The decision to import a foreigner to direct the television adaptation of a novel famously adapted for film in the iconic 1975 Australian film Picnic at Hanging Rock has been described as a “very bitter pill to swallow” by Rachel Ward.
The British-born film director and actor who has been an Australian citizen for 30 years said the decision by the series’ producers, (Fremantle Media, Foxtel and Screen Australia), made a farce of our taxpayer-funded film and drama schools and “all those young girls studying drama at school with their fragile hopes and dreams of one day contributing to the Australian narrative and voice”.
“Apparently Australian directors are not thought highly enough by international casts to lure them to work in our country on Australian stories for Australian audiences. Particularly female ones,” she told Daily Review.
Its producers have hired the Canadian Larysa Kondracki to direct the TV adaptation of Joan Lindsay’s 1967 novel about three school girls who go missing at Hanging Rock outside Melbourne on St. Valentine’s Day in 1900. The six-part series of one hour episodes will be filmed in Melbourne and regional Victoria from February to April. Casting should have been announced by now, leading to speculation that there is disagreement among its lead producers, Fremantle and Foxtel.
Ward said that the appointment of a foreigner as its director is more evidence that if Australian directors are to succeed here, they must first succeed overseas.
“Tto be valued in our homeland we must first leave Australia. Our home grown skills, our loyalty to this country is not good enough to be rewarded with work here,” she said.
Recent Screen Australia figures revealed that only 17% of Australian feature films were directed by women and Screen NSW figures show that only 22% of TV drama were being directed by Australian women.
“This is a slap in the face to all the good work that is being done by the industry to redress the balance,” said Kingston Anderson, the CEO of the Directors’ Guild of Australia (DGA).
“Australian directors are amazed and astonished at the choice of a foreign director to work on a classic especially as it is not a co-production and is being fully financed in Australia,” he said, adding that he understood a number of Australian directors working overseas were approached to helm Picnic at Hanging Rock but that no “highly talented female internationally-produced television directors currently working in Australia were approached”.
“Australian directors are amazed and astonished at the choice of a foreign director to work on a classic especially as it is not a co-production and is being fully financed in Australia,” he said. “It saddens the ADG to see Screen Australia, Foxtel and Fremantle Media supporting Canadian television directors at the expense of Australians.”
Anderson said the ADG had opposed the Canadian’s 420 Visa as is it did not meet the ‘Net Employment Benefit Test’ set by the immigration department for a 420 Visa.
“The Net Employment Benefit test clearly states that to get a 420 Visa there needs to be a net employment benefit for the Australian industry. As this production was always going to be shot in Australia and is fully financed by Australian money including funds from Screen Australia and Foxtel it clearly does not have any net employment benefit for Australians as one of the major jobs on the production is being given to a Canadian,” Anderson said.
Ward added: “It’s ultimately just sad that those of us who have committed so many years as Australian filmmakers are thought so little of by some production teams and broadcasters here that we must import someone to do the job for us.”
Daily Review approached Fremantle Media for comment but no response was received by time of publication.