Gillian Armstrong and Sam Neill.

Gillian Armstrong was 29 when she won the AFI award for best director for her debut feature My Brilliant Career, the first local film to be directed by a woman since the McDonagh sisters’ Two Minute Silence in 1933.

It was Sam Neill’s first Australian movie, produced by Margaret Fink and introducing Judy Davis.

Forty years later, how do Armstrong and Neill view the seminal film and how would each describe their journey through the screen industry?

Producer Trish Lake will pose those and other questions at a Q&A on May 18 at the Tasmanian Breath of Fresh Air Film Festival (BOFA) in Launceston following a 40th anniversary screening of the film.

“Apart from what she is doing currently I am interested in knowing how Gillian regards her journey as a female director since then,” says Lake. “I will talk with her about her prolific output over the years, including the Hollywood years, in the context of independent cinema in Australia. I will also speak with her about Don McAlpine, who was her DP.

“For Sam I am interested in his take on his trajectory as a man in a man’s world (the screen industry) versus the challenges faced by women filmmakers and women actors over the past 40 years.

“I also want them to dig deep to find any little-known anecdotes about behind-the-scenes on that iconic production if they can remember any and if they are willing to share with our BOFA audiences under the ‘cone of silence’ of a Q&A.”

Lake produced Show Me the Magic, the Cathy Henkel-directed feature doc which profiled McAlpine and featured Armstrong reminiscing about the making of the film and the often hilarious innovations they came up with to overcome budget constraints.

BOFA festival director Owen Tilbury said: “It is rare for two icons of the Australasian film industry to be brought together on such a significant occasion as the 40th anniversary of their ground-breaking and career defining film.”

Tilbury had the idea of the 40th anni celebration after attending a screening of the restored version at the Sydney Film Festival last year. Each year BOFA salutes an Aussie classic such as the 30th anni of Roger Scholes’ The Tale of Ruby Rose last year and Richard Flanagan’s The Sound of One Hand Clapping.

Last year Armstrong told Tilbury she was happy to participate but Neill indicated he would not be available. In March he told Tilbury he could come. Judy Davis was invited but said she was busy.

Armstrong will also air her views on women in film and life today at Brilliant Careers, Strong Women at 2pm on Sunday May 19 at TasTAFE Drysdale Campus in Launceston.

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