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SHE DIRECTS - new program aims to boost First Nations women filmmakers

Giovanni Torre -

SHE DIRECTS, an intensive three-day directors lab aimed specifically at early to mid-career First Nations women from across Australia, will be held in May in Victoria.

The program, presented by BLACKapple Productions, with partners Screenrights, Screen Australia, Screen NSW, Screen Queensland and Common Ground, has a focus on women from remote and regional Australia.

The establishment of SHE DIRECTS was sparked by recognition of the growing gap in the number of First Nations women joining the screen industry. It is expected that eight women will participate in the Lab, with scope for more pending interest.

Filmmaker and Warramungu/Luritja woman Beck Cole (Deadloch, Wentworth, We Are Still Here, Black Comedy, Here I Am) is curating the Lab which will also include masterclasses from some of Australia's leading First Nations female directors to help propel the participants further along in their filmmaking journeys.

Common Ground CEO Rona Glynn-McDonald will moderate 'In Conversation' sessions with special guests, which will be followed by a screening of a key cinematic piece directed by that guest.

Ms Cole said SHE DIRECTS "isn't about competition, it's about creative learning, experimentation and sharing".

"Directing is a wonderful art form that requires a great amount of discipline and preparation, and that's before the cameras start rolling," she said.

"I am excited to be able to share some of the lessons I've learnt throughout my career (and the mistakes I've made) with women who are as passionate as I am about the important place First Nations women hold in Australian Screen culture."

SHE DIRECTS will cover areas such as script analysis and preparation, visual and creative referencing, best casting practice, how to work with actors from rehearsals through to shooting, with an emphasis on practical exercises to develop characters and warm up actors, understanding crewing (who does what and why), unpacking and demystifying stage and camera blocking, screen coverage- what shots work best and why, scheduling the shoot and how to collaborate with the 1st assistant director, and understanding the important relationship with the script supervisor and using them to your best advantage.

There will also be a 'Truth Speaking' session, discussing some challenges women might face on set.

Ms Cole said SHE DIRECTS presents "a brilliant opportunity to meet with and learn from celebrated Australian and international Indigenous screen directors and the chance to network and build friendships with other Lab participants, as well as learning the practical skills you need as a director".

SHE DIRECTS will offer its participants sessions designed specifically to meet individual needs, interests and level of experience. As well as participating in all of the masterclasses, Lab participants will have hands-on experience directing a dramatic scene.

Actors will be invited to work with the directors to realise the scene and the special guest advisor will be invited to critique the work in a nurturing and productive manner.

Ms Cole said the directors lab aims to "give women the confidence they need to take the next step towards a long and fulfilling directing career".

"This is a national Initiative however we are strongly encouraging First Nations women from rural and remote areas to apply as we believe that this is where much of our untapped talent lies," she said.

The lab will take place 2-6 May, 2024 in Victoria's Yarra Valley.

The deadline for expressions of interest is March 8 and more information is available online.

Applicants will be asked to provide a 3-5 minute video explaining who they are, why they are passionate about film and television directing, what work they have done in the past, what they hope to achieve in the future and most importantly what they want to learn.

Ms Cole said: "We are less interested in written text and more interested in people who can express a strong desire and deep passion for the craft of screen directing. Ultimately, we will be looking for people who are hungry for the opportunity and are serious about making it a career."

BLACKapple is a newly formed production company that is "dedicated to developing, nurturing and working ethically with under-represented film and television practitioners to create meaningful and engaging work".The company was founded this month by Ms Cole, Samuel Paynter, Andrew Arbuthnot and Kim Steblina.

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