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CRAIC: On Location

SERIOUS ACTING FOR LAUGHS
Popular stand up comic Jimeoin is starring in a film he wrote, called (naturally) The Craic, meaning a cracking good laugh. ANDREW L. URBAN visited the set during the shooting of the scene in a blind date tv program.

There is Greg Evans in a luminous blue velour jacket, on a pink and blue studio set straight out of the late 80s, beside a miniskirted hostess, conducting the sort of show that might be called Blind Date, or Matchmaker – or even The Meet Market. Indeed, that is what this show is called, and the carousel on which the girl and three male contestants sit while the boys try to give answers that will secure them the date with the girl, is called The Meet Rack.

"an Irish term for ‘the joke’"

It’s all in fun, of course, as part of a new drama comedy, The Craic, written by and starring Melbourne’s much loved stand up comic, Jimeoin. The Craic, an Irish term for ‘the joke’ (as in cracking one), is based partly on Jimeoin’s experiences while living with four illegal migrants in a Melbourne flat.

The young Irishman has rounded out those experiences with a story of two Irish lads who come to Australia on a visit to escape what they think is a mad killer – who in turn ends up in Australia under the witness protection program and thinks THEY are trying to kill HIM.

The Meet Market only comes into the scheme of things when the lads enter the show for fun, and win a trip to Surfers Paradise. Out at the now abandoned Channel 10 studios in the Melbourne suburb of Nunawading, Jimeoin sits there on The Meet Rack with his pink, heartshaped blinkers, next to the other contestants with pink blinkers, and manages to keep a straight face. Now that’s acting.

"I was keen to have something to play against."

Directed by veteran tv comedy director Ted Emery, The Craic "has a strong narrative," says Jimeoin. "I’m not keen on comedies that have nothing much to them; I was keen to have something to play against. And I’m not sure if I’d write another film script. This one is based on something I experienced – living with people who were illegal migrants. I shared a flat with four of them.

"Now, being from Northern Ireland myself, and seeing films like Devils’ Own and Patriot Games, I though we never see any films that show what people are really like – people who’re not political."

Jimeoin took his idea for the script to Foster Gracie, a company formed in 1994 by David Foster and Marc Gracie, combining Foster’s live work in comedy with Gracie’s film and tv background: the company is now the largest presenter of live comedy and an active tv producer, with The Craic its first feature film. The script was gradually developed, and some money was raised through the 10BA tax incentive scheme from private investors. It was going to be a shoestring budget – like The Castle.

But then fate intervened: Jimeoin was having coffee at a café in Melbourne’s Jam Factory complex, where Finney has offices and is a regular customer at the café. When Finney heard of the idea, he became interested and when he read the script he became involved.

The film is a joint venture between Foster Gracie and Roadshow, and is shot in Melbourne: even scenes set in Belfast were shot (on a rainy day) in South Melbourne, and Victoria’s Pattersons Lakes were the setting for scenes on the Gold Coast.

"We were all very clear from the start that it’d have to be played for real," says Jimeoin. "I don’t like it when it’s not for real; it has to exist in the real world. And I love working with Ted Emery: he knows how to do a gag, but he has equal respect for a ‘moment’."

"reality is the key"

Emery concurs that reality is the key. "No character is absolutely outrageous. You could run into any of them. The challenge is knowing what are the genuine laugh points, not just smile points."

Emery is enjoying his first feature: "You get a better chance to get the performances right. Matter of fact, I got a shock on day one how much longer things take than in sketch tv."

April, 1999

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