FENECH IN FO­CUS

The Aussie film­maker has forked out his own cash to fund half the bud­get for his lat­est ven­ture into the art of mak­ing peo­ple laugh

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES/PLAY - VICKY ROACH

Paul Fenech has so much faith in his abil­ity to con­nect with his tar­get au­di­ence that he has in­vested $500,000 of his own money in his lat­est film project, Fat Pizza vs Housos – about half the film’s to­tal bud­get.

“I be­lieve in my­self,’’ says the Lo­gie-win­ning wri­ter­di­rec­tor-pro­ducer-ac­tor sim­ply.

Fenech’s faith is hardly ill­founded.

The majority of his com­edy projects, which in­clude three pre­vi­ous fea­tures – Some­where in the Dark­ness, Fat Pizza and Housos vs Au­thor­ity and some­thing like 100 half hours of tele­vi­sion for SBS, have turned a profit.

“I don’t think I have made any­thing – per­haps a cou­ple of DVDs – that hasn’t made back what it cost and more,’’ Fenech says.

“I mean you al­ways get stooged, but I make a liv­ing, so I am happy.”

The se­cret, ac­cord­ing to the one-time am­a­teur boxer, is un­der­stand­ing one’s mar­ket.

“My the­ory, as a pro­ducer, is that you should make your film at an af­ford­able bud­get for a coun­try with the reach and pop­u­la­tion of Aus­tralia,’’ he says.

“And you have to know who your au­di­ence is and what they want to see ... we just want to make some­thing funny that peo­ple can re­late to.”

Two of Fenech’s best­known worlds col­lide in his most re­cent project, which was filmed pri­mar­ily in the western sub­urbs of Syd­ney and fea­tures cameo ap­pear­ances by Nick Giannopou­los, Kyle Sandi­lands, Jonesy and Angry An­der­son.

After 15 years in prison – for threat­en­ing a food in­spec­tor with a chain­saw – the only shopfront Fat Pizza chef Bobo Gigliotti (John Boxer) and his mother (Maria Venuti) can af­ford hap­pens to be lo­cated in the in­fa­mous hous­ing com­mis­sion sub­urb of Sun­ny­vale, home to Shazza (Elle Dawe), Dazza (Ja­son Davis) and Fenech’s law­taunt­ing, thong-slap­per Franky Fal­zoni. While it’s been more than a decade since the co­me­dian first in­tro­duced us to Bobo’s world, sur­pris­ingly few changes were re­quired.

“That’s kind of the point,’’ says Fenech. “They are the sort of guys that don’t change. “

The Housos char­ac­ters, on the other hand, are a lit­tle less pre­dictable.

“They are more fluid just by na­ture of the char­ac­ters they are, the uni­verse they live in. They are al­ways chang­ing and adapt­ing, ul­ti­mately, be­cause they are sur­vivors and scam­mers.”

While the on­screen re­la­tion­ships in Fenech’s films are in­tense, com­bat­ive and wildly an­ar­chic, off-screen the dis­ci­plined, hard­work­ing film­maker and his team work long hours to de­liver the film on time and on bud­get.

Fenech con­ceived, wrote, shot and de­liv­ered his lat­est film to the cin­ema in less than 12 months.

“When peo­ple tell me they have been de­vel­op­ing a film for three or four years, I go: ‘what have you been do­ing?’ Re­ally, what can you pos­si­bly have been do­ing for all that time’?”

He goes to great lengths to make sure his re­la­tion­ship with his au­di­ence is a dy­namic one.

“When we do live stuff I am very at­ten­tive to what peo­ple are laugh­ing at,’’ he says.

“And when we do TV or film, I have a good look at the so­cial me­dia to get a sense of the praise and the crit­i­cism.

“I spend a lot of time lis­ten­ing to the au­di­ence to find out what they like and then I work as hard as I can to give them some­thing that will give them a laugh.”

Pauly (Paul Fenech) and Habib (Tahir Bil­gic).

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