Sundance prize for Aussie filmmaker

Adelaide writer-director Ashlee Page today was given the Sundance Institute Mahindra Global Filmmaking award at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.

Page will use the $10,000 prize during the development of her first feature, sci-fi thriller Archive, produced by Closer Productions’ Bec Summerton.

Part-funded by the SAFC’s FilmLab program, the film centres on 16-year-old Lily, who lives alone on one of Saturn’s largest moons in an underground seed vault known as Archive Titan.

Lily’s job is to cultivate Earth’s remaining seed stock and to serve the Archive’s powerful, authoritarian computer. When a native life-form infiltrates the walls, Lily is driven to question who she is, what she is doing and who to fight.

Page wrote and directed the short film The Kiss, co-funded by Screen Australia and the SAFC, and On Her Knees, one segment of Tim Winton’s The Turning. She is one of four emerging filmmakers to receive the award from the Sundance Institute and India’s multinational Mahindra Group. The other recipients are Hong Khaou for Monsoon from Vietnam/UK; Tobias Lindholm, A War, from Denmark; and Neeraj Ghaywan, Fly Away Solo, from India.

“I first attended the Sundance Film Festival in 1999 as a backpacker working as an usher, I had a blast and was offered a job for the following year,” Ashlee said.

“I was tempted but I'd decided that the next time I was at Sundance it would be as a filmmaker. So I came back to Adelaide in 2000 and enrolled at MAPS (Media Arts Production Skills) film school. Fifteen years later, I am thrilled to be back at Sundance. This award is quite literally a dream come true for me.”

Summerton worked at the SAFC when she first met Page. After Summerton joined Closer Productions in 2011, the two formed a producer and writer/director team.

Page had received funding from FilmLab for a different project but had hit a development brick wall. The producer advised her to persevere and to write a new screenplay and agreed to serve as development producer.

“Ashlee flourished creatively and came up with this science fiction story,” says Bec, whose film 52 Tuesdays, directed by Sophie Hyde and also backed by FilmLab, screened this week at Sundance.

FilmLab gave the project $350,000 which Summerton is looking to augment with funding from Screen Australia, an Australian distributor and an international sales agent.

The teenage girl has not been cast yet. “Ashlee is quite keen to work with an unknown but is open to working with an established name,” Bec says.

The plan is to shoot later this year, based at the Adelaide Studios.