Show me the money: Interview with EFF recipients Liz Cooper and Bethany Bruce
Film financing is one of the greatest challenges of independent film making, and director/producer team Liz Cooper and Bethany Bruce are no strangers to the application process for film funding. We talk to them about their experiences in finding funds and learn about their new project Wolf.
Liz – Your film Like Breathing was voted Best of Fest Selection at Palm Springs International ShortFest, how do you feel the short film festival circuit has benefited you?
Being at Palm Springs was a career highlight. It was humbling to have my work showcased amongst some of the best shorts in world cinema. The short film circuit is a significant launch pad for filmmakers. It was an excellent opportunity to get feedback from audiences and judges. It also shows you where your work fits internationally and the ways in which audiences connect to your storytelling. For me, telling stories that I can share with others is what I live for, and the festival circuit makes it possible for audiences from different parts of the world to enjoy your work.
Liz – Your film Like Breathing, took home the NSW Filmmaker Award in the My Queer Career Competition at Mardi Gras Film Festival, how important do you feel winning a competition at a local festival has been to your career?
Being in a festival competition is always a boost and gives you the confidence to keep going and pursue filmmaking as a career. Winning an award in Sydney was special on a personal level because I was with friends and family and the crew and so it was lovely to be able to share the occasion with them all. Mardi Gras Film Festival is important to me, so it was special to have my work recognised at this festival in particular.
Bethany - You were selected as part of the Screen Australia Enterprise People program to work with John Maynard and Bridget Ikin’s Felix Media as a creative producer. Why did you choose that program and how has it benefited you?
I chose to work with Bridget and John under a producer mentorship because they specialise in quality independent film and TV and have a bold industry-leading approach to craft, which I’d like to mirror. I’ve had the opportunity to shadow Bridget through the contracting of her latest feature The Rehearsal and the post- production and distribution phase of Sherpa. Bridget and John have helped me to assess creative risk on projects and to hone my instincts. Wolf has been a direct outcome of this process. I’ve also been able think about innovative production methodology for low budget films, which incorporates both commercial and artistic values, as well as learn the distribution phase. Bridget is known in the industry for her support of women directors, Jane Campion (An Angel at My Table) and Alison Maclean (Crush and The Rehearsal), Sarah Watt (Look Both Ways and My Year Without Sex), and Jennifer Peedom (Sherpa). Working closely in this way with female directors is something I’d like to replicate. After Wolf, I’d like to continue to develop projects with Liz. The real benefits are the skills and knowledge transfer from one generation to another. My aim is to enrich the industry with moving human stories as they have done and keep working on my slate so that I have a long form project up before the end of the program.
Liz and Bethany - Your film Wolf has was selected for the 2015/16 EFF – can you tell us why you applied
We first spoke about this idea in 2014 and have been developing it to apply for funding since then. We applied because we wanted to tell the story of Wolf and we needed funding do it. We’re so thankful for opportunities such as the EFF, making Wolf would not have been possible without Screen NSW support.
It’s an important story to tell about the side of Sydney not often seen on film and TV. The Screen NSW EFF fund, was the perfect grant to apply for to make this film, as it is a Sydney story, one that is close to our hearts and where we live.
Liz and Bethany – You worked on the film for more than 6 months before you applied to the EFF, and you are also a strong director/producer team. Can you tell us how you feel you made your application stand out?
We feel it was the strong directorial vision and the strength of the story is what made the application stand out. Also the time that we put into the script over many months helped bring Wolf to life. Writing and development equals time. There’s no other way to explain how to create a quality short script. As a storyteller, Liz really immersed herself in the world of Wolf in the writing and the research process, doing draft after draft until we felt that Wolf’s world was one of authenticity and maintained integrity to the people in the story world.
Liz and Bethany - Wolf comes from a personal place and tells a story of a young girl on the fringe of society. Has thinking around gender issues informed your work?
Gender informs all stories but because we live in a patriarchal culture this can often be invisible. Liz - I have a strong feminist perspective and I do intentionally place women at the centre of my stories because those are the films I am interested in watching. As a human, it’s always great to see the nuances of your lived experiences reflected on screen. Because of this I write and make films that explore the lived experience of being female, and how that intersects with other social identities such as race, class, or sexuality. What that really means is that I tell stories about characters that are meaningful to me, living through experiences I relate to.
Liz and Bethany – short films are a real chance to show your skills. How do you feel they can contribute to your career?
Short films are a great way to show your skills and there is a real art to making them. For a director in particular they give you a chance to develop your storytelling skills, strengthen your vision and work with great creative teams. We both want to make our debut feature together, so having the opportunity to make Wolf and form our creative partnership will enable us to show our skills and will contribute to launching our career.
We are both really passionate about telling this story and at the end of the day really that's why we are all in this, for the love of the stories we tell and the people we tell them about.
Liz and Bethany – What other tips do you have for other emerging producers/directors?
Develop your vision, watch and appropriate from others, watch and learn from more experienced filmmakers about how they work, collaborate with creative smart people who get your work. Bravely mine your internal world. Be strong in your vision but not precious. Set aside the time to practice your craft, time to write, time to learn, time to watch, time to think. Once you’ve set aside the time, stay passionate and persistent. Film is a slow burn. Don’t give up.
You can follow the journey of the film on Facebook: www.facebook.com/Wolf-Movie
We are also looking for emerging filmmakers to help us out on set and also young people to be in the film. You can message us directly on the @wolfmovie on Facebook to get in touch.
Image - Liz Cooper and Bethany Bruce location scouting in Eveleigh