Utilising the mysterious landscape of the Adelaide Hills to shoot his $480,000 haunting thriller, Touch, Christopher Houghton set out to make an “anti-low-budget film” with his debut feature.
Writer and director Christopher Houghton’s follow up to his moving, award-winning documentary Sons & Mothers is a mystery starring respected stage and screen actors Matt Day (Rake, Muriel’s Wedding) and Leeanna Walsman. Walsman plays Dawn, who is hiding out in a motel with her daughter Steph (Onor Nottle) after she violently assaults a man. With someone closing in on her, Dawn’s past is catching up with her in a film that Houghton says is an unconventional love story. “I love genre,” says Houghton. “I love thrillers and films that have mysterious elements to it. I like being confidently played in a sense that when things happen, when twists happen that you don’t expect, then all these other things you watched before that point all line up and you have those ah-ha moments. I really enjoy that when I’m watching film. This is an attempt to do something like that for an audience.” Touch will be shown out of competition at Cannes in the Cinephiles program with Houghton saying six international festivals have picked it up in the last six months. While most Australian road movies and thrillers head straight to the outback, Houghton was drawn to the Adelaide Hills after a long location scout. “It’s not something that you see in Australian cinema terribly much, in that if you’re going to go out of the suburbs most people end up in the outback. I didn’t want to do that. There’s a lot of space in-between that’s really interesting. “We shot in winter, so it was all very green and there was a bit of mist around. It has its own sense of mystery and suffocation about it, which reflected to some degree the interior journey of the character [Dawn]. Because of the landscape, we were able to play that against her interior journey. So the landscape that we shot against pretty much reflects and maps out her journey as well. It was a really great find.” Touch was shot for only $480,000 with a small crew. At a Q+A after a screening at the Sydney Film Festival, Houghton says the audience couldn’t believe they had made it for so little money. “Having gone through the process, I don’t believe we made it for so little money,” he laughs. “The beautiful thing at the end of the day is that when you’re watching it, it doesn’t feel like a low-budget film.” Houghton says it was the production methodology and philosophy (in that it was “anti-low-budget in every direction except for the size of the crew”) that allowed them to get their vision onto the screen. “We had a very small crew and the on-set joke was that everybody in the production had worked on short films that had more crew than what we did. “Everybody who worked behind the camera had all worked together before. They were all relationships I’d kind of established through TV commercials and other productions I had done around Adelaide, so everybody knew how to work together and they were all savagely professional. Everybody was investing their voice towards this common goal, which was the script. “It was tight; all up including production, you’re looking at about 12 people. It enabled us in some regards to be flexible and fast, which was part of the methodology to get through the script quickly because everybody knew what they were doing.” Touch is in cinemas now touchthemovie.com.au