A feature film made in WA is set to premiere at Perth Festival before being released in cinemas in May.
A new movie to feature at the upcoming Perth Festival has a distinctly Western Australian feel – from its creators to its crew – though its message has universal appeal.
Former Screenwest chief executive and Feisty Dame Productions managing director Tania Chambers, international film producer of Such Much Films Judi Levine, and local screenwriter Renée Webster have partnered to make the movie How to Please a Woman.
The movie offers a female perspective on vulnerability, telling the story of a woman who launches an all-male house cleaning service and how she manages it when it grows out of control.
It features English actress Sally Phillips, best known for her role as Bridget’s best friend Shazza in the Bridget Jones’s Diary movies, alongside Australian actors including Erik Thomson and Caroline Brazier.
Set in Fremantle, the film uses houses in the area and Leighton Beach as its backdrop.
“The production values are so high from the locations we have got,” Ms Chambers told Business News.
“Instead of being set in the outback or set in other places I have shot, like Albany or in Margaret River or up in Lancelin, this one is actually a story of women in change rooms on beaches and WA suburbs.”
Ms Chambers said filming while WA had its hard border in place meant recruiting more local cast and crew.
“It did affect us to the extent that it doesn’t make sense for someone to come for a short role, for a role that is only for a number of days and do two weeks’ quarantine,” she said.
“What’s fantastic is we are able to use a whole lot of WA talent.”
The production received extra funding to cover quarantine costs for those essential staff from interstate.
While some local productions have run into issues finding staff due to the state’s hard border, Ms Chambers said it had not been a problem for their project and there had been an excess of talent to choose from.
The film is making its premiere at Perth Festival from December 27 to January 2, ahead of its release in Australian cinemas in May.
It is being distributed throughout Australia by Madman Entertainment and worldwide through German company Beta Cinema.
Ms Chambers was hopeful the film would be picked up by several overseas territories and exported around the world.
“We always create and develop our projects with a local audience and an international audience in mind,” she said.
Film hub plans
The movie’s imminent release comes as the local sector awaits state government plans regarding a local film hub.
In February this year, Premier Mark McGowan announced a government commitment of $105 million to build a film studio and screen production facility, with property developer Adrian Fini and Ben Lisle’s Home Fire Creative Industries the preferred proponent for the project.
Further information is yet to be released, however.
Ms Levine, who lived in WA as a child but is now based in Los Angeles, has worked in film and television all over the world.
She said the international perception of filmmaking in Australia was that it happened on the east coast, but she said that would not be difficult to change.
“If you are travelling all the way from the US or you are travelling all the way from some other country, the extra three and a half hours to get to WA is nothing,” Ms Levine said.
She likened the conditions in WA to those of California.
“It’s the same idea: space, light, all of those things, and it’s just a question of making sure people are aware that this is available,” Ms Levine said.
“Having the studio would be a big pull for that, especially in the first few years when there is sure to be pretty negotiable sorts of deals.
“We offer the same things as Queensland does, so why not?”
Ms Chambers said the type of incentive offered was a large factor when people were making decisions about where they would film a production.
“Judi and I will make our productions we have in development on our slate wherever we can get the best financing deal to do so,” she said.
“Obviously you look at the cost of production as well as the financial incentives because we are leveraging many millions of dollars off the amount of finance that’s being provided regionally and nationally.
“In that context, you have to do what’s best for the film. You have to make sure you are able to get great quality crew and cast so long as we can remain competitive, we would love to keep making projects here.”
In the recent state budget, the government confirmed it had allocated $20 million for a Screen Production Attraction Fund to secure projects from 2021-22 to 2024-25.
Ms Chambers believed two studios needed to be built, one for blockbusters and another for the local industry.
“The larger-scale project is very exciting for projects in the tens of millions and hundreds of millions of dollars, particularly in mind, for the larger series for the streamers,” she said.
However, Ms Chambers hoped a smaller studio might be built for the local industry.
“We are very hopeful that might be something that’s possible because the industry has truly outgrown the capacity at the moment,” she said.