Film geeks rise from zero to hero

Doors were closed in their faces and the Logies didn't want to know about them, but now the boys behind The Bazura Project have graduated from Community TV to ABC2.

If nothing else, Lee Zachariah and Shannon Marinko are determined boys.

As the creators and presenters of The Bazura Project, they began hawking their TV concept to television networks in 2005, but after closed doors it was Channel 31 Melbourne that gave them a go. Then they initiated that 2009 campaign to have the Logie Awards embrace Community TV.

Now in 2011 they are finally getting a shot at the big time, well ABC2 to be fair, and the Logies now accept Community TV nominations.

As Shannon Marinko explains it’s been a path full of potholes, all for the sake of bringing the silver screen to the small screen.

“We spent a year shopping it around to everyone and got nothing. The amount of staff turnover at networks was staggering. We’d tell them we sent in our stuff 3 months ago and they’d say ‘He doesn’t work here anymore, can you send it in again?’ I swear to god it happened with every network at least twice!” he says.

“So we went through a year of that until we sent it to Community TV to see if we’d made anything that was any good. Maybe we’d just made rubbish. We sent it to Channel 31 Melbourne and they said ‘Yes can you start next week?’”

Their irreverent movie review show chalked up  36 episodes across 2 years, mostly filmed after hours and on weekends. More action was to come when the pair wanted to submit their show for consideration by the Logie Awards.

“Nobody was taking notice of us and that year there was no Chaser, no Kath & Kim, no Chris Lilley. It seemed to be very thin in terms of the number of comedy shows and we thought maybe we were a shot at a nomination,” says Marinko.

“I asked for a copy of the rules and they sent them to me and there wasn’t anything there. If they’d said you can’t enter I wouldn’t have had a problem with it. But when they say one thing and show me another then there’s something wrong, and I’ll be a dog with a bone and won’t let go until it’s right.

“So in the true Aussie spirit I wouldn’t take no for an answer so I had a whinge to Aunty and Media Watch picked it up and got the ball rolling. That maybe pricked up ABC’s ears a little bit. About six months later ABC came a-courting.”

This year for the first time, Community TV shows became eligible for the Logies. While some such as Rove McManus had their start in Community TV and went on to win Gold, so far it hasn’t translated to any shows being nominated just yet.

“I think it was more to do with Community TV being available on Freeview so they really had no choice, rather than one man with his fist in the air and his head in the sand,” he suggests.

The ABC2 series shifts from movie reviews and parodies to looking at film genre. Still with their tongue in cheek, Zachariah and Marinko are looking at key moments in film history. The first episode looks at ‘Violence’ in cinema.

“If you like the idea of self-important film geeks lecturing you about film history then this is the show for you. But hopefully it’s a little bit more accessible than that,” he says.

“We do a very quick history of the key violent films, with some obscure violent films. The centerpiece of each episode is a How To, so we show you how to make your own ‘violent scene.’

“I’m sure the film geeks out there will point the finger if we’ve screwed up but I’m pretty confident we’ve got everything right.”

There are also obscure films referenced including the 1956 Hollywood horror film The Bad Seed in which an 8 year old girl is a killer. The film was subjected to the infamous Will Hays censorship code that had to uphold morality.

“At the end of the film she gets struck by lightning and then they have a curtain call. The studio insisted on the cast coming out to wave at the camera because they wanted the audience to be sure that they didn’t actually kill the little girl. So that was a really fun film to look at.”

Each episode includes appearances from David Stratton, Shaun Micallef and Kat Stewart, while the series has cameos from Tony Martin, Francis Greenslade, John Safran, Brian Dawe, Julia Zemiro and Good Game’s Stephanie Bendixsen.

“We approached them as nobodies and they said yes, so it was just incredible. These people are so trusting! But we may get angry letters from agents after they’ve gone to air,” he laughs.

Film buffs are also invited to scrutinise the opening title sequence in which nods to dozens of classic films in just 52 seconds.

“The opening sequence was the brainchild of our director Tim Egan. We shot it at the ABC and it was half a day just to get all the camera marks on the floor and then a full day of shooting and I think we got 3 takes. It was crazy,” Marinko explains.

“Once it goes to air and the resolution is better we hope that people will pick out all the film references, because there are tiny little props sitting in the background that reference a film. Hopefully that will part of the fun of the title sequence, that people keep going back and spotting stuff they didn’t see the first time.”

So now that he has hit ‘the big time’ and persistence has presumably paid off, how does it compare to knocking on doors or working on Community TV?

“We’ve got a few more people working on the show but still a very small core group of people who have done most of the work. The budget has gone from my pocket to my pocket and the rest of Australia’s pocket. But it’s been a luxury to do it fulltime. That’s what’s been the most pleasing thing about the show. When we did Community TV we all had daytime jobs,” he says.

“A Logie invite would be fun, to be able to see how the other side lives. We’d make a mess of ourselves so that would be worthwhile.”

The Bazura Project airs 9pm Thursdays on ABC2.

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