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The Wizards of Aus

Fed up with the magical realm’s obsession with large-scale fantasy warfare, Jack the wizard decides to migrate to the sanest place he can think of: Melbourne’s western suburbs.

After accidentally causing Flinders Street Station to turn ever so slightly into a giant fish monster, his existence (and that of his fellow magical immigrants) is revealed to the Australian public. Fearing a backlash against himself and his kind, Jack swears off using magic in a bid to better assimilate into human life.

But of course, fitting in was never going to be easy when people tend to get a bit ‘explode-y’ whenever you sneeze...

  • Michael Shanks
    Time Trap
  • Michael Shanks
    Time Trap
  • Nicholas Issell
    Time Trap
  • Chris Hocking
  • Nicholas Colla
  • Sumah Hurley
  • Michael Shanks
    Key Cast
  • Mark Samuel Bonanno
    Key Cast
    Aunty Donna
  • Menik Gooneratne
    Key Cast
    Neighbours, Underbelly, Knowing
  • Mark Mitchell
    Key Cast
    Neighbours, Round the Twist , SeaChange
  • Bruce Spence
    Key Cast
    Star Wars: Episode III, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The Matrix Revolutions
  • Guy Pearce
    Key Cast
    The King's Speech, Memento, L.A. Confidential, Prometheus
  • Project Type:
    Web / New Media
  • Runtime:
    15 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    January 19, 2016
  • Production Budget:
    538,428 AUD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Michael Shanks

A multi-faceted filmmaker, Michael is an award-winning Writer, Director, Musician & Visual Effects artist. The Wizards of Aus is his biggest project yet - a feature length series where he takes on writing, directing, acting, composing and visual effects duties. Michael’s first ever foray into filmmaking took the grand prize at the 2008 Escapist Film Festival. In the fallout, he got a job with the company directing a short form narrative series at the age of only 17. Here, he was required to create high-concept narrative content for a fortnightly deadline. This enabled him to develop a guerrilla technique to filmmaking – learning a variety of technical production skills so that in the lack of a budget, he could sacrifice time to make the films he wanted to make. This meant seeing his family and friends a lot less, but most of them were happy to see less of him.

Since then, he’s curated the popular YouTube channel Timtimfed, which features a variety of high concept film and comedy content, and has over 35,000,000 online hits. He’s won various awards for his work in music videos, from directing clips of his own band to more recent work with artists such as Guy Pearce on his sophomore musical release, Storm. He also directs the odd TVC here and there and thusly is losing his soul. In his down time, he is obsessed with making strangers like him and is, at his core, a deeply unhappy man.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

I shot the very first footage for The Wizards of Aus when I was nineteen with a couple of my friends acting in it. Upon reviewing said footage, I thought ‘Wow, this is terrible’ and continued living my life. However, I never could quite shake the idea out of my head. The sheer lunacy of the concept rattled around in my brain, and then five years later I found myself pitching it to an alarmingly enthusiastic Screen Australia.

The Wizards of Aus represents everything I’m passionate about when it comes to filmmaking. It’s absurd, it’s fun, it’s (hopefully) unique and it aspires to do nothing if not be entertaining. It tells the story of Jack; a young wizard who decides he’s rather sick of fighting Goblins for Breakfast and Dragons for lunch and thus demands a change of scenery: Footscray.

Failing in his bid for secrecy, Jack’s magical existence is abruptly ousted to the Australian public and now he must deal with being an apathetic all-powerful God in a City of Melbournians.
To write the show, I teamed up with my high school buddy Nicholas Issell and we took delight in writing a show that no sane person would write. Our ethos was to let the scripts take us anywhere. As we bounced scene ideas around in the office, it didn’t matter how absurd (or expensive) they were - as long as they were funny they were considered. If the script demanded a giant fish monster, we wrote it. If the script demanded we suddenly teleport to the moon and murder main characters (for no other reason than it was funnier than not to do it) then we wrote it. It was key to us that the scripts always turn in unexpected directions to keep the audience guessing. However, no matter how much we subvert tradition, there are some fundamentals to writing narrative comedy that Nick and I are very passionate about respecting. This isn’t a sketch show, and as such there was always a reason behind each absurd choice - why should the audience care about the laws in our Universe if we didn’t’?

I’ve been messing around with visual effects in my spare time since I was 16, thus VFX was an inexpensive resource that allowed Nick and I to write the sort of scripts normally reserved for animations. It costs as much to animate characters in a spaceship as it does to animate them in a house – and that principle affords animation writers with a real freedom. Having access to free, albeit exceedingly time consuming VFX allowed us the same freedom, and we abused the fuck out of it.
Across the 90-minute runtime of our series, we have well more than doubled the amount of VFX shots as The Fellowship of the Ring (which is unprecedented for an Australian series – especially in the low-budget space). Now, of course, having an excess of VFX certainly isn’t a measure of quality – otherwise The Phantom Menace would probably be the greatest film of all time, which I’m pretty sure it isn’t. What that does mean, however, is that this show was exceedingly hard to make – requiring more than 36 weeks stuck in the edit suite with Chris Hocking (Series Producer).

Aside from our 1,200 odd VFX shots, we had our amazingly talented production people create great costumes for wizards, orcs, and men made of endlessly melting butter. Our puppeteers built several working puppets, ranging from the simple (a talking hat), to the difficult (a 7 foot tall articulated baby-skeleton monster), to the incredible (an amazing talking shark-man named Terry). All this from a team of hungry artisans with an average age of 25!

This all contributes to my directing philosophy that filmmaking can’t just be theatre in front of a camera; it can be so much more than that. I’m not interested in making a comedy where every laugh comes from dialogue. Laughs should also come from a camera move, a sound effect, clever blocking and framing - as much as a laugh can come from some words and a performance.
Speaking of performances, we couldn’t have been luckier to work with some of the absolute best Australia has to offer. Mark Samuel Bonanno as the joyously villainous ‘Skulldrich’ gave a perfect comedy performance that somehow makes you cheer for him in spite of the character’s tendency to frequently commit terrorism. We wrote the character for Mark, and Nick and I just about exploded when he agreed to come on board.
With a character at the opposite end of the spectrum, Menik Gooneratne brought real warmth and sympathy to ‘Kylie’, Jack’s grounded and caring case worker. To call Menik the utmost professional doesn’t do justice to her wonderful personality and presence. These two performances were the unshakeably, steadfast bedrock upon which I could pitch my own narcissistic and average-at-best performance as Jack.

On top of all the budding talents we worked with, we somehow were lucky enough to trick some fully blossomed Aussie legends into appearing in the show. Legends like Guy Pearce, Mark Mitchell, Bruce Spence and Samuel Johnson all brought so much to their roles; a talk show shock jock, a xenophobic politician, a living alcoholic oil painting and a pencil-pushing half man/half Shark respectively.

It’s been a crazy journey getting this show made, but it’s never been anything other than joyous, even when it was utter hell. I’ll be a lucky man to ever work with such a talented cast and crew, whose impeccable talents and efforts I truly believe are evident in the finished product.

People don’t really make shows like this. Maybe because they know better, or maybe because they’re almost impossibly difficult to make – and I’m so proud of my whole team for always erring on the side of ‘almost’ in the phrase ‘almost impossible’.
It’s an insane show, and it’s certainly not for everyone. You could almost say it’s for practically no-one, but I guarantee that you will be startled, you will be entertained and you’ll realise why people don’t make shows like this.