The Frustrating Ballad of
Hotel D’Arc

by David King

Hotel D’Arc was to be my first ‘real’ feature film. 


In 2010, I’d just finished my no-budget quasi-sci fi experimental narrative feature film PURGE and seen it picked up for international distribution by Lloyd Kaufman’s Troma Entertainment, thanks largely to Dutch film reviewer Ton van Rooij who championed the film and brought it to his attention.


Where PURGE was essentially no budget (costing less than AUD $30,000 in cash), Hotel D’Arc was to have at least a half-decent low budget. Somewhere around AUD $1.75 million. You could DO something with that.


It was to be a film with a set designer, a costume designer, a choreographer, and an animation team. A film of glorious style and swirling music, reminiscent in themes and style of A Clockwork Orange, Delicatessen, The Cook The Thief His Wife and Her Lover and The City of Lost Children.  



It wasn’t an 'Australian film'. It defied national boundaries, had nothing to do with the Australian funding bodies’ desire to make Australian stories or reflect Australian culture.


It was international, set in a city of the imagination which would be stylistically suggested (rather similar to the sets on The Cabinet of Dr Caligari) by the set designer and DOP. The film was to be an unusual mix of live action and Japanese-style anime with an extra stylistic nod to Sin City.


Ton van Rooij wanted us to make it in The Netherlands with himself co-producing. I was open to the idea. He had met Rutger Hauer and wanted to get him on board for a key role and possibly also as Executive Producer.


But Mr Hauer politely asked him to send the project to his agent who politely turned it down.


And so began an 18-month international search to find an Executive Producer to get the ball rolling.


We got many actors interested. We had a makeup team, a hair stylist, a costume designer, a set designer, a props maker,  and even a lead animator all ready to go. We had a screenplay, set designs, a budget and a schedule. But not one producer interested in raising the money and getting the distribution deal. 



It didn’t help that after an initially positive start, PURGE was beginning to sink like a stone. Various critics had praised the film for its daring and creative use of no budget, its unusual techniques and storyline.


But the punters on Amazon and IMDb expecting their dose of conventional sci-fi entertainment  mostly hated it and its ranking went down the drain and, with it, any hope of attracting the interest of an Executive Producer for Hotel D’Arc.


Faced with unemployment and rapidly dwindling resources, Ton eventually had to give up.


After trying four Australian producers whose verdict was mostly: ‘great project but not my kind of thing’, I shelved the project and made EXIT (for one twentieth of Hotel D’Arc’s budget) instead, having realised I was really an experimental film artist, not a mainstream story-teller.


Some may ask why I didn't take it to the Australian film funding bodies. I did briefly talk to Film Victoria about it. But they let me know they would only consider it if I had an established producer acceptable to them. Screen Australia will not even talk to filmmakers who write, produce, direct, edit etc. (in spite of Rolf de Heer) They want 'creative teams' headed by established producers and evidence of theatrical presale or 'network interest' before one can even apply for Production Funding. The four established producers I spoke to either said it was not their kind of project or 'didn't have time' to get involved. Only two bothered to read the screenplay.


One sympathetic American producer said a film project these days had to either cost so little it could be funded by a Kickstarter campaign, or else be in the $60 million plus range where only accredited stars and an experienced Hollywood director could work on it. Anything else was out of favor. 


Who knows? It took Duncan Jones 15 years to get Mute on the road. I like to believe that one day, one way or another,  I'll get Hotel D'Arc made. It will be an a amazing project.


N.B  Ton van Rooij now works as a freelance journalist. He still writes about film.

David King is an international award–winning experimental filmmaker and video artist who lives with his partner and daughter on the coast of the Bellarine Peninsula in Victoria, Australia.

Published March 27, 2018. © David King, March 2018