Snowdroppers (1998) – a short film by Travis Bain

University students Dale (John Comino), Hayden (Michael Canfield) and Robbie (James Mannion) are taking their new friend—American exchange student Lee (Troy Mackinder)—out to see the last-ever Hoodoo Gurus concert. There’s just one problem: Lee isn’t allowed into the club because…

Snowdroppers (1998) - a short film by Travis Bain

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University students Dale (John Comino), Hayden (Michael Canfield) and Robbie (James Mannion) are taking their new friend—American exchange student Lee (Troy Mackinder)—out to see the last-ever Hoodoo Gurus concert. There’s just one problem: Lee isn’t allowed into the club because he’s not wearing a collared shirt. The solution? Time to introduce Lee to the great Australian art of snowdropping—stealing clothes from clotheslines. A comedy for anyone who has ever bent the law just a little.

Snowdroppers was made especially for the Courier-Mail’s What’s On short film competition. It was shot on 16mm film stock that had been stored in someone’s freezer for 14 years. The audio was recorded on a Hi-8 camcorder. Snowdroppers was my third short film after The Wrong Girl and Full Moon, Dirty Laundry (also 1998).

Amazingly, we won the competition. The first prize was $1,500, a day-long tour of the Warner Roadshow Movie World studios and lunch with some bigwigs from the Pacific Film & Television Commission (now known as Screen Queensland) who politely ignored all of my attempts to obtain film funding for the next few years. At the studios I met the actor Whip Hubley (Top Gun, Russkies, Executive Decision), who was there at the time filming the TV series Flipper. He was a really nice guy who was happy to chat. Snowdroppers went on to be screened at the 1999 Bathurst Film Festival.

Snowdroppers was a bloody tough slog over five long, cold nights in my Alexandra Hills backyard. We wrapped production at 5am on the last night of filming just as the sun was coming up. We got the last shot done just as the first rays of light began peeking over the horizon. It was a great feeling to get the film done, but it came at a price: I got fined $100 for filming a shot from the boot of a moving car. I was a povvo student at the time so I basically had to starve for the next two weeks because the fine used up all my food money. So to the Redlands shire cop who gave me that fine back in December 1998: Thanks a lot, a-hole.

The original version of Snowdroppers was as grainy as hell and very murky due to the advanced age of the film stock we used, plus the fact that we couldn’t really afford very many lights. In 2010 I gave Snowdroppers a healthy dose of digital noise reduction (DNR) and a new colour grade, so while it still looks fairly rough, it at least looks better than it ever has before. Snowdroppers is one of my favourites of all the short films I’ve made. It’s just a bit of fun. Oh, and a few years after it was made, the Hoodoo Gurus re-formed!

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