreal, Palm Springs, and TROPFEST 04 just to name a few and have all been well received by audiences throughout the world.

After screening at the recent film festivals in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, Australian feature drama Men’s Group will premiere at the prestigious Sydney Theatre on September 18 to launch its theatrical season.