Looking back on “The Dream Children’ by Roberto Chuter. When you ask someone: “What do they want in life?” It is a difficult thing to answer. Many would answer: “fame, fortune”, others might answer: “house, money, security”, and others “family, children.” Of course, it depends on what your priorities are and at what point you’re at in your life, but what most people, I believe, are trying to articulate is some kind of tangible happiness. But for some, happiness is an elusive idea. How do we achieve it? How do we know if we have achieved it? Is it a state of being and if so, what is the difference between happiness and contentment? What stands in its way? Most of this cannot be answered conclusively, but to the last question, I can offer a suggestion: ourselves.
‘The Dream Children’ is many things but the backbone of the film is the psychological journey of Steven Evans (Graeme Squires), a television celebrity whose success is ultimately choking him. He is a man that if you were to ask him what he wanted would be, like many of us, dumbfounded. Although in love with his partner, Evans hurls himself into numerous sexual liaisons in desperate attempts to awaken himself up from his numbed state of being. Once their usefulness has been satisfied they are discarded and the hunt continues. He has no other form of self-expression. Paralleling this is the journey of Alex Thomson (Nicholas Gunn), Evan’s partner who can no longer hold his tongue in relation to his dreams, Nerine (Jessikah Brown), a mysterious young woman who holds the key to Thomson and Evans’ happiness and Jake (Christopher Pender), a heroin addict who, although trapped in the whirlpool of addiction and poverty, is nonetheless the omega to Evans’ alpha. All are trapped; one by sex, one by the idea of security, the other by drugs. All are searching for both nothing and something.
This film seemed to have evolved of its own accord: taking on its own life and as such, many more themes and dimensions have surfaced. This is a work almost entirely of the subconscious, powered by an inexplicable force while I was merely the helmsman. As such, any further explanation would be futile. Inspiration is often found in the most simplest and surprising forms. From a small newspaper, an item found randomly in 1999, the late playwright Julia Britton began work on her play ‘Internet Baby’ about a same-sex couple who adopt a baby over the internet. The play was given its first public reading in 2001 at Carlton’s La Mama Theatre before being revised and updated. Although the reading proved successful, the play remained idle for years. Melbourne’s Fly-On-The-Wall Theatre finally gave it its first full production under the new title ‘The Dream Children’ at the La Mama Courthouse as part of the Midsumma Festival. The opening night provoked heated discussion and strong reactions from both media and audience alike. This was clearly not a play that was going to lay silent after the third and final week. With the debate over same-sex marriage appearing almost daily in the headlines at the time and the surprising case of a couple caught selling a baby on craigslist.com, the time seemed ripe to produce a film of this nature. As such, the word was given and preproduction for the film commenced.
The original idea was to use the same cast as the stage production, utilizing basic but professional HD technology and shooting “guerrilla-style”, with no budget and raw. As the months progressed and with the addition of new young writer Angus Brown in charge of the adaptation, the story expanded, the characters deepened and before long the production grew beyond the constraints of the initial plan. The budget accelerated, schedules were pushed back, roles recast, sponsors brought on board and the size of the crew had seemingly exploded.
‘The primary theme of Charles Lamb’s essay ‘The Dream Children: A Reverie is regret and loss: regret for unfulfilled love, lost hope and the lost joys of life.’
– Julia Britton, Playwright.
Within a few months of the initial pitch, the cameras were rolling on the six-week shoot. With such an accelerated pre-production and production phase, it is perhaps natural justice that the film would mark the time before commencing into post-production. Much had changed during this period: Australia finally felt the shockwaves of the global economic crisis forcing otherwise enthusiastic investors to think twice before bankrolling an independent film. Many otherwise large-scale productions were either canceled or remained to chase their tails in what director Patrick Hughes (‘Red Hill’) called: “development hell” following a string of critical and box office failures. Many were questioning the future of the Australian film industry. With this in mind, the decision was soon made to test the relatively new “crowdfunding” method on the net. Its relative success has now moved the film to its final stages.
‘The Dream Children’ was an ambitious film, not only in terms of its production and an extremely limited budget but also its scope. This is a film that is at once explicit, intimate, and subtle, casting its gaze across a broad range of themes with sensitivity. This is a story about loneliness, obsession, family, desire, celebrity, sexuality, and love. The film has now had many screenings on the international film circuit and markets and continues its journey globally and on many online platforms.
Love it, or hate it, for a low-budget feature, it has done extremely well.
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