Tim Ferguson (of Doug Anthony All Stars fame) has co written a film called ‘Spin Out’ starring Xavier Samuel around the B and S ball culture. Photo: Penny Stephens Morgan Griffin as Lucy and Xavier Samuel as Billy in Spin Out. Photo: Sony Pictures
The reformed Doug Anthony All Stars (from left): Paul Livingstone, Paul McDermott and Tim Ferguson.
Telling lies to the media used to be standard operating procedure for the Doug Anthony All Stars (aka DAAS), so I’m not sure what to make of Tim Ferguson’s claim that he has reverse-pitched a new show to the ABC.
“I called them the other day and said, ‘You will come up with a format for us. We’re not pitching anything, you’re just going to make it happen. You’ve got six months, arrange it, put it together, and we’ll turn up and do a show’.”
Did you really make that call?
“I did,” he insists. “I called [head of entertainment] Jon Casimir’s office. I just thought, ‘What don’t you do in television?'”
And has he called back?
“He hasn’t got my number.”
Here’s what we can say with some certainty: at 52, and with his body severely affected by the multiple sclerosis that was first diagnosed at 19, Ferguson has directed (with Marc Gracie) his first feature film.
Spin Out is a ribald romantic comedy set at a B&S ball. It features a lot of what is known in the trade as “circle work” – utes doing doughnuts in the dirt – and it stars Xavier Samuel and Morgan Griffin as a pair of childhood friends who don’t realise, or acknowledge, their love for each other until she’s about to head off to Sydney.
“Directing was a role I completely underestimated,” says Ferguson. “It’s like when you’re about to have your first baby and somebody says ‘Oh, it’s tiring’, and you think, ‘Yeah, I’ve been tired’. And then you have your first child and you realise it’s beyond tiredness. You get so tired you can’t remember anything.
“I just underestimated the demands that are made on you in terms of decision making – every 30 seconds you’re given a multiple choice.”
Ferguson is confined to a wheelchair now; when he wants to adjust his position as we chat, he has to use his hands to move his legs. But he insists the physical demands of filmmaking were no greater for him than they were for anyone else.
“I don’t experience the fatigue some people get with MS,” he says. “It’s not that the muscles are weak for me, it’s just that they’re on all the time.”
On set, he got around in a motorised golf cart, rigged up especially with dual monitors so he could see what was being shot on camera A and camera B. It was a diesel golf cart, he quickly points out.
“Everything had to have a noisy engine. If we’d had electric we just would have been picked on by the stunt guys.”
Ferguson grew up in country NSW, and as a kid dreamt of the day he could go to his first B&S ball. By the time he got there, he says, he was 23 and “a man of the world”, having tasted the first wave of success with DAAS (the trio reformed in 2013, with Ferguson and Paul McDermott joined by Paul Livingstone – aka Flacco – standing in for original member Richard Fidler, now a Radio National host).
“I was like, ‘What is this?’ ” he says. “And of course the sense of superiority vanished in about five seconds. It was wild. I woke up on a bus. ‘What are we doing here, Johnno?’ It was terrible but great – an evening I’ll never remember.”
His co-writer Edwina Exton attended balls all over the country in the course of researching the film – “though I don’t know if she had the full paddock experience”, he says slyly – ensuring the world they created should pass muster with the B&S veterans who will hopefully flock to see it. But the ball in the film is a confection, shot in Shepparton in late 2015.
“We had our own studio backlot – we had the shed for a month, the paddock for a month, the whole area, so we could dress it,” he says.
So, you could say you made your first movie at the famous Shepparton Film Studios?
“Yeah, yeah you could,” he laughs. “And if you meet anybody from Star Wars, tell them they’re not that good.”
Spin Out is in cinemas from Thursday September 15
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