Selected for this year’s Melbourne Queer Film Festival, Alex Cardy both directs and shoots short film Bender – by Slade Phillips
Bender was developed from inspiring visuals which Alex Cardy had collected over the years, combined with the aesthetic of the mostly non-actor key cast. Instead of working from a script, the director and cinematographer created a wordless photographic treatment which was broken down scene by scene, with images. “I originally approached it as a fashion film but when I teamed up with co-director Bonnie Moir we developed it into more of a narrative project,” says Cardy.
“I had come across our lead actor, Matt Hickmott, on Instagram and thought he had a great look and really wanted to work with him,” explains Cardy. “I also love the music of New York rapper Lakutis and the sound design work of Lachlan Harris so wanted to involve them in the project. Overall, the film is a melting pot of locations, images, cast and sounds I always thought would be great to film or accompany visuals.”
This ‘hook-up story’ had been gestating for a while for Cardy but the film kicked into production after the Australian marriage plebiscite. This became the backdrop to the story. Cardy felt more driven to make something that touched on the effect this event had on the queer communities.
“I directed the film because I wanted to have the ultimate control over the visuals and, on a personal level, share a little bit of my perspective on this political event,” says Cardy.
Cardy says she always leans towards vintage lenses. “The Cooke Speed Panchros are beautiful,” she says. “They have the right amount of softness and most of all they are sympathetic on skin and eyes.” It was important for Cardy to have and use gear which played into the tenderness and vulnerability in men on screen. “There is a lot of skin in this film so they help with that too!”
Cardy collaborated with stylists Connor McCabe and Angus Green, who are friends, and whom Cardy says have great personal styles and understood the world she was building. “Our lead, Matt Hickmott, had a great look too, so provided most of his own wardrobe,” she says.
On this project, Cardy explains she was inspired in part by the work of French cinematographer Hélène Louvart AFC on Beach Rats (2017), as well as Ryan McGinley’s photography.
“Choosing the locations was paramount to the story and in some cases preliminary to the treatment,” says Cardy. “We built the scenes around specific locations that I loved or thought had good potential.”
Cardy also operated the camera herself. “I like to pull focus myself, especially when it’s hand-held,” she says.
The cinematographer and director works a lot with colourist Kali Bateman, who Cardy says is extremely talented and intuitive. “She brought a lot of creativity to the grade,” says Cardy. The film was original quite warm, but Bateman cooled it all off while maintaining emotional warmth and intimacy. There was little dialogue in the script so Lachlan Harris, the film’s sound designer, created complex atmospheres that were delivered effortlessly and communicated so much to the final film.
“It was a low budget film so we had a lot of challenges,” says Cardy. “I have a new appreciation for first assistants director,” since we didn’t have one on this film.”
“I like the opening scene in the apartment, the afternoon light brought out the softness in a pretty visceral and potentially-aggressive sex scene,” she says. “I also like the last scene at the river; we got lucky with the overcast conditions that day.”
At the moment Cardy is sticking solely to cinematography work. “While directing was fun, just filming is more fun,” she says. Cardy has some long-form projects in the works including director Rhys Graham’s next feature Lover and Jessica Barclay-Lawton’s film ZEF, as well as some documentary projects she is looking forward to.
Alex Cardy has worked on award-winning feature films, short films, music videos and across numerous fashion festivals and advertising campaigns.