Teresa Palmer and Sam Neill in ‘Ride Like a Girl.’
Three weeks into a nine week shoot on Ride Like a Girl, producer Richard Keddie is confident the true-life drama will resonate on numerous levels including female empowerment, disability and single-parenting.
“There are so many emotional buttons,” Keddie says of the film which stars Teresa Palmer as Michelle Payne, who was the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup in 2015.
“There is a powerful energy that we are tapping into. I offer thanks to Donald Trump for encouraging women to go out and assert themselves.”
It’s the feature directing debut of Rachel Griffiths, who showed her prowess behind the camera when she directed three episodes of Matchbox Pictures’ Nowhere Boys and two short films.
Griffiths texted Keddie to say she wanted to direct the film 30 seconds after Payne won the race on Prince of Penzance at odds of 100-1 and famously told people who doubted her ability to “get stuffed.”
Andrew Knight and Elise McCredie wrote the screenplay and Screen Australia co-funded the film, the first from the Gender Matters: Brilliant Stories initiative, with Film Victoria.
“The words are fantastic and Rachel is doing an amazing job,” Keddie says. “She has worked with some of the world’s best directors and she translates that intel into storytelling.”
Sam Neill is playing Michelle’s father Paddy, who raised 10 kids after his wife died in a car crash when Michelle she was six-months-old.
Her brother and strapper Stevie Payne, who has Down syndrome, is playing himself. Gryffin Morrison is the young Stevie and Summer North is the young Michelle.
The cast includes Sullivan Stapleton as Darren Weir, trainer of Prince of Penzance, with Genevieve Morris as Michelle’s racing manager Joan Sadler.
Cast as Michelle’s siblings are Brooke Satchwell, Sophia Forrest, Anneliese Apps, Katie Castles, Veronica Thomas, Zara Zoe, Aaron Glenane and Henry Nixon.
Keddie raised a chunk of money from private investors and sponsorship from Holden, Racing Victoria and Tabcorp as well as support from Regional Development Victoria and the Ballarat City Council.
Transmission Films will distribute in Australia in the third quarter of 2019 and Embankment Films has the international rights. Keddie, along with co-producers Susie Montague and Griffiths, financed the production without the need for pre-sales. Keddie explains: “I did not want to sell the backyard before we go out to the marketplace.”
Griffiths said: “We are celebrating Michelle’s resilience and athletic brilliance as well as her sisters’ inspiring achievements in the sport before her. We also explore the profound impact of those men who gave her opportunities and stood by her at critical moments and hope to inspire more men to become champions of change.”
Screen Australia head of production Sally Caplan said: “The excitement in the marketplace about the film is testament to the industry’s commercial confidence in Rachel’s directing and female-led, Australian stories.”
Victoria’s minister for creative industries Martin Foley hailed Ride Like a Girl as part of an impressive slate of local productions that will screen across the globe. The 2018-19 budget includes $8.4 million to attract production to the state.