Hotel Coolgardie

Two female backpackers get more than they bargained for working in a remote Australian town

Hotel Coolgardie In remotest red-dust Australia is the sleepy mining town of Coolgardie. When two Finnish girls take jobs in the town’s only pub, they find themselves in a trial of endurance. Full of raucous drinkers and ogling patrons, the girls soon realise that pouring pints is the least of their work. Amusing, disturbing, and thoroughly bizarre, this candid doc reveals the struggles of adapting to life in an insular and politically-incorrect community.

In remotest red-dust Australia is the sleepy mining town of Coolgardie. When two Finnish girls take jobs in the town's only pub, they find themselves in a trial of endurance. Full of raucous drinks and ogling patrons, the girls soon realise that pouring pints is the least of their work. Amusing, disturbing, and thoroughly bizarre, this candid documentary exposes the abject reality of life in Australia's isolated interior.

"New girls tonite," reads the sign outside the bar as Lina and Stephanie arrive in Coolgardie. With no idea what to expect, the prospect of work has drawn the two to this far-flung part of Australia after running out of money on their travels. What greets them is a baptism of fire. “They’re all bloody blokes and they’re all as rough as bags,” Pete the proprietor tells them. The wisdom of his words is soon revealed as they are confronted by the unabashed lechery and dipsomania of the pub’s colourful clientele from their very first shift.

“They are whistling, they are, like, screaming disgusting things,” Lina laments. Stephanie tries to take a stoical approach: “I don’t stress about it, just let it go. Don’t listen to them.” As a town populated predominantly by men, who work at the mine, the two young women certainly receive a lot of attention, and more than their fair share of indecent proposals. “Mum wouldn’t want to see this,” Lina tells us.

Many of the men make no attempt to hide their feelings. "I care about you more than you know," one man tells Lina, after she finds him drunk and asleep in her apartment above the pub. Another asks the two: "You don’t want to just sleep together and have a massive gang bang?" Unsurprisingly, these propositions, among many more, do not win them over.

As the weeks go by, Lina and Stephanie gradually acclimatise to the pace of the place, where they must navigate the ennui of long hot days and the fervour of wild drunken nights. However, it is no easy adjustment and they demand sympathy in their efforts to to fit in to a community that very much lives up to its own set of standards.

Laurel Official Selection - Hot Docs 2016
Laurel Official Selection - FICM
Laurel Official Selection - AFI
Laurel Ariel 2015 WINNER - Best Documentary, Best Original Score
Laurel 13th Moriela International Film Festival - Guerrerro Press Award

The Producers

PETE GLEESON is a West Australian filmmaker with a passion for observational documentary filmmaking, and its capacity for illuminating the otherwise hidden, unconsidered, or unacknowledged.

Directing, shooting, and editing his own ob-doc material, he also edits, writes, shoots, lights, and produces content for others across a range of genres and forms. He has directed experimental films, corny elimination-style reality TV, a series of micro-films telling Indigenous stories, several films collaborating with participants with high-needs disabilities, and the provocative short film Enemy.

Commissioned films such as Unparrinykuntjatjarra & Watjilwatjilpa, and Papunya Palya Lingku, have explored topics such as art and its use in addressing inter-generational trauma, and community-led strategies to overcome substance abuse in remote communities.

Pete’s short film Something To Tell You, now used in Australian schools as an educational tool, was hailed for its incisive take on representing disability. It received an Honorable Mention from the Hot Docs jury in 2011.

Pete was nominated for Most Outstanding New Talent at the Australian International Documentary Conference in 2011. Hotel Coolgardie is his first feature documentary.

MELISSA HAYWARD’s passion for storytelling was forged via an impressive 15-year career as Script Supervisor on some of Australia’s top feature films and TV series including Red Dog: True Blue, Strangerland, The Slap, Paper Planes and The Black Balloon.

Recently she has produced/directed for Discovery Channel’s factual series Outback Pilots and was a Field Director on Outback Truckers Series 4.

She co-produced Papunya Palya Lingku, a one-hour doc about harm reduction in a remote Aboriginal community, as well as the multi-award winning short film about romance and disability Something To Tell You.

Melissa directed the short film Embodiment for Australia’s ABC Arts Online, and has been a director and mentor on Indigenous Community Storytelling and the Making Movies Roadshow – groundbreaking initiatives for the advancement and empowerment of Indigenous storytellers.

KATE NEYLON has a background in arts and event management that has run alongside her career as an award-winning performer, screen actor and producer.

A Murdoch University double major in Arts, with Honours in Theatre, Drama & Politics and Philosophy & Sociology, she is a board member of Western Australia’s Film and Television Institute and a member of the IETM - a European network of contemporary producers.

Kate is currently Executive Producer for cutting-edge tactical media arts company pvi collective, developing socially engaged, politically driven digital projects for tech savvy audiences around the world.

These events have featured at Perth International Arts Festival [2016] and major art events around the globe. Hotel Coolgardie marks the third collaboration between Neylon and Gleeson. She produced his short drama Enemy and was Associate Producer on the multi-awarded Something To Tell You.

Making The Film

The budget for production was ridiculously small. After a small amount of pre-production, including preliminary shooting in the pub to acclimatize patrons to our presence, a very narrow window of opportunity to commence principle photography emerged quickly and suddenly. A shooting kit was hurriedly assembled which contained what was at hand and could be operated at a moment’s notice. Pete’s disused and long-outdated Sony Z1P was packed for use, along with various hand-held mics and audio recorders.

For impromptu car rides, a first-gen GoPro (the ones without wi-fi and no screen to view a picture) would be hastily rigged and sometimes only a Zoom Recorder strapped to the dash to record audio. Gleeson stayed in the pub for a total of about eight weeks, accompanied for a good portion of that by producer, partner, and tech assistant Melissa Hayward. Following six weeks of principle filming, Hotel Coolgardie was painstakingly edited from over 80 hours of footage.

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