Ed Kavalee has a lot invested in his first feature film, Scumbus, which premieres Saturday night on TEN.
He is actor, co-writer, co-exec producer, co-producer and sometimes even caterer. The whole film was shot in 11 days drawing upon the generosity of most of his comedy mates, who are all on profit deals should the film become a success.
“I’ve never even made a short!” he laughs.
“But I didn’t direct it, my mate Luke Tierney directed it, because I was still doing breakfast radio. So I was showing up on set when everyone was already there and everyone was already working.
“I would wander in with blurry eyes, put my costume on, try and remember my lines and figure out what we would use for catering the next day.”
The cast includes Toby Truslove, Lachy Hulme, Ryan Shelton, Tony Martin, Peter Helliar, Henry Nixon, Samantha Tolj and more.
“I just rang people up. Dave (Hughes) and Kate (Laengbrook) I was doing radio with at the time, so they couldn’t say no. Glenn (Robbins) and everyone else I had worked with so I just rang them up and they all just said yes, so I thought ‘We better go and do it.’
“I was working with Working Dog at the time too and I wandered in there and said ‘I’m doing a film and we shot the whole thing in 11 days.’ I thought I was showing off a little bit. But then Santo said to me ‘We shot The Castle in 10 days.’ So they set the bar for 10 day-filming pretty high!”
Kavalee admits he has invested life savings into the project.
“They say to never put your own money into your own film. But I didn’t have a choice,” he says.
“Everything I’ve ever earned in radio, TV, even the money I made working in a video store.
“Unless you’re going to do something and make something you’re just going to be waiting for gigs your whole life. And it’s not going to happen for me, I’m not going to get acting work!”
Scumbus follows two cops assigned to the worst police job on the roster. Kavalee says the film was inspired by scenes he witnessed whilst living in St. Kilda.
“They put this temporary police station at the end of my street and that meant all the drug dealers moved 10 metres up the road, then they took the bus away and everyone would walk back again,” he said.
“I play a good cop, Toby Truslove plays a very bad copy and our sergeant Glenn Robbins gives us a last warning, at the worst temporary police station in the world and we have to try and survive a night.
“The local hoodlum is Lachy Hulme, but you might know him as Kerry Packer, and he’s ready to tear our heads off. There are some corrupt police, Tony Martin, Henry Nixon, Samantha Tolj, Pete Helliar finds time to be a shifty record producer.
“I think there is a law somewhere that says I’m not allowed to do anything unless Tony Martin is involved. But he and Working Dog gave me my start.
“I think it might be the acting debut of one D. Hughes. And I think he will surprise some people.
“Hughesy has had someone write a film role for him twice and both times he has lost the role to someone else. I said ‘Mate you’re not going to lose it. You’re in this thing.’”
The film was made without any broadcaster involvement, but TEN has gotten behind the film following support for other low-budget comedies including Micro Nation.
“We didn’t have any promises or anything, no nothing. We just made it and the plan was always to do some festivals and if it was good enough hopefully one of the networks would want to show it.
“When Channel TEN told us it was going to be on 9:30 on a Saturday night I thought ‘Great, I’ve always wanted to be beaten by Midsomer Murders.’ And I know 7TWO will have a particularly good episode of Heartbeat on.
“But win, lose or draw, it’s kind of done because TEN said ‘This is madness, but it’s got some good people in it, we’re going to give this a swing.’
“I’m not sure if Margaret and David will love it but I’d be happily surprised if they did.”
All the hard work may yet pay off. Kavalee, who already has another film in post-production, won’t be in Australia when Scumbus premieres, because the film has been selected to screen at the LA Comedy Festival.
“I will be in LA when it goes to air here, which is a bummer, but we’re just rapt that TEN is taking a chance on it.
“If it becomes Blair Witch none of these people will ever be seeing me again. I’ll be Eduardo Sanchez and my phone will be off!”
Scumbus premieres 9:30pm Saturday on TEN.