Home Rental industry Forced out ! at the Sydney Film Festival is The Castle for a new generation

Forced out ! at the Sydney Film Festival is The Castle for a new generation


Director Rowan Devereux sees his first film as the opposite of The castle.

Yes, it’s a low-budget Australian film. And, yes, it is a warm comedy. But while the 1997 classic was about owning a home, Devereux Expelled: A Modern Romance talks about the horrors of renting.

Finding an attractive new home for affordable rent in the inner suburbs is even harder than getting a pair of cheap jousting sticks.

A promised second bedroom might turn out to be accessible only by climbing a rope ladder to an attic. A house may seem ideal…until you notice that a room is blocked off with crime scene tape. A useless real estate agent on one inspection is the same useless real estate agent working for another company on the next inspection.

These storylines pit four desperate housemates, played by Amanda Maple-Brown, Will Suen, Rose Haining and Clare Cavanagh, who are evicted from their long-term rental home in Sydney’s mid-west.

“It’s the castle they don’t own,” says Devereux.

Forced outwhich has its world premiere at the Sydney Film Festival, follows the housemates as they search for a new home while being buffeted in the gig economy and dealing with family and romantic calamities.

Devereux, who is joined by producer Sophie Saville and three of the cast who play housemates to share stories of the rental market war, is thrilled their film is at the festival. “It’s a Sydney movie so it’s the perfect opening for us,” he said.

Without surprise, Forced out was inspired by the eviction.

Devereux was being evicted from his third home in three years – this one was being demolished for a townhouse development – when he went to a party and shared his anguish with friends.

The team behind the rental market comedy Evicted: A Modern Romance, from left, actress Amanda Maple-Brown, producer Sophie Saville, writer-director Rowan Devereux and actors Rose Haining and Clare Cavanagh at the State Theater ahead of the world premiere at the Sydney Film Festival.Credit:Jessica Hromas

“Everyone had the same story – constantly being moved around and not really having a stable location,” he says.

He has started writing what he sees as a film about his generation, who grew up with that cliched Australian dream of owning a home but are finding it increasingly difficult to achieve it.

“I’m in my 30s and I still live in a shared house and that dream keeps slipping away,” says Devereux. “So I wanted to talk about generational change [in the film]. It just became too unaffordable.

He thought he had taken the comedy too far with a scene where the unhappy roommates were inspecting a house that had a toilet in the kitchen.

“Then I had an inspection that week – a townhouse in Marrickville,” says Devereux. “I was looking at the oven and opened what I thought was the pantry and it was the spare toilet – a few feet from the kitchen utensils.”

“It’s not a house, it’s a house.” The Kerrigans in the 1997 film, The Castle.Credit:

Cavanagh had a similar experience.

“I inspected an apartment on King Street once, it was exactly the same,” she said. “The toilet, the whole bathroom, was literally in the kitchen.”

Maple-Brown has been friends with Devereux for many moves to many homes.

“It was like ‘a house party? Another? “, she says. “It’s a constant housewarming party.”

The title’s modern romance refers to the bond tenants often have with their longtime shared homes.

“You end up being there for so long that you feel some kind of affection for him,” Devereux says. “And it becomes a found family. All the characters in the movie have questionable relationships with their parents, so they reunite and they’re held together by the house.

There’s a very interior Sydney scene in Forced out where two of the roommates try to have a serious discussion about their relationship in a very trendy cafe wedged in a small alley between a house and a fence.

Getting Serious: The Housemates of Evicted: A Modern Romance.

Getting Serious: The Housemates of Evicted: A Modern Romance.Credit:Sydney Film Festival

“It was a really fun scene,” Haining says. “And it was actually a very tight space that we were trying to work with.”

It is always surprising how many low budget or micro budget films are made every year in the country.

According to Screen Australia, 45 feature films were made for less than $1 million in the five years to 2020-21. And some, like Forced outcosts much less.

So how do they do it?

Devereux says the budget was “about $100,000,” partly raised through crowdfunding and expanded in a smart way.

Three years ago, a film shot for just $4,000 was screened at the festival. Australian Film Television and Radio School alumnus Imogen McCluskey directed the drama suburban wildlife recruiting classmates and friends willing to waive fees to enter the industry and using school equipment.

If you like Australian films, here are eight more to see at the festival

We are always here: The opening night attraction is an anthology film, comprised of eight interwoven shorts from mostly up-and-coming directors, that celebrates the resilience of Aboriginal, Maori and South Pacific Islanders.

Flambé: Artist Del Kathryn Barton’s debut, which combines live action, animation and puppetry, focuses on a 12-year-old girl (Julia Savage) who “unleashes her imaginary dragon” after witnessing a brutal crime.

You will not be alone: Goran Stolevski’s supernatural poetic tale, which stars Noomi Rapace, tells the story of a shape-shifting young witch who experiences what it is to be human in a 19th-century Macedonian village.

Seriously red: Gracie Otto’s musical comedy drama has Chaotic Red (Krew Boylan), who performs a triumphant version of 9 to 5 at an office party, becoming a Dolly Parton impersonator.

Lonely: Craig Boreham’s queer romance centers on two young men (Josh Lavery and Daniel Gabriel) who hook up for intense sex and then find themselves drawn together as they reveal past traumas.

Naked Tuesday: Armagan Ballantyne’s Australian-Kiwi collab, performed in subtitled gibberish, is about a couple (Jackie van Beek and Damon Herriman) trying to save their marriage during a new-age retreat.

6 Parties: Macario De Souza’s drama has three teenage friends (Yasmin Honeychurch, Rasmus King and Rory Potter) who embark on a whirlwind of music festivals after one receives a devastating diagnosis.

Sissy: A Hannah Barlow and Kane Senes horror flick about a feel-good influencer (Aisha Dee) who meets her childhood bully (Emily De Margheriti) during a girls’ weekend in the country.

The budget went largely on a film student’s catering version – “pasta with pesto, hummus and carrots” – production design, costumes and filming in an Airbnb when they couldn’t find a free location.

Devereux and Saville, equally resourceful, had more money and an advantage – they had a production company, The Story Mill, which had equipment they could use to shoot Forced out. They also asked for favors for free slots.

“All the houses were basically my friends’ houses,” Saville says. “I kind of convinced a lot of my friends to let us take 30 people into their house and look after them for a day…or five days.

“Rowan and I joke that we have ‘special thanks’ at the end of the credits, but also ‘apologies’.”

To avoid upsetting these generous friends, the production paid a cleaner at the end of filming.

Saville says it was important to work with such a shoestring budget to hire the right cast and crew — people who wanted to be involved for reasons other than money.


“It was about ‘let’s go do something really cool,'” she says. “And it was in the middle of the pandemic, so people weren’t that busy.”

While mainstream Australian films generally fund themselves through Screen Australia and/or a state film agency, the very low budget part of the industry must find funding through other means.

Devereux says it was “liberating to some degree” Forced out without government funding.

“We got to the point where we were happy with the script, so it was like, well, we’ll just find the money and do it,” he says. “But we begged, borrowed and stole. We are not micro. We had a bit more money to play with, but we decided to shoot 30 locations in four weeks, so we made it difficult for ourselves.

Maple-Brown steps in with significant casting consideration. “These guys have always been admirable since I first worked with them,” she says. “Even for the shorts, they always paid actors, which I always thought was great.”


Devereux says they learned how to make a feature film on the job. “You can prepare for the first week, but after that you just make it up as you go,” he says.

Even though the director and producer weren’t paying each other during filming, he had to use a wallet full of credit cards to complete the film. “It was like, look, we’re just gonna have to pay to do it, we’re so far away,” he says.

Fortunately, these credit cards have been refunded. Which is lucky. Rent is due overnight.

The Sydney Film Festival runs from June 8-19.

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