Occupation (2018)

The OCCUPATION Is Coming from Luke Sparke

Occupation (2018) The Conquest BeginsI was fortunate to get a chance to meet up with Australian filmmaker Luke Sparke at the Supanova Convention in Sydney on June 16, 2018, and afterward, attend his special Q & A session to discuss the worldwide release of his latest film Occupation.

Also in attendance was some of Sparke’s amazing Australian and New Zealand cast including Dan Ewing, Rhiannon Fish, Stephanie Jacobsen, Izzy Stevens, Zachary Garred, Felix Williamson, Trystan Go, Charles Terrier, and Ben Chisholm.

Ewing and Chisholm have both appeared previously in Sparke’s debut feature film Red Billabong back in 2016 (the first film premiere I attended), which was the story of two brothers and an ancient battle with a mythological Australian being.

Sparke has revealed that a prequel to Red Billabong is in fact in the works and will feature other indigenous creatures, such as the Yowie. The story will be set during the roaring 1920s near Uluru in the Northern Territory (Australia) – infamously known for the disappearance of baby Azaria Chamberlain in 1980 (aka “A dingo ate my baby” case). This prequel is still in the development stage but very much in production, and Sparke himself says, “There was so much I can do in that world of the Bunyip, that I didn’t get to explore in Red Billabong. I’m excited for what we can expand on.”

Occupation (2018) alien at Supernova ConventionSparke’s newest film is due out in the USA on July 20, 2018 and in Australia on July 12, 2018). Surprisingly, a sequel to Occupation was already announced on May 31, 2018, with details yet to be made clear (to avoid spoilers on the first film). The second script has been in the works since November of 2017.

During the Q & A, attendees were treated to a 90-second clip from Occupation that featured a bit of intriguing story-line elements, stunning visual effects, and some impressive creations for our alien antagonists.

Next came a behind the scenes video diary look at some of the footage, and Temuera Morrison began to speak about the film and the plot, saying, “You stop for a pie somewhere and all hell breaks loose.” He praises the diversity of the cast that Sparke has assembled before we meet Rhiannon Fish, who praises Temuera Morrison’s amazing guidance of the younger cast and explains how the rain machines cause a mild form of PTSD. Charles Mesure interjects to discuss the concepts of aliens invading a small Australian country town followed by Jacqueline McKenzie’s praise of Sparke’s ingenuity employing the $6 million budget to maximum impact and creating such amazing visual effects. Dan Ewing appears on-screen and says, “Luke has made such a human piece. The best part is when you get to blow stuff up.” Finally, we are treated to an array of fantastic looking stills, and he joins the cast in attendance on stage.

  • Luke Sparke: It is a fantastic Australian-made thrill ride with dark and light themes, a fun action adventure that Aussie films are lacking at the moment. The inspiration was that I was the child of the 1980s and in LA pitching films, and I came up with this based on loving sci-fi and six months later we were filming. Dan found out at Hog’s Breath Cafe.
  • Dan Ewing: Yes, we were at lunch when Luke told me about it and the richness of the characters. It was exciting.
  • Stephanie Jacobsen: I was in LA and said to my agent that I wanted to go back to Australia and do a sci-fi film, and strangely two weeks later got offered script, read it, leapt at it, and signed on.
  • Zachary Garred: I was sent an email, and it was, of course, ambitious and exciting, so it was an easy yes.
  • Rhiannon Fish: I was just so excited and wanted to sign on immediately!
  • Trystan Go: I was happy to work in the family law and for this, I assumed I would be able to shoot aliens.
  • Charles Terrier: Luke actually played a joke on me and said, “Ahhhh you didn’t get it just move on”. Then [he] said “Nah, I’m fucking with you”, and laughed.
  • Ben Chisholm: I said yes and wanted it to become a country and western. And to fight aliens.

The next question posed was regarding the Australian setting because we have all seen the USA being attacked and fighting back.

  • Luke: Yeah, it’s been done. So we turned it on our own shores, and we get to see those people we all know and they all band together and fight back, which is what the Aussie spirit is all about!
  • Charles: It was cool learning the military histories and all from that background and hanging out with ex-servicemen and learning from them.
  • Dan: It was a surprise for me how rich and how deep the characters were…. how cool they are and how much you care about these characters.
  • Trystan: It was so visceral that you can’t help [but] amazingly get involved in the story.
  • Luke: The fact [that] this is opening in USA cinemas is a testament that the cast and crew were amazing.
  • Rhiannon: Well, going from The 100 and then returning to do Aussie sci-fi was fun. I do love the world of sci-fi because anything is possible, but the difference is that Australia is home and it is wonderful to get to come back and work on an incredible film here.
Occupation (2018) panel at Supernova Convention

L-R: Stephanie Jacobsen, Dan Ewing, Izzy Stevens, Rhiannon Fish, Trystan Go, and Writer/Director Luke Sparke.

The cast was then asked how they relate personally to their characters.

  • Stephanie: For me, she kind of assumes the big sister role and is very protective, as I am. That’s how I related to her.
  • Dan: I think it is okay for people to not be okay. Men are so often ruled by their egos. At times I was sharing my pains, depressions, or my demons as my character, and we see him develop and grow as a man.
  • Izzy: I gained independence at an early age, and I related to that in Isabella, and I did think I was like that and knew a lot and protected my family.
  • Rhiannon: I felt like it was far less of a stretch, and she was just easy to relate to.
  • Trystan: He is a teenager, and I am in high school. (laughs)
  • Zachary: Well…homeless Dennis has stayed on a few couches and backpacked a little, ’cause he’s shifty and a survivalist. And that’s what I try to do and find that gold inside it.
  • Ben: I am an asshole, and he’s an asshole. Nah, I loved his loyalty and how it puts him in opposition with other characters.
  • Felix: Major Davis is a kick-ass soldier and we have absolutely nothing in common, but I did enjoy the adventure of pretending to be him and enjoyed it.

Destroying the opera house is becoming a regular thing, and not too many real invasion stories, but Australia seems to be ripe and worried about big invasions. How did you think you could bring a new twist to the film within the genre?

  • Luke: What I wanted to bring was —for the big fans of films like Red Dawn, like me — I wanted to bring something more to this film. The working together, fighting aliens, those ten people who wouldn’t have had anything to do with one another anyway. A real sense of reality, the past and bringing that to the story. Not trying to save the world, but the sense of reality and character and to see where it goes from there.
Occupation (2018) panel at Supernova Convention

L-R: Felix Williamson, Ben Chisholm, Charles Terrier, Zachary Garred, Stephanie Jacobsen, and Dan Ewing.

Did you find yourself looking for other influences, like hanging with military guys, specifically Australian military? What assistance did you get?

  • Luke: I went to the military, and the ADF (Australian Defence Force) didn’t wanna be involved. So I got ex-military involved instead.
  • Dan: Matt was more originally that Captain America type of leader, but his injury led him into a depression and made it so that the aliens were the least of Matt’s problems.
  • Zachary: Dennis was originally a tattooist, and Luke couldn’t find a parlor grungy enough for his character, so Luke dropped the character and I spoke to Luke and ran with our concept of Dennis from there.

The logo is the second commandos insignia. How did you get permission to use it, and what Australian laws allowed the film’s use of firearms?

  • Luke: Yes, it is. Of course, [for] the logo… we went to the lawyers and spoke with the army brand manager. We told them what we were going to be doing with it, changed it enough to look somewhat different, and they were fine. As for the weapons, Armour in Queensland helped us, and we used best from Sydney. We used proper licenses to shoot at a quarry and it became very loud. The next day was a huge thing on Facebook because we made too much noise, much more than expected.

Are there any drop bears in Occupation?

  • Luke: Actually the AFL team in the film is called the drop bears.

Finally, how did you decide to base it in more of a country town than in the cities like Balmain or Cronulla?

  • Luke: International people think of country or the bush with Australia, and you do see Sydney throughout the film. Small town Australia is very personifying and that small town country feel and the budget as well….but the big things have small beginnings.
Occupation (2018) panel at Supernova Convention

L-R: Ben Chisholm, Charles, Zachary, Stephanie Jacobsen, Dan Ewing, Izzy Stevens, Rhiannon Fish, Trystan Go, and Writer/Director Luke Sparke




Posted by Michelle MIDI Sayles

Hailing from Sydney Australia and injecting a dose of Aussie Flavour to her reviews, Midi began her horror love in Birmingham England at a very young age and is always trying to find the next local or indie horror talent to share with the world.

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