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Bilched: A New Coming-Of-Age

By Isabella Puentes on May 27, 2019 in News

Hal Cumpston and co-star Mitzi Ruhlmann, by Jay Dykes.

Straight out of school, Hal Cumpston was set on entering the world of comedy. He had an interest in acting and even considered doing stand-up, but he knew it would take more than just being funny to stand out from the crowd. So, he wrote a film.
Bilched, Mr Cumpston’s upcoming debut, is a coming-of-age feature film that captures growing up on of one Australia’s most iconic coastlines – Sydney’s Eastern Beaches.
The audience follows Mr Cumpston, played by himself, and his friends as they navigate their way through the angsts of teenage life on the brink of graduating high school. While the film is loosely based on Mr Cumpston’s own experiences, the chaos of being a teenager is relatable to all viewers in its honest portrayal of family and relationships.
Upon watching the film, it’s hard to believe this charismatic 19 year-old has had no previous experience in the film industry. Initially trying his luck in writing short films, Mr Cumpston came to realise that writing about things closer to home was more accessible to his audiences.
“It wasn’t until I sat down to write a script for a short film that I realised I had no idea how to do this,” Mr Cumpston told The Beast. “It’s just that 17 and 18 year-old boys don’t watch short films.”
“So, I decided to write a feature film instead; it carried more weight in getting my name out there.”
Inspired by the likes of Seth Rogan and his film Superbad, and American comedies such as Dazed and Confused, Mr Cumpston gained momentum with his own writing. The first draft, which took just ten days to write, received a positive reception from his father Jeremy and fellow industry professionals. A month later it was picked up and production began.
“Before I knew it I was working six or seven days a week with five hours of sleep a night,” Mr Cumpston said. “I still can’t believe I actually did this.”
Mr Cumpston’s father took on the role of director, having his own experience in the film and TV industry. He was joined by friends and acclaimed Australian actors Rhys Muldoon and Jeremy Sims on the credit list.
The film is familiar in its location, humour and depiction of an Australian lifestyle, however viewing this through the eyes of an Australian teenage boy is a perspective often untouched.
“I think there is a lack of Australian coming-of-age films, particularly male coming-of-age,” Mr Cumpston explained.
“We are in an interesting climate where I can explore, but not necessarily glorify, masculinity. It’s hard to say something’s not right to a 17 year-old when, for the most part, a lot of teenagers are not a finished product or are a product of their surroundings.”
Mr Cumpston spoke about the popularity surrounding Puberty Blues and its success in exploring the universal experiences of being a teenager. However, he notes that very little in the entertainment industry focuses on the Australian teenage male of today.
“There’s a lot of things about society that didn’t exist then or was not touched on because it was American.”
Location was also vital to Mr Cumpston’s film in featuring a world not often portrayed in Australian entertainment.
“Everyone loves being a ‘culture vulture’ at the moment,” he said. “There is so much consuming going on, with people watching one show to another. I wanted to make sure it was a key element of the film, to show it’s Australian.”
When asked what the future held, Mr Cumpston described his goal of directing his own films.
“The chance to have my voice about the world heard through film – that would be unreal!”

Bilched will be screening at The Clovelly Hotel on Sunday, May 26 and The Ritz on May 24, 25 and 27. Purchase tickets at www.bilched.com.

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