Blude Watson and Michela Carattini.

A script nearly seven years in the making about an enduring friendship steeped in multicultural Australia has taken the next steps toward production after receiving development support from Screen Australia’s Generate Fund.

Buddy comedy Carmen & Bolude follows the titular characters on a journey from Harlem, New York to Sydney, where they have ten days to collect 100 ‘welcomes’ so that Bolude’s traditional Nigerian father will agree to let her marry an Australian.

To be directed by Penelope Berkemeier (Game Night), the story is loosely based on the relationship between Nigerian-Australian Bolude Watson (Hearts and Bones) and Latin American-Australian Michela Carattini (Bite Club), co-writers of the script, who will also star in the film.

Watson was nominated for an AACTA Award in 2019 for her performance in Hearts and Bones, while also being named as a Casting Guild of Australia Rising Star in the same year.

There are plans to shoot in Sydney, Nigeria and New York during 2022.

Carattini, who will also produce alongside Yolandi Franken, told IF the Screen Australia funding was “an uplifting, motivating shot in the arm”.

“Getting the funding was not just an encouragement of us and our writing skills but also of the kinds of stories we are telling and who we are hearing them from,” she said.

“[It’s a] support of hearing really different perspectives than we’ve heard before and really different formulas and ways of telling those stories, which is exciting to me.”

The writing partnership between Watson and Carattini was formed almost seven years ago after the pair met at a casting director workshop and quickly developed a bond based on their experiences of coming to Australia.

Watson, who was new to the country at the time, told IF the initial inspiration for the story came from a desire to create her own “reality” when it came to acting.

“After 6-8 weeks (of the workshop), I was fed up with not getting auditions and I just thought, ‘If I’m not going to be invited to the table, then I’m going to build the table’,” she said.

“I’d been given a list of names from the workshop and I called Michela, who I spent about 2.5-3 hours talking to; it felt like we were sisters meeting for the first time.

“We started spitballing ideas. My first wasn’t very good because I was trying to appease the status quo, but Michela said we should create something that we wanted to see, and in talking about our lives, we realised this was a good story.”

Three drafts later, they were invited to do a live reading of their script after winning a competition held by screenplay development program Mango Tree Story and The HubStudio in Sydney’s Chippendale.

Carattini said the session cemented the involvement of Berkemeier, who had helped shape the script “from very early on” and was in attendance.

“I had worked with Penelope on 54 Days, where she was the assistant director and, to me, the most impressive person on that set,” she said.

“She had the ability to keep the production running as it needed to run and not have anyone hate her in the end.

“I wrote her name down in my head as someone who I want [involved] if I was ever doing a project.”

The development of Carmen & Bolude has coincided with personal and professional milestones for Watson and Carattini, both of whom have started families since starting the script.

The pair have also had to negotiate a changing world, with Watson having remained in the Canadian city of Edmundston for the past year and a half after a Christmas trip to see her family at the end of 2019 became impacted by the pandemic.

Reflecting on the life events that have occurred in conjunction with the film’s progress, Watson said the timeline of the story had been defined by growth.

“There’s a different Bolude now than the one that started that script,” she said.

“I’ve grown with the script and so has my family.

“It’s just the beauty of life, which I think is reflected in the film and I hope that audiences will feel the same when they see it.”

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