Gareth Calverley’s ‘Pedal’: A Film with Heart Written All Over It

When we started reviewing short films, we immediately agreed on what type of films we would want to showcase. There are literally thousands of films produced on a yearly basis, so what kind of material would we be looking for? What quality do these films have to have? The single most important aspect of a successful short film—as well as feature film in general—is the story. You can decorate the storyline with as much CGI as your wallet can handle, you can get the likes of Jack Nicholson or Matthew McConaughey to star in your picture, but if the film doesn’t have a solid story, if it doesn’t have heart, we’re simply not interested, but thanks for thinking of us. Pedal, the latest film from Gareth Calverley, has heart written all over it.

When Miles, a patient at a rehab facility, decides to travel across Australia on his bicycle the moment he gets released, his rehab comrades generously decide to give him a helping hand, using their tricks and talents from their former lives to gather enough money to buy him the equipment he needs for such an ambitious endeavor. Cannon, temperamental, easily angered and rough, doesn’t show any support to his colleague at first, but soon has a change of heart. It’s Cannon whom Miles’ journey eventually influences the most.

The story seems simple at first glance, but soon gains depth and develops into a rather inspiring, thought-provoking narrative. The topics that Calverley decided to deal with here—the problem of reassimilation of rehabilitated drug users into society, the courage necessary to pull your life back together, to step out of the safe gates of the commune that served as your shelter—are more serious than it could be adequately presented in the limited format of a short film. But when you have capable actors at your disposal, and a balanced, wittily written script, even twenty minutes can do the trick. Both Simon Lyndon (Cannon) and Matt Callan (Miles), the two undeniably most important pieces of the puzzle, are magnificent in their parts, bringing their on screen personas to life with ease. It’s easy to see the fear in Miles’ eyes only moments after clear instances of hope and optimism, just as it doesn’t require much effort to appreciate the subtle change in Cannon’s character. The script steers clear from sentimentality and the ever-irritating tedious exposition. The visual identity of Pedal is also elaborated and extremely eye-pleasing, mostly thanks to the efforts of experiences Director of Photography Darrell Martin.

The overall impression this film leaves is that of a heart-breaking story fueled by love, hope and the availability of second chances. Calverley has the touch and the ability to sense a powerful story, and we’re certainly looking forward to whatever films his future brings to the surface.

Director Gareth Calverley with Kevin Hofbauer and Neil Melville

Director Gareth Calverley with Kevin Hofbauer and Neil Melville

BICYCLES AND SACRED HEARTS —
THE ORIGINS OF THE STORY

The roots of the story of PEDAL were inspired by two distinctly separate moments in the life of writer Gareth Calverley.

The first came when Calverley, inspired by the global adventures of Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman and their hit series’ LONG WAY ROUND and LONG WAY DOWN, became interested in bike touring. Unlike his intrepid, two-wheel mentors, Calverley chose a pushbike instead of a BMW motorcycle. After buying a tent, a sleeping bag, and a few other essentials, Calverley began cycling around rural Victoria. “Wind, rain, heat, and steep bloody hills, it’s a great way to get out into the world and remind yourself you’re alive,” says the writer.

The second moment came as Calverley began regularly walking past a Sacred Heart mission near his home in Windsor. One afternoon he struck up a conversation with one of the clients and began thinking about the plight of men and women struggling with rehab and re-assimilation after a setback. Putting himself in their place he wondered, “If I was in there, what would I do when I got out?” The answer led to the premise of PEDAL.

In collaboration with producer Andrew McInally and script editor Chris Roache, Calverley wrote the script over a few weeks in February/March 2014.

Cinematographer Darrel Martin

Cinematographer Darrel Martin

Says the writer, “There’s no such thing as an easy script but PEDAL sort of magically appeared in one sitting. I sketched out a rough outline and ran it past Andrew and Chris, then wrote the 20-page script in a single, coffee-fuelled session. After that, the real work of writing began.”

Says the producer, “From the first pitch, I was immediately interested in this idea as a short film. Knowing Gareth’s tenacious approach to research and screenwriting, I knew he’d deliver a cracker of a script”.

Following a series of script revisions, Calverley and McInally agreed to produce the film in October/November 2014.

A final word from Calverley, “It’s a film about finding courage and changing your life. Movie writers love talking about the arc of the character and how much someone needs to change in a story for it to be satisfying, but in my experience changing your life in a meaningful, lasting way is difficult. It means facing hard truths. Even the tiniest change that makes your life better should be cherished and celebrated because it takes real heart to do it. That’s what PEDAL is about.”

CASTING

As soon as the script for the film was done, the filmmakers began searching for the actors they’d need to inject heart into their story and realize the characters. Says writer/director Gareth Calverley, “From day one, we wanted Simon Lyndon to play Cannon. We never looked at anyone else.”

Within a few days of sending the script, Calverley flew to Sydney to meet Lyndon. Over a coffee and an amazing view of Bondi Beach, the two agreed to work together. “Simon is a natural talent, and he just understood Cannon in his bones. He got the fact that the guy was broken, very still, that he’d spent time in jail, and that he’d had a hard life, in and out of rehab,” says writer/director Gareth Calverley.

“There’s a real intensity and drive in Simon’s performance, in many ways it’s the perfect role for him. But he also brings an underlying vulnerability to Cannon that makes him real. Simon is a great actor.”

Casting the curmudgeonly elder statesman of the group proved just as straight forward, with Calverley and McInally offering the role to industry mainstay Neil Melville. Says Calverley, “I’d met Neil socially and really warmed to him. We spent a few days talking about the character, and Neil mentioned a man he’d seen in a Painters & Dockers pub many years before, an older guy, alone, just his cigarettes and a beer in front of him. Kind of ruined but still breathing. That’s Reg.”

The role of Craig, a hapless and slightly dim member of the gang went to Kevin Hofbauer. Again, no other actor was seriously considered. Says McInally, “Gareth and I had worked with Kevin on SMALL TIME GANGSTER and loved his energy and natural humour. He’s the perfect Craig. And he went above and beyond the call of duty, growing a very impressive afro and beard while we prepped the film. To Kevin’s eternal credit, he kept the ‘fro even after we had to delay production for two months. He’s a great actor and a great talent.”

Kevin Hofbauer (CRAIG)

Kevin Hofbauer (CRAIG)

The final two pieces of the casting puzzle however were not as easy to find. Gareth Calverley elaborates, “We were only a few weeks from shooting and we had no Miles and no Denise.” Luckily, fate and good fortune conspired to help the filmmakers.

Says Calverley, “I happened to watch a short film Simon did called THANKS FOR THE RIDE and saw Matt. He’s a grown man but also has this boyish quality that was at the core of Miles. I showed the film to Andrew and he agreed Matt was a great choice. We also spoke to Simon who gave Matt a big wrap.” The filmmakers sent Callan the script and he signed on immediately.

Four down, one to go.

According to producer Andrew McInally, “The character of Denise is crucial to our story. She has to be tough and capable but also a little inexperienced at her job, naïve, and ultimately vulnerable. And the actress playing her has to go toe to toe with Simon Lyndon.” After a prolonged period of false starts, the producers turned to a professional for help.

Renowned casting consultant Jane Norris of Mullinars, who had previously worked with Calverley and McInally in casting SMALL TIME GANGSTER, was instrumental in completing the casting picture.

Elizabeth Nabben (DENISE)

Elizabeth Nabben (DENISE)

McInally again, “Jane is one of the best in the business. She has terrific instincts and really seemed to get what we were going for in the role of Denise. Without her, we wouldn’t have found Elizabeth.”

Nabben read the script shortly thereafter and the casting process for PEDAL was complete.

Writer/Director Gareth Calverley concludes, “I’m fairly new to directing certainly, but not to watching films. I find Elizabeth every bit as watchable and magnetic as the young Faye Dunaway or Jane Fonda. I know that’s a big statement but it’s true. She is terrific.”

“The cast were all on board from the first read of the script – that’s always a sign of a good project. It only ever gets better when the actors are in the room inhabiting the characters and taking them to places that neither Gareth or I could have imagined,” says McInally

A final word from Calverley, “When I wrote this film I never imagined we’d have such a talented, brave, and committed cast. Each of our actors embraced their respective character and found a way for me to care about them and believe them when they spoke. For an actor, there’s no higher compliment.”

ON YOUR BIKE: MAKING THE FILM

Filmed over six days in early November 2014, PEDAL is a truly independent Australian short film. According to producer Andrew McInally, “We wanted to make the film ourselves and tell the story we wanted to tell our way. We turned to our family and friends for financial help and they generously invested over $6000 towards the cause.” Andrew McInally also invested over $4000 of his own money to allow the film to be produced. Says director Gareth Calverley, “Not only is Andrew a terrific producer, he’s a great mate, and he worked tirelessly to get this film made. His personal investment shows just what a committed filmmaker he is and I’m very grateful to have him running the show.”

PEDAL became as deeply personal project for both Calverley and McInally. Over the past two years, their independent production company occasionally found the tempestuous and volatile nature of the television business tricky to navigate. Says Andrew McInally, “We’ve never been short of great ideas, but as a small company we’re not as connected as the super-trawler companies at the big end of town, despite successfully pitching and developing two very strong ideas. So we found ourselves struggling in a tight, competitive, ever-fluctuating market.”

Calverley continues, “Over the last few years we’ve been stuck in development hell, writing lots of drafts, and filling out lots of forms but not really doing what we love, which is filmmaking.”

The producers decided that they’d return to the hands-on, “spit and bailing wire” approach to filmmaking that they’d enjoyed in their early years. Initially, they had planned to shoot the film in a hand-held, documentary style. The reason they didn’t? Calverley explains, “Thanks to the success of SMALL TIME GANGSTER, we know quite a lot of people in the Melbourne industry. We put the word out we were making a short film and that we wanted it to be about the joy of actually making something we cared about, and people suddenly came out of the woodwork to volunteer.”

Among the volunteers were acclaimed technicians and artists like director of photography Darrell Martin, production designer Tel Stolfo, make-up supervisor Glenda Mann, gaffer Lex Martin, legendary stunt co-ordinator Chris Anderson, and First Assistant Director Sean Barnacle. McInally continues, “These are seriously qualified people, at the top of their game, and to a person they came to PEDAL with the enthusiasm, professionalism and good humour that makes them the best in the business.”

Director Gareth Calverley with Elizabeth Nabben

Director Gareth Calverley with Elizabeth Nabben

Basing themselves in their principal location, a disused Salvation Army rehab centre on Chapel Street in St Kilda, the filmmakers got to work, spending an intense 10 days prepping the film, signing the remainder of the cast and crew, scouting the remaining locations, rehearsing with the actors, and finding the 30 extras they’d need to pull off some of the bigger scenes. Lead actor Simon Lyndon also underwent an intensive program learning to play the harmonica under the tutelage of master musician and composer Alan Bowles. “Simon was a natural, he really got into practicing and started carrying the harp with him everywhere he went”, recalls Calverley.

Filming commenced on Monday 10 th November. After four days shooting at the rehab centre, the filmmakers continued to shoot across the all parts of the city and Williamstown. Says Gareth Calverley, “The crew were simply brilliant. At one point I looked around and saw Darrell, Tel, Sean, Chris, Glenda, Celeste, Lex, John McKerrow our fantastic sound recordist, key grip Tony Hall working alongside the next generation, the younger crew members we had on our team. I just smiled. You couldn’t ask for a better, more capable or hard-working crew. It was a privilege.” The film wrapped on Saturday 15 th November 2014, with much good will and a few quiet drinks shared by all.

“I’ve rarely worked with a director who is so prepared for the shoot. He carefully constructed the film shot by shot, scene by scene. Alongside this, Gareth is open to ideas from his creative collaborators and happy to hear other’s thoughts and opinions. This approach fosters such a terrific on-set air and allows our key collaborators to have a sense of ownership through creative input,” say McInally.

Post-production of the film began at Melbourne’s The Post Lounge and continued at Soundfirm through January and February 2015.

Says producer Andrew McInally, “PEDAL reminded us of why we got into filmmaking in the first place. No politics. No paperwork. Just a group of committed people intent on making the best film they can. We can’t wait to do it again.”

And a final word from Calverley, “PEDAL started with a simple idea. And from then on we were just in the right place and the right time with the right people. From our incredible investors, our families, friends, and supporters, through to the cast and all the crew, we’ve been fortunate to work with an amazing group of generous people. I’m not a big believer in serendipity or fate but on this film, every time we needed something, whether it was money to make the film or the right actor or head of department or crew member to come along, it just happened. It was meant to be.”

ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS

GARETH CALVERLEY (Writer/Director/Producer)
Gareth Calverley is a writer, producer and company director of Melbourne-based Boilermaker Pty Ltd. Calverley created and wrote the AWGIE-winning series SMALL TIME GANGSTER for The Movie Network. His other credits as creator and writer include SPY SHOP and ANDREW’S GUIDE for ABC Comedy. In 2002, he wrote and directed the multi-award winning short film TOP BLOKES, followed by THE TEAM for Foxtel’s The Comedy Channel in 2004. PEDAL is Gareth’s third short film as a writer/director. In partnership with producer Andrew McInally, Gareth is currently developing a new multi-screen action series and an anthology show.

ANDREW McINALLY (Producer)
A film and television industry professional for 20 years, Andrew McInally is producer and company director of Melbourne-based Boilermaker Pty Ltd. Since its inception in 2006, Boilermaker has produced award-winning television shows and short films, working with some of Australia’s finest creative talent. In addition to producing PEDAL, McInally produced SMALL TIME GANGSTER for The Movie Network, SPY SHOP and ANDREW’S GUIDE for ABC Comedy, and THE TEAM for Foxtel’s Comedy Channel.

DARRELL MARTIN (Director of Photography)
Gifted with natural cinematic flair, Darrell Martin is one of Australia’s finest cameramen. Honing his craft over the past 20 years, Darrell’s credits include MR & MRS MURDER, SATISFACTION, WINNERS & LOSERS, WICKED SCIENCE and STINGERS. In addition to his television credits, Darrell has shot numerous short films, including PEDAL. He is a highly skilled and much sought after camera operator, beginning work on the new Seven Network primetime tele-movie series MOLLY in January 2015.

CAST

Simon Lyndon
Matt Callan
Elizabeth Nabben
Neil Melville
Kevin Hofbauer

Contact
Film’s official site
Production Notes
Boilermaker on Vimeo
Follow Gareth Calverley on Twitter
Pedal on Facebook

All stills by Heath McKinley
© 2015 Boilermaker Pty Ltd

 
Get Cinephilia & Beyond in your inbox by signing in

  • Martin Hatchuel

    Brilliant