Rosie Lourde set to cash in after ‘Romance on the Menu’

Rosie Lourde on the set of ‘Romance on the Menu’ (Photo credit: David Fell)

Multi-hyphenate talent Rosie Lourde’s career looks set to accelerate on the back of multiple deals for Romance on the Menu, her feature directing debut produced by the Steve Jaggi Company.

The romantic comedy starring Canadian Cindy Busby (Heartland) and Tim Ross (Home and Away, Wonderland) was pre-sold to major European markets, premiered here as a Netflix Original film and has been acquired by an as yet-un-named streamer in the US.

The actor-turned writer, director and producer is currently in talks with production companies about several projects while developing a raft of her own projects, collaborating with the likes of Madeleine Dyer, Daniel Mulvihill, Kodie Bedford, Julie Kalceff, Mithila Gupta, Gretel Vella and the Afro Sistahs Collective.

After making Romance on the Menu on an extremely tight schedule of two weeks of pre-production and a 15-day shoot, followed by four weeks of editing, she can only imagine what she could have done with more time.

“To have the film resonate so strongly with audiences – it was No. 3 on Netflix Australia – is an extraordinary feat given how quickly we made it,” she tells IF, while giving credit to experienced first AD Christine Luby and other heads of department.

“It was a huge vote of confidence from Steve, who hired me although I only had one directing credit, the VR project Breach. Since then I have had a couple of exciting conversations with production companies about working as a jobbing director.”

Dash Cam, a segment of Enzo Tedeschi and Rachele Wiggins’ Deadhouse Dark horror anthology, which Rosie co-wrote and directed last year, screened at the Canneseries festival last week to critical acclaim.

Lourde has optioned Welcome to Orphancorp, a young adult sci-fi novella trilogy by Marlee Jane Ward. She is developing the project as a 6 x 45’ series in concert with  Ward, Brenna Harding, Bedford, Jane Allen, Jada Alberts and Zoe Terakes.

The plot follows a rebellious teenager’s last week at an oppressive industrial orphanage where she fights against the system, the other kids and  herself. Rosie has put together a mini-Bible which has sparked interest from several international sales agents.

With novelist and former teacher Gabby Stroud she is adapting Stroud’s novel Dear Parents as an 8 x 30’ comedy. The semi-autobiographical narrative follows primary school teacher Gabbie, who, at 38, is demoralised and ready to implode.

After accidentally emailing a scathing draft letter to the parents, she begins a conversation that risks her career and forces her to question how far she’s willing to go for the job that she once loved. Stroud is writing the pilot and the pair will then apply for development funding before pitching the project to production companies.

Lourde, Dyer and Mulvihill are developing Blood Sisters, a spin-off of a 15-minute film written and directed by Dyer, which has received development funding from Screen Australia and Screen Queensland.

Olivia Stambouliah and Rosie Lourde on the set of ‘Breach’ (Photo credit: Julie Kalceff).

Scripted by Dyer, Mulvihill, Bedford, Sue McPherson and Nicole Reddy, the 4 x 1 hour thriller follows three teenage girls who flee into the North Queensland outback after accidentally killing a football coach while he was trying to assault on of them.  On the run, they struggle to unite, survive and find their way back to themselves and the truth.

The producers are in talks with two international platforms. Stephen Corvini and Enzo Tedeschi are the executive producers with Dyer and Lourde set to be part of the directing team.

In addition, Rosie is serving as EP on two projects. One is Afro Sistahs  an online comedy/drama set in a Western Sydney Afro hair salon from the Afro Sistahs collective comprising  Safia Amadou Hamidou and Mumbi Hinga, director Hawanatu Bangura and writers Moreblessing Maturure and Rebekah Robertson.

The other is Return to Sender, an online satire about two estranged, mixed-raced sisters from creator/writer Amy Stewart and producer Kala Ellis, which won the inaugural Screen Australia/VidCon pitching competition Pitcher Perfect.

Rosie graduated from the Actors Centre Australia in 2011. Frustrated by the lack of substantial roles for female actors of colour – her heritage is Chinese and Australian – she made her producing debut on feature Skin Deep collaborating with writer Monica Zanetti.

The feature directing debut of Jonnie Leahy, the drama followed troubled and outspoken university student Caitlin Davis (Zanetti) who meets Leah (Zara Zoe), a straight and strait-laced young woman from the other side of town. With Leah terminally ill and Caitlin itching to prove herself, they embark on bucket list-style journey through Newtown.

At the same time, she appeared in Kalceff’s web series Starting from…Now and later served as a producer with Kalceff on season 3-5.

In 2017-18 she worked as online investment manager at Screen Australia, an experience she likens to doing a Masters degree because of the amount she learned.

As one of the new members of Screen Australia’s Gender Matters taskforce, she is buoyed by the progress towards gender parity across most parts of the screen sector but is eager for more to be done. The taskforce is drafting an action plan which will set out a number of initiatives and programs towards that goal.

She describes the federal government’s media reforms as a boon for the streaming sector but “heartbreaking” for the theatrical sector, and worries the trend towards shorter-run series and the dying indie feature market means there will be far fewer opportunities for emerging creatives to get runs on the board.