Robyn Butler (left) with Lucy Fry in the comedy Now Add Honey. Photo: Ben King Successful series … Madeleine Jevic and Michala Banas in Upper Middle Bogan. Photo: Lachlan Moore
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The success of the TV comedy Upper Middle Bogan seems like an ideal platform to jump into filmmaking.
But co-creator Robyn Butler says there is another reason for making the new comedy Now Add Honey with husband Wayne Hope.
“I’m stark raving bonkers,” she says.
After success with earlier series Very Small Business and The Librarians, the couple have had three “super busy” years working on comedy projects they created.
As well as Upper Middle Bogan on ABC and the children’s mockumentary series Little Lunch on ABC 3, they have combined to make Now Add Honey, with Butler writing and starring and Hope directing. They also produced the film.
Butler plays a woman whose life falls apart when her teenage movie star niece, Honey (Lucy Fry), is forced to stay with her in suburbia. The cast includes Portia de Rossi, Lucy Durack and Hamish Blake.
Despite the couple’s television success, Butler says she has always wanted to make a comic film with bite.
“I love being in a movie theatre with a lot of people,” she says. “I just like that shared experience.
“And even if it’s not in the cinema, even if it’s watching a DVD or watching it later at home on DVD, I like that 90-minute format. I love Tootsie and Groundhog Day and When Harry Met Sally – that format of comedy with bite. I was really tempted to try it.”
Now Add Honey opens the CinefestOz Film Festival in Western Australia on Wednesday ahead of cinema release on November 5.
It is one of five contenders for the country’s richest film prize, worth $100,000, at the festival. Also vying for the award are Michael Petroni’s psychological thriller Backtrack, Paul Ireland’s comic drama Pawno, Nicole Ma’s documentary Putuparriand the Rainmakers and Simon Stone’s timbertown drama The Daughter.
The festival is touting it as a world premiere but Butler admits Now Add Honey has had one screening already – at Geena Davis’ new Bentonville Film Festival, which champions women and diversity in film, in Arkansas.
That seems fitting considering the issues the film addresses.
“The idea of the movie star niece coming to wreak havoc with her suburban family in Melbourne is the plot but the idea is about aging and body image and self-esteem – all the big ticket issues that women and girls talk about all the time,” Butler says.
“It’s in every magazine, it’s in every brunch that you sit down with your friends, it’s in the schoolyard talking with people. I just thought it would be really interesting to try to dramatise that and put it on screen somehow.”
Butler describes Now Add Honey as a broad comedy that is similar to Upper Middle Bogan in having generations and levels of society clash.
To cast Honey, the filmmakers auditioned 200 actresses before setting on Fry, the young Australian best known for Vampire Academy.
“Honey is reliant on two things – the ability to seem like she’s a star and somebody who’s on the cusp of being a child and being an adult,” Butler says. “They’re really hard things to find in one person but Lucy Fry captured all of it at that moment in time.”