(L-R): Rosemary Blight and Kylie du Fresne.
Partners and producers at Goalpost Pictures, the company behind ‘Cleverman’, ‘The Sapphires’ and ‘Holding the Man’, Kylie du Fresne and Rosemary Blight have worked together for over 20 years. Jackie Keast talks to them about how they met and how their working relationship has developed.
Kylie du Fresne:
It’s a story that goes back something like 23 years. I was only a couple of years into the film industry and working as a freelancer. A friend of mine said, ‘There’s a woman who’s working in film publicity, she’s heavily pregnant and needs a hand’. So Rosemary and I started working together with me as her assistant.
In those early years, I was a freelancer. I’d work with her and then I’d go off and do other things. Rosemary went back into making music videos and I started doing that with her. I started off as an assistant, went up to production management, associate producer and then started producing my own work. Eventually I became a partner in the company in 1997.
She made a big step in trusting me. After however many years of working together in a freelance capacity, she made a big and brave decision to go ‘I’m going to invite a 20-something year old to become a partner in my company’. And empower me, to go ‘Okay you want to be a producer? Let’s do it together.’ I’m always thankful to her for doing that. So it was very much a progression; from assistant into mentorship, and eventually partnership.
Rosemary has an amazing ability to creatively empower the people that she’s working with and energise them. I think that’s a really great skill as a producer, as you have to manage all these people, you have to keep them safe and under guidance. But within that, you have empower them, so they feel like they’ve got a rocket under their skin.
Rose and I always try to make sure we’re both across the slate together, that we’re both reading everything. I’m giving feedback on the projects that she’s running; she’s giving feedback on the project that I’m running.
It’s always important for us to have the two points of view. We have very similar tastes, but because we’re different people we come at things sometimes slightly differently. That’s always important, when there’s someone you know and you trust their creative instincts, who can perhaps see something in a different way or from a different point of view. That works incredibly well for us and each project. Particularly these days, we’re finding one will EP and one will produce and we’ll just mix and match depending on what is.
A business partnership is a marriage in a lot of ways. We’re like family – we’re all in the trenches together. We have a shared vision of what we want the company to be. It’s so important to have partnerships and people in your camp, understanding what it is that we do. We have a good time and we laugh a lot. We have a shared sense of humour about the absurdities of the industry.
We socialise together, we know each other’s families. I used to babysit for her son when he was little; I’ve seen him grow up. She’s now watching the same with my son. It’s not just a ‘see you at the office’ kind of thing; 9 to 5. That’s not the industry and that’s not a long-term creative partnership.
I was up a ladder putting up a sign for Pat Fiske’s For All The World To See documentary – I’ll never forget it. My partner was down the bottom of the ladder and went ‘what are you doing!’, because I was eight months pregnant. He said, ‘I’ve got to get you an assistant.’ We found Kylie, and she was amazing.
We just connected, really. She’s extremely talented and extremely creative. She was a hard worker; she was happy to get her hands dirty. That’s something I’ve always believed; that it doesn’t matter where you are as a producer, you’ve still got to be able to understand what it’s like to get your hands dirty. We like getting involved; both of us are quite similar in that way.
She’s a great producer. She could have gone and worked anywhere – but she decided to stick with us, with me! Which I think is pretty cool of her. There was a lot better pay out there, but she’s stridently independent I think. That’s what both are; we love the fact that we’re independent, much to our detriment (laughs).
It just made sense that we should have as much at stake in the business as each other, because she was putting in as much. When you have ownership together, it means that you’re building it together and it changes the relationship. We’ve been partners longer than I ever was a mentor.
We have such similar taste and we understand how each other works, so we can move in and out of each other’s projects. Kylie may develop something – she was involved in the early development of Cleverman; then she went on to Holding The Man and I stepped into Cleverman. So we can give carriage to each other’s work, which is quite unusual.
The most memorable moment [together] has got to be walking down the red carpet [at Cannes Film Festival with The Sapphires]. Traditionally, producers don’t go on the red carpet. I don’t think either of us expected we would. It was such joy.
The Sapphires was not a simple film to get financed, it was not a simple film to make. It was ambitious, it was nuts to put together. Kylie was pregnant through it; she was throwing up in Vietnam with morning sickness. And then there we were on the red carpet and we’d made a film that people liked; it was incredible. That was a big moment for us.
When I was up that ladder, if Ben had gone and found an assistant and it was a man, I doubt whether we’d still be doing this today. You come from a different place as women, and I believe we make different choices in projects.
I don’t think trust and respect has ever wavered. It’s a very solid foundation… And we’re stubborn. We want this to work. We want to continue to build a vibrant, independent company.