Young Aussie producer Rachael Fung has wrapped production on her first feature, Little Woods, starring Tessa Thompson (Creed, Thor: Ragnarok) and Lily James (Cinderella).
Fung has been back and forth between the US and Oz for years, having been accepted into New York University’s film and television program straight out of high school.
In her first semester, the Sydney native produced a radio drama in her audio class and was hooked.
“I ended up winning a small award for that radio drama and that was all the encouragement I needed to pursue producing full time,” she tells IF.
Fung spent the first few years after graduation working on shorts and music videos before landing a job at Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin’s company, Bazmark.
“I worked there for four years developing my business and management skills as a producer and they were incredibly supportive when I told them I was moving on to produce Little Woods."
The film tells the story of two sisters in a North Dakota oil boomtown, one of whom has been bringing medication in over the border from Canada. Fung started working with the film’s director Nia DaCosta, another NYU grad, in November 2014.
“The world of fracking boomtowns was completely foreign and fascinating to me,” says Fung.
“I couldn’t believe that there was actually a makeshift shanty town of trailers in the supermarket parking lot because of the housing crisis.”
Fung admired the way DaCosta’s script explored the healthcare issue through the human beings tangled up in the system, rather than “the more clinical lens of politics.”
In 2015, the pair decided to make a road-trip to North Dakota to experience the area first-hand.
“The stories we heard from the women in these towns really energised both of us to bring that world to the big screen.”
Raising the money was made easier when DaCosta met the swiftly-rising Thompson at the Sundance Director’s Lab in 2015. The pair “really connected creatively and personally,” says Fung.
“Tessa has built such a solid body of work that I have no doubt that her support really helped get the ball rolling, and she was an invaluable teammate throughout the process, both on screen and off. She really puts everything into her work and it shows in her tremendous performance."
As well as Thompson and James, Little Woods stars James Badge Dale (Iron Man 3), Luke Kirby (Rectify) and Lance Reddick (John Wick).
Gabrielle Nadig joined the project as an additional producer in 2016 and worked with Fung to raise the money for a five-week shoot, wrapping in mid-February this year.
The shoot was less tough than what came before – attaching cast and raising the money, says the producer.
But there were still plenty of challenges on-set: “Losing locations last minute, the ever-unpredictable weather, how best to create a schedule that works for cast, crew and budget…”
“But our cast and crew were fantastic and incredibly supportive and made getting through those challenges that much easier," says Fung. "There were certainly moments that were extraordinarily stressful but I think deep down the stress is what drives me to be more creative.”
The filmmakers aim to have the film completed this year, ready for a 2018 release.
Next up? “I’m headed back to Sydney and can't wait for some time at home,” says Fung.