The Greenhouse makes magic realism bloom on the big screen
The Greenhouse makes magic realism bloom on the big screen.
What would you do, if you could go back in time? The Greenhouse is a NSW-made magic-realist film that answers this very question. Ahead of the film’s World Premiere at Queer Screen’s 28th Mardi Gras Film Festival we spoke to the film’s Director Thomas Wilson-White (TW-W), and Producer Lizzie Cater (LC) about the project they made with a small budget and a lot of devotion.
The Greenhouse is a Queer magic realist family drama that explores grief and sexuality. Can you tell us about the kinds of challenges you both faced as both director and producer in bringing your vision to life and what you learned through the experience?
TW-W: The entire experience was and remains a huge learning curve. Ironically the easiest part of the process was pre-production and production. This period felt like it relied solely on sheer passion and will and was a blast. It was battling fatigue and self-doubt in a lengthy post-production process that I found most challenging. There are so many possible iterations the film could become and it’s my job to find which one is ‘the one’. I was interrogating every decision and totally in my head about it. In the end, the answer was to wholly trust my instinct. When you’re making movies, you are crafting pure emotion, and people respond to that vulnerability.
LC: I have learnt so much! I was very new to producing when we went into production and every mistake made (there were a lot of them!) was a massive learning curve. The experience taught me to trust my instinct and the creative vision of the people that I am making art with. I’m so lucky that I got to make this film with my business partner and best friend, and that we were able to support one another through the process.
The film was also largely shot in regional NSW. Tell us a bit about shooting regionally.
TW-W: It was a dream to shoot in our hometown on the South Coast and I hold the experience very dear to my heart. I love to create my work in a vacuum, as removed from the world as possible; it helps me immerse myself fully in the fictional space we are bringing to life and The Greenhouse was no exception. The entire community rallied behind this film, many who knew my parents and knew the importance of this story. We were able to work with locals in a variety of roles on set, offering them training under professional crew and a loving and warm atmosphere to learn and contribute.
LC: Thomas and I grew up on the South Coast and so we were lucky to be supported by the community there. Thomas knew the people who owned the house that was our main location and somehow convinced them to let us overrun it for three weeks – they were immensely generous and understanding of our ever-shifting schedule. We were supported on set by local crew, and pretty much everything we ate was donated by a restaurant or a person in the area. Thomas and I love shooting regionally, it gives the whole vibe on set a family feeling.
The Greenhouse is having its World Premiere at Queer Screen’s 28th Mardi Gras Film Festival. What’s it like to be selected for this iconic Festival?
TW-W: It is so wonderful to be screening in this festival. Queer Screen have supported Lizzie and I and this film for several years and it’s a relationship we deeply value. Pathways for films like ours are often narrow and sometimes frighteningly hard to find, even more so considering COVID-19 and its debilitating effect on the film industry. 2020 was spent wondering if the film would ever find its audience and how that would look so having Queer Screen in our corner was a beacon in those times. We are so grateful for them and their amazing festival.
LC: We are over the moon – we couldn’t think of a better world premiere for the film. Festival Director Lisa Rose has been a constant champion of ours and we feel completely at home. They supported us with a grant in 2018 and it feels like we’re bringing the relationship full circle.
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Image: Still from The Greenhouse. Photo by Daniel Bolt.