Australian and international creative teams named for inaugural Attagirl feature lab

‘Fads and Miracles’ (Photo credit: Matt Sav.)

Tracey Rigney, Emma Freeman, Tanya Modini, Laura Scrivano, Zoe Pepper, Eve Spence and Amin Palangi are among the directors who will take part in Attagirl, the new lab dedicated to creating production and distribution pathways for feature films by female and non-binary creative teams.

Six Australian projects and one from New Zealand are among 13 from around the world selected for the lab designed and run by For Film’s Sake (FFS), financially supported by Screen Australia’s Enterprise Business and Ideas funding program and other Australian and international screen agencies.

The first of three workshops consisting of nine days of project development during TIFF’s Industry Conference and digital festival begins tomorrow. The second next January will look at ways to identify and reach the target audience, including digital distribution and the future of exhibition.

The third, affiliated with the Sydney Film Festival in June, will examine financing including philanthropy, purpose-driven partnership and public pitches.

The teams will be mentored by experienced producers Diana Elbaum (Belgium), Mike S. Ryan (US), Lorna Tee (Netherlands), Samm Haillay (UK), Roshanak Behest Nedjad (Germany) and Michele Tunure Salleo (US), in conjunction with script, audience and finance consultants.

FFS executive director Sophie Mathisen said: “The arrival of streamers has radically changed audience behaviour but the pathways to production and release are yet to catch up. The quantity, quality and diversity of applications we received is a testament to the work of global agencies and organisations in driving new voices and perspectives to screen production.

“It is also a clear signal to the industry that new pipelines are vitally needed to support talent in finding pathways to production and release, ensuring that cinema continues to evolve to reflect audiences as and where they are.”

The Australian titles are:

Fads & Miracles (WA). The debut feature film from writer-director Zoe Pepper, actor/writer Adriane Daff and producer Cody Greenwood. The plot follows Denise, a determined single mother who seeks the help of a charismatic high school teacher to coax her chronically shy teenage daughter Greyson to speak. But the harrowing side effects of his mysterious treatment have devastating consequences.

It’s one of three projects recently shortlisted for Screenwest’s West Coast Visions $750,000 production grant. The executive producer is John Maynard (Jirga, The Boys, Sherpa, Balibo), who has been mentoring Pepper and Daff on the script.

The Circus (Victoria). In rural 1950s Australia a beautiful, feisty circus performer meets a lonely and determined female farmer, forcing them to decide whether to conform or follow their hearts. Writer/director Emma Freeman, producer Leanne Tonkes.

Seeing Scout (Queensland). In a western Queensland town, a young woman with physical disability and the local footy hero begin a sexual relationship which not only confronts and divides their small-town community but challenges the couple’s expectations of themselves. Writers Tanya Modini and Stephanie Dower, director Tanya Modini, producer Stephanie Dower.

The White Girl (Victoria). Odette Brown is raising her granddaughter Sissy on her own and has managed to stay under the radar of the welfare authorities who are removing Aboriginal children from their communities. Odette must make an impossible choice to protect her family at all costs. It’s based on the Miles Franklin-shortlisted novel by Tony Birch. Co-writers Tracey Rigney and Tony Briggs, director Tracey Rigney, producer Damienne Pradier.

Common Ground (NSW/SA). When Omid arrives at a coastal hideaway on the run from Immigration, Kayla, a young surfer who would rather fish and trap rabbits than deal with Centrelink, wants him gone. Then the stubborn Kayla and idealistic Omid fall in love. But just as they begin to imagine a future together, Omid betrays Kayla’s trust and she reports him, extinguishing Omid’s last hope. Writers/directors Eve Spence and Amin Palangi, producer Carolyn Johnson.

My Sister Ellie (NSW/UK) An Australian woman abandons her life for a British winter, determined to bring home her pregnant sister, the surrogate of her unborn child. Clutching at clues trailing from London to the Kent coast, her search sends her spiralling into memories of their past. Writer Samantha Collins, director Laura Scrivano, producers Jessie Mangum and Samantha Collins.

The others are:

Melted (UK). An island community tries to turn back time to quell natural catastrophes that plague them. When an Elf appears, promising the Matriarch leader quick-fix solutions, a secret agreement is made. But like all Faustian pacts, it backfires and soon everything starts to unravel. Writer/director Rachel Maclean, producer Ohna Falby.

The Wolf Will Tear Your Immaculate Hands (Sweden). Europe 1791. Isabel, having just lost her sister, is forced into an arranged marriage. Desolate and angry, she begins to unearth a wilderness that roars within her, slowly realizing that she has more in common to the wolves in the forest than to the rest of her new household. Writer/director Natalie Alvarez Mesen, producer Nima Yousefi.

Bruja (UK/Mexico/Canada). After being kidnapped into a human trafficking ring and taken far from home, Casilda must use a dark family power to free herself and the other trafficked victims from their impending fates. Writer/directors Nora Unkel and Michele Cervera Garzia, producers Colin Day and Coco Marie Schneider.

White River (Canada). Set against the hopeless town of White River, Larleen and the town’s community come together to make some f***ing money – the men by betting and the women by fighting. Writer/director Sam Coyle, producers Julie Strifler and Natalie Urqhuart.

In My Father’s House (US/Nigeria). When a young American woman arrives in Lagos, Nigeria to confront her estranged father, she unexpectedly finds herself on a tumultuous journey of self-discovery that will redefine her past and future with a man she may never come to know. Writer/director Abbesi Akhamie, producer Melissa Adeyemo.

Tenderwood (NZ). In a world almost out of water, an elderly mother stands watch over an ancient forest but when her daughter designs a water supply that requires the trees be felled, she realises her duty to protect the trees is bigger even than family. To save them all, she must become a tree. Writer Michele Powles, director Alyx Duncan, producers Lani-Rain Feltham and Emma Slade.

Claudia (Canada) London 1958. As violent race riots ravage the country, Claudia Jones, a Trinidad-born Communist and deportee from the US, comes up with an ingenious plan to unite black and white: a fancy dress party that will become the largest street festival in the world. Writer/director Frances-Anne Soloman, producers Frances-Anne Soloman, Adjoa Andoh, co-producers Nadine Marsh-Edwards, Lisa Wickham, Shant Joshi.

Participants will have their fees subsidised. The funding agencies include the British Film Institute, Telefilm Canada, Swedish Film Institute, Screen NSW, Screen Queensland, Film Victoria, South Australian Film Corporation, Screenwest and Lotterywest, Screen Territory and Screen Canberra.