Jub Clerc revisits a scary childhood experience in supernatural thriller

Jub Clerc.

Growing up in the Beagle Bay and Broome regions of the Kimberley in Western Australia, Jub Clerc was regaled with stories of the spirit of a woman that lived in the mangroves and stole children.

The creature was more than a myth: Clerc and her Nyul Nyul/Yawuru community actually believed in the existence of the Gooynbooyn Woman.

The filmmaker’s first short, Storytime in 2005, followed two adventurous Kimberley kids who wander deep into the mangroves at sunset and encounter the terrifying woman.

Now she is writing and plans to direct a supernatural thriller in which the spirit appears, one of the projects in development at Truant Pictures, Animal Logic’s recently launched live-action genre production arm.

Truant Pictures vice presidents of development and production Toby Nalbandian and Greg Schmidt contacted Clerc on the recommendation of Rikki Lea Bestall, then head of development and production at Screenwest.

They saw Storytime and decided to fund the development of the thriller, which has the working title of The Gooynbooyn. Clerc is still fleshing out the concept and characters but says the plot will follow a young Aboriginal woman in the pre-colonial era.

When she finishes the script she will show it to the elders in her community to make sure it has their approval for historical accuracy.

A Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts graduate, she worked in various capacities including casting director, extras casting coordinator, dramaturge and associate producer on numerous productions including Bran Nue Dae, Mad Bastards, Satellite Boy, Jandamarra’s War and Jasper Jones.

She made her feature directing debut on a segment of Tim Winton’s The Turning for Robert Connolly’s Arenamaedia in 2013. Perhaps surprisingly, she has not made another feature since, partly because she took a year off after the death of her mother, actress Sylvia Clarke, three years ago.

Clarke will be among the screen legends who will be honoured at a Screen Australia event on Thursday at Carriageworks which celebrates 25 years of Indigenous screen stories.

Last year Clerc was supported by Screenwest’s Feature Navigator program which provides tailored professional and project development support. That included a two-week script workshop in Sydney where Clerc and her co-writer Steve Rodgers developed a screenplay with Arenamedia producer Liz Kearney.

Screenwest’s West Coast Visions is investing $750,000 in the film – a coming-of-age story- which Clerc hopes to shoot in the Pilbara later this year, with Connolly as the executive producer.

As part of the Feature Navigator program she had a director’s attachment with Rachel Perkins on all six episodes of Bunya Productions’ Mystery Road: The Series.

Full of praise for Perkins she said: “She has the most generous heart and made me a part of every single moment of production. She helped me understand the full responsibilities of the director. I felt that all I had learned over the years finally sunk into my cellular memory.”