|THE STORY BEHIND
When a movie was being made about Newcastle (Australia) workmen, wearing work boots and doing tap dancing, one company was keen to assist. The company is Enoch Taylor & Co Pty Ltd who go under the name T-BOOTS!
T-Boots is a long established company (est. 1851). They have a machine that does direct injection sole construction, which gives the boots a particular look. It was that look that BOOTMEN wanted. Over the period of filming the movie, forty-eight pairs of boots were supplied. They were assorted styles, some safety, and some non-safety.
The life and work of Director and Choreographer, Dein Perry, of TAP DOGS and STEEL CITY fame inspired BOOTMEN. Hilary Linstead, who has an impressive background in the Australian entertainment industry, was producing the film.
"I saw Dein in 42nd Street as a performer. Dein had developed a very distinctive tap style that was not traditional tap," said Hilary Linstead who believed his revolutionary tap style would modernise tap and launch it into the new millennium. Hilary put choreographer, Perry, and designer/director Nigel Tiffitt, together and that was the genesis of the stage show TAP DOGS, which began five years ago and has been produced and performed all around the world. TAP DOGS captured the rhythm and feel of Dein’s background in the steelworks combined with the energy of spectacular tap.
Following the productions of TAP DOGS and Dein’s production of STEEL CITY, Hilary collaborated with writer, Steve Worland and Dein to write the story of BOOTMEN. The screenplay tells the story of two young brothers, Sean (Adam Garcia) and Mitchell (Sam Worthington) who are Newcastle steelworkers. Although vastly different, they have two things in common. They had both been tap dancing since they were kids and they are both in love with the same girl, Linda (Sophie Lee). Mitchell is a true blue Newcastle boy with dreams of starting his own business, but Sean is determined to move on and become a professional taper.
Dein was determined that BOOTMEN be filmed in Newcastle, because Newcastle had inspired him and the type of dance he had originated. Hilary said it took three years to complete the screenplay and she and Steve Worland were able to write a cameo roll for Dein.
"We were on a very tight budget, but we moved mountains to give the picture great production value," said Hilary. "A dance movie is not easy. It is like making a movie and a half and it was very difficult merging music with tap. It was especially important to achieve this, because Dein wanted to make the tap sound ‘live’. It has been a great breakthrough getting the sound right." Hilary’s face exudes excitement, "I am enjoying making this movie because the crew has been so great. The actors are fantastic and I am very, very lucky. The trick is to prepare things properly. Then you have a better chance of getting it right, even though you still have to make decisions on the run. However the three years of development have paid off and helped the production to take shape more easily."
There was a long period of pre-production when the actors and dancers workshopped and rehearsed their parts with Dein. It took about four months to cast the film and about a year to raise the finance.
"The boots are an integral part of this movie, because they are a complete departure from traditional tap shoes. You would never had thought of boots in tap until TAP DOGS. This was Dein’s original idea. Dein developed a very special and different style of tap for the film. The actual tap plate on the boots is original. It is bigger and it curls upward. It looks very stylish," said Hilary. This is where the historic look of T-Boots comes into its own.
Dein’s choreography too has evolved and taken another leap forward.
"The ‘old fashioned’ tap had little in common with the environment from which Dein came. He had heard all the sounds at Newcastle Engineering where he worked as a fitter and turner and they were implanted in his subconscious. Newcastle gave Dein his spirit, his ‘down to earth’ values, and his direct approach. I find Dein great to work with," said Hilary.
Hilary would not say if the movie had a happy ending, but she did let slip that the end was ‘uplifting’. "The movie has its sad moments, but it is finally optimistic."
the movie will translate to other cultures. "There will be a ready made
audience for BOOTMEN. It has a classic plot and tap is an art form
already loved all over the world. TAP DOGS have been to nearly
every country in the world and have been accepted and understood everywhere.
Even now, 5 years later, there are two companies in Germany and Scandinavia
and a touring company in the USA.
Filming took four weeks in Newcastle and four weeks in Sydney with almost all of the exteriors shot in Newcastle. Dein’s connection with the city of Newcastle is a strength of the film. "It is cheaper to shoot in Sydney because you don’t have the cost of accommodation," Hilary said. "But there will be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the setting of the film is Newcastle. When we were filming there the weather was appalling. It rained for all but two days. The settings are varied, from industrial landscape to beach panoramas. We also shot at the Marathon Stadium, in a mall in the centre of the city, outside the Police Station and at wonderful locations down by the docks. The Newcastle Council were very helpful."
"Back in Sydney, on our most complex night, we employed 120 crew, 400 extras as well as 17 members of cast. But throughout the movie, there were never less than 60-70 crewmembers. It was a very hard shoot," explains Hilary.
"It is a very exciting time for Dein and me. We are getting a very good feedback from Fox, our investor and distributor in the United States," Hilary said.
It looks like the partnership that has developed as a result of the association between Gowings - long established Sydney Menswear, T-BOOTS - long established workboot manufacturer and with the spirit of Newcastle captured on film, it’s a recipe that will help to make BOOTMEN a movie that Australia can be proud of.