Features/What to SEE/Film

Rampaging the WA Made Film Festival

21 February 2023

Perth audiences are bound to recognise some of the locations in action-thriller Rampage Electra, the debut feature-length film from local outfit Dolly Llama Productions that’s premiering this February.

They started out as a small group of students, but one spur-of-the-moment pun later, they became Dolly Llama Productions, an independent West Australian film company. Now that company is premiering its first feature-length film, Rampage Electra. Rachel Denham White caught up with Dolly Llama Productions founder Hassibullah Kushkaki to find out more.

Wembley-based film-maker Hassibullah Kushkaki was interested in film from an early age. Growing up first in Germany and then in the US, he was eager to make his own content, entertain people and showcase his ideas to the world.

Arriving in Perth in 2019 Kushkaki studied film and television at TAFE, completing one short film a week. On graduation he realised he had enough experience and material to make a full-length movie.

So, together with a handful of his TAFE contemporaries, Kushkaki formed a small company in 2020. They named themselves after their handmade dolly tracks, constructed from irrigation piping on a shoe-string budget.

Since its inception, Dolly Llama has prioritised trying new things. The team have dipped their toes into comedy, drama and even a cosmic detective story. Many of their short features are available to watch on the Dolly Llama YouTube channel (check out the enticingly named Devil’s Lemonade).

After much experimentation, however, they found they most enjoyed shooting fast-paced action thrillers. “This was the style that really spoke to me and the crew,” Kushkaki explains.

And it’s this style that has informed their latest self-funded project, Rampage Electra, starring Mikayla Levy as Hannah Electra. The film centres on a 17-year-old outcast who has been expelled from multiple schools, as she tries to uncover the dark secrets about her past that her father has deliberately kept hidden. When she confronts him, this kickstarts a tense plot that is filled with rage, revenge and intergenerational trauma.

Kushkaki is eager to talk about his experiences acting and writing. Sitting in the director’s chair he’s open about the challenges he faced making his first full-length film.

“The biggest setback was constructing the scenes around certain locations. I didn’t have the luxury of building my own sets from scratch”, Kushkaki explains. “I had to mentally rearrange the sequence of events, changing the script multiple times.”

Actor Emilie Lowe. Photo: Hamza Shiban

At this point Kushkaki had already spent months constructing and perfecting the story.

“The initial writing process took about three months, creating characters, making sure the plot was sound, and then it took another four months to write the dialogue. By that time, the characters had already established themselves for me, and the dialogue just helped bring them to life.

“I saw a lot of sunrises, just staying up and trying to write, and then seeing the sun rise and realising ‘I haven’t written anything’,” he recalls.

But that didn’t stop him having fun on set. As well as directing, Kushkaki appears in front of the camera as a comic relief character named Marcel, and improvised every single line of his dialogue.

The film was shot in and around Perth and Kushkaki says that locals will feel the unique presence of the city. “We used locations in East Perth, in Mardalup Park, a high school in Kewdale and we had a three-day shoot in Fremantle Prison.”

Keep your eyes peeled for a scene at Siena’s restaurant in Leederville too. You might also spot an on-set injury; a mishap with a prop gun made it into the final cut of the film. No one was injured but the actor’s genuinely pained reaction was too good to pass up, even though Kushkaki says he flinched his way through the editing process.

After working on Rampage Electra, Kushkaki is determined to showcase more of Perth’s talented arts industry. He is currently trying to incorporate the local music scene into the next Dolly Llama production, by setting the film at a rock concert.

“I’ve been bouncing around with different ideas” he explains, “cause I’ll be making a commitment that’ll take up the next two years of my life.” But Kushkaki is excited for the future.

Dolly Llama is a small group, but very tight-knit and full of passionate people, like the talented make-up artist Indiah Levers who constructed the film’s gory injuries and blood splatters.

“That’s the key to breaking into the industry” says Kushkaki. “Find like-minded people who are driven by the same passion as you, who appreciate you and support you. Take the time you need to cultivate something incredible.”

Behind the scenes shoot at Fremantle Prison. Credit: Aorn Gumpusiri.

Rampage Electra will premiere at Palace Cinemas, 24 February 2023, as part of the WA Made Film Festival, the state’s biggest independently operated film festival. This event has been promoting local talent and locally made projects since 2019. In addition to Rampage Electra, this year’s program includes 14 feature films, 57 short films, one web series and 17 exclusive smartphone films, made for the GET SMART! Competition.

Rampage Electra‘s premiere includes before and after parties, complimentary snacks, and a Q&A with Dolly Llama productions.

Rampage Electra premieres at Palace Cinemas Raine Square, 24 February 2023

You can catch two additional public screenings at Luna Cinemas Leederville: 6 March and 7 March 2023

Explore the program for the 2023 WA Made Film Festival

Pictured top: A still from ‘Rampage Electra’, on set at Fremantle Prison. Photo: Hamza Shiban

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Author —
Rachel Denham-White

Rachel Denham-White is an emerging writer living in Boorloo/Perth. She has just completed her Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Literature and is constantly fascinated by the Gothic, the surrealist, and horror in all its forms. Her favourite playground object is the basket swing, but despite a childhood's worth of attempts, she's yet to achieved a full 360° revolution.

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