About Bill Mousoulis
I was born in Melbourne in 1963 to Greek parents who had migrated to Australia in the early '60s. I spent my school years in a daze, caring only for comic books, the football, music. My last year of high school, however, in 1981 (at Melbourne High School) was a watershed because my brain suddenly snapped into gear. This meant that (a) I would get an excellent HSC score, and (b) I had decided to try to discover my life (in a full sense) the following year.
So, in 1982, I did not enter into tertiary studies, and neither did I enter the workforce. I stayed at home, at my parents' place, and gave myself to my freedom. It was a creative time. I continued writing short stories (a love my last year of schooling gave me) and I also wrote a short book on punk bands The Clash, The Buzzcocks and The Jam. Mainly, however, I wrote songs and recorded them (very lo-fi home recordings, mind you). This was an interest that had begun several years earlier, and would continue only until 1984 (with a brief late spurt in 1989). All up, I wrote around 300 songs, putting them on 20 or so albums (I would even concoct cover art). This was a private activity, though in 1989 there was an actual band formed - The Passenger - with George Goularas and Mark Freeman, and we played several gigs.
Anyway, back to 1982, which was my formative cinema year. At the start of the year I had practically no interest in the cinema. By the end of it, I was a rabid cinephile and had already made my first couple of films. Basically, having time on my hands, I discovered classic Hollywood cinema on TV, and classic European films at the Valhalla Cinema in Richmond (it was a 5-minute walk from my home). In July or so, the feeling simply came to me that I wanted to make a film. And I had a particular image in my head, which I knew would be the concluding shot of my first film. In October I bought some Super-8 film equipment and made my first two films, Doubt and In a Lonely Place. I wanted to get into the Swinburne Film School in 1983, but the application failed. (I tried once again two years later, again failing, thus sealing my fate as a "self-taught" film-maker.)
I again stayed away from uni or work in 1983, much to my parents' disapproval, and made a number of Super-8 shorts, such as Ascension: The Story of Bill and Dreams Never End, using family and relatives as the actors, as I had no access to any trained actors, and actually knew no other film-makers. As the year progressed, I discovered the RMIT Super-8 Club, and that was my first contact with other Super-8 film-makers. It was also the first time I had shown my work in public, but it wasn't a large or dynamic club, so the overall atmosphere was muted.
In 1984 I bowed to pressure to be a "normal" person, so I started an Arts degree at Melbourne Uni, but with the intention of continuing to make films at the same time. Aptly, my first day at uni, Tuesday March 6, turned into my first night attending an "Open Screening" at Fringe Network. This was the first time I had visited this group, and, unlike at the RMIT club, there was a vital and serious atmosphere in the place. I knew no-one at the screening, but after showing Dreams Never End and J.C.: The Jewellery-Case to a great response, film-makers like Michael Lee, Jane Nicholls, and Walter Repich came up to me enthusiastically with kudos and advice. For a shy 20-year-old, this was great encouragement. The die had been cast: I dropped out of uni half-way through the year to concentrate on my film work. By the end of the year, my films were screening in major festivals (the Fringe Film and Video Festival, the Sydney Super-8 Film Festival, the Montreal International Super-8 Film Festival) and, through Linda Baron, I had met critics such as Andrew Preston, Adrian Martin, the Caputos.
In 1985 I received my first grant from the Australian Film Commission, a modest $500, to make Back to Nature. I also became involved with the Fringe Film and Video Group in an organisational sense, being an assistant to Greg Miller and Dirk de Bruyn in running that year's festival. Also, in July, frustrated by the RMIT Super-8 Club's lack of activity, I took over its running, organising monthly screenings and a monthly newsletter. But seeing as most of us in the club weren't actually RMIT students, we had to re-structure. Thus, the Melbourne Super-8 Film Group, an independent entity, was formed in November of 1985. We continued using the facilities at RMIT, but with hire fees now involved.
By early 1986, the Super-8 Group's activities were in full swing - namely, a monthly newsletter and a monthly Open Screening. I was the main person involved with running the Group, overseeing its activities, but there were others who contributed valuably to the operations: Sarah Johnson, Matthew Rees, Barry Branchflower, Anne-Marie Crawford, etc. Despite the success of the Group (every screening had at least a dozen films, and there were lively reviews in the newsletter), the Group's committee decided against my idea of staging an actual festival. I went ahead with it anyway, putting my own money into running it, and the 1st Melbourne Super-8 Film Festival at the Glasshouse Theatre at RMIT in August of 1986 was a resounding success. Needless to say, festivals were held in subsequent years without question.
I continued being the Group's Administrator until April 1991, and was also involved sporadically with it until its demise in 2001. As a film-maker's co-operative, the Melbourne Super-8 Film Group was an incredible organisation - in its 16-year history it held 170-odd monthly screenings, published 170-odd newsletters, staged around a dozen festivals, curated Super-8 programs for other festivals, and had equipment and other resources available for film-makers. There is a great history there, but at the moment it is not properly archived. And, as Shane Lyons found out in curating his 20-year Super-8 retrospective for the Melbourne Underground Film Festival in 2001, a number of the films have unfortunately been lost. Maybe one day I will attempt to transform reviews found in the newsletter to web pages. The Group actually morphed into the Moving Image Coalition in early 2002, broadening its scope to include gauges other than Super-8.
As well as the Super-8 Group's activities in 1986, Fringe were as active as ever, and the Modern Image Makers' Association (an early version of experimenta) came into being, staging their own screenings. It's hard to imagine it now, but this was a heady time for Super-8 films - there were screenings everywhere, including at the Melbourne Film Festival. I made six films that year, including the controversial (boos hurled at the screen!) Body Talk and the consciously-Bressonian narrative Physical World, and they had ample opportunity to be seen - I had 48 screenings of my work that year, which roughly translates to one screening per week.
In 1987, together with Darron Davies and Adrian Reeves, I formed the "Film Review Crew" radio show. We broadcast on 3RRR-FM weekly, and we basically did reviews of current releases, but also looked at other film events going on in town. My involvement with the show dissipated, but the show kept going till 1989 sometime, with people like Peter Kemp involved in it.
The late '80s were a busy time for me - apart from administrative duties with the Super-8 Group, I was making a heap of films. In 1987 I made a major half-hour drama on Super-8, Faith, as well as my first 16mm. short, Glorious Day, with a $3,500 grant from the AFC. After that, the grants for 16mm. films kept coming - $20,000 to make the 20-minute After School in 1988, and $70,000 to make the 37-minute Between Us in 1989. Mind you, I kept making the most eclectic Super-8 shorts at the same time in this period, films like Embrace, Knowing Me Knowing You, Melbourne '89, Crazy Motherfucker.
With Between Us touring around Australia in 1990, picking up awards (well, one, at St.Kilda Film Festival, but it was also nominated for Best Fiction at the Dendy Awards, Sydney Film Festival), a certain period was coming to an end for me. As I began writing my first feature screenplay in late 1990, I felt an existential wandering. So, in early 1991, I quit my involvement with the Super-8 Group and pretty much all my involvement with cinema (though I kept writing that feature, with script funds from the AFC). For a couple of years, I explored other things, especially literature and philosophy. I actually wrote two philosophical treatises, Nihilism and Naivety (1991) and The Open Philosophy (1992). (I may make these short books available on this website one day - if I have nothing better to do!)
At the start of 1993, after this sojourn into other lands, I had an incredible hunger for cinema, especially feature film-making. I realised that all my activity in the '80s had been an energetic, compulsive, unconscious expression of youth, without much reflection to it. And so I knew that in 1993, about to turn 30, I had to consciously and vigorously continue "becoming what I am" (as Nietzsche was fond of saying). Richard Roud's book on Godard particularly inflamed me at this point - well, maybe not so much the book as the filmography at the end, showing Godard's prolific passion. And so I went ahead and made my first feature, on the medium I knew well, Super-8 - Open City (1993). Another Super-8 feature followed in 1994 - Ladykiller. Both were funded out of my own pocket, for around $2,000 each, and both had screenings here and there. Whilst not great films (although the latter has a beautiful eeriness to it), they gave me a sense of what it was like to have an 80-minute narrative in front of me, as a palpable, living object.
Throughout the mid-'90s I kept writing feature scripts. The first feature I began writing, in 1990, Love Affairs, had received two rounds of AFC development funds, but I decided in early 1993 that it was a project I didn't want to continue with. This may have placed a black mark against my name at the AFC as my next 10 applications for script development were unsuccessful! Nevertheless, I went ahead in 1996 and shot my first feature on 16mm., using about $8,000 of my own funds. This film, My Blessings, was completed in 1997 and selected for the Melbourne International Film Festival. However, the AFC and Film Victoria declined to put post-production funds into it, so I had to screen it at the festival in double-head format, and the lack of funds meant the film could have no life afterwards. This was my first major lesson in the realities of the film trade - minimalist, avant-garde narratives may be okay for the occasional festival screening, but other than that, forget it (well, here in Australia anyway).
Undeterred, I kept my activity up in the following year, 1998. I wasn't focused just on features in this period - there were plenty of shorts, like The Shadows (1996), Makes Me Stronger (1996), Winter (1998), and Underground Sky (1998). But features were - and are - my priority. I finally cracked it for an AFC script grant, with Voyage to Greece, a project I will keep developing. Late in 1998, I shot my fourth feature, Desire, again on 16mm. for about $8,000, and it was completed in 1999. But it fared worse than the previous feature - no festivals at all were interested in screening it in 1999.
Late in 1999, a project of mine was shortlisted for the SBS-TV series "Hybrid Life", and so I worked on the half-hour script, diary.com. The project unfortunately did not go into production. Also in 1999, I started working for a small IT company (run by a friend), basically to pay off debts associated with Desire. Working thus, I was introduced to the world of the web, and set about creating this website, Innersense. I wanted a major section of this site to have a critical component, to be like a journal - basically because I was sick of the dearth of critical writing in Australia. I mentioned this to my friend Fiona Villella, and we began discussing the option of a proper journal, independent of my own site. So we went ahead and created the journal, Senses of Cinema.
The journal took up most of my energy during 2000 and huge slabs of 2001 and 2002. I was the webmaster from Dec 1999 to May 2001, the co-editor from Dec 1999 to Aug 2000, the Top Tens compiler from Dec 1999 to Aug 2002, and the Great Directors editor and webmaster from Mar 2002 to Aug 2002. (I am now not involved with the journal at all, but it is still going, it is considered one of the web's key film journals. Fiona kept being involved as the main editor for some years after my departure, then other editors have worked on it since then.) In the midst of all this, Desire got a couple of belated screenings in 2001 - one at the Brisbane International Film Festival and one at Cinema Nova in Melbourne.
Late in 2001, I shot my fifth feature, Lovesick, this time upgrading to Super-16. Again self-financed, to the tune of $13,000, the film was completed in 2002 and promptly rejected at all the major Australian festivals. It did, however, screen at the 4th Melbourne Underground Film Festival, in July 2003.
In 2003, apart from writing 1st Draft feature scripts that didn't get supported by the AFC, I made several short films on video, the first time I've gone away from film. The 16-minute Passage was shot and edited during March, the 6-minute Don't Move in September, and the 9-minute New Horizons in December. And I returned to web work during '03, compiling Melbourne independent filmmakers - a web resource, and being the webmaster of the film/arts magazine Rouge. Also in '03, I was on the organising committee of Saloni M, a group of artists who explore Mediterranean themes.
2004 began with the editing of Helen Mihajlovic's 60-minute Meaning, followed by the making of the 34-minute A Sufi Valentine (which had a run at La Mama in June), followed by the curation and organisation of the programs Melbourne independent filmmakers - a retrospective (at the 5th Melbourne Underground Film Festival, in July) and Subtle Strokes: The films of Mark La Rosa and Bill Mousoulis (at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, in August).
In September I then embarked on a new feature-length project, my first one on DV - Spring Rhapsody. The film was shot without a script, and was improvised in all respects (characters and stories created quickly, the acting improvised, the structure/editing worked out last-minute) and was totally finished by the beginning of November - 2 months for the creation of an entire feature film! It received a number of festival screenings in 2005, in Australia, Philippines, USA.
A follow-up improvised DV feature, Blue Notes, was shot in mid-2005, and completed April 2006, financed by the Australian Film Commission. It collected several awards at the 7th Melbourne Undergound Film Festival in July 2006.
In the first six months of 2006, another feature film, A Nocturne, was shot. It was completed mid 2007, and won several awards (including Best Film) at the 8th Melbourne Underground Film Festival in September 2007, and screened at a number of film festivals in 2008, including Athens International Film Festival, Cork Film Festival, Brussels International Festival of Fantastic Film, Portobello London Film Festival, Sexy International Film Festival (in Perth, Paris, San Francisco). I was in Europe from August to November, and attended a number of these screenings. A Nocturne is released on DVD, available through Troma Entertainment, from mid 2010.
In 2009 I returned to Europe, from mid June, to live semi-permanently, staying mainly in Greece, and travelling to different cities and different film festivals (as a critic), festivals in Athens, Thessaloniki, Karlovy Vary, Sarajevo, Barcelona.
In 2011, I started making a new feature film, called Wild and Precious. Pre-production occurred in Feb and March, with shooting taking place in Italy and Greece in April and May. The editing of the film was completed in March 2012. The film has screened at a number of festivals worldwide in 2012 and 2013 and 2014.
During 2015 and 2016 I shot a new feature film in Greece, and it was completed in early 2017, Songs of Revolution. A shorter version of the feature was also edited, called Songs of the Underground. These two films have been screening throughout 2017 and 2018, having amassed around 25 screenings in festivals and other one-off screenings.
- Bill Mousoulis, August 2018.
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