Bruce Beresford will shoot Ladies in Black in Sydney later this year, after securing production investment funding from Screen Australia.
The feature is based on Madeleine St John’s 1993 novel The Women in Black. The book was turned into a musical by musician Tim Finn in 2015, though the film is an adaptation of the novel, not the musical.
Set in Sydney in the summer of 1959, Ladies in Black is the story of suburban schoolgirl Lisa, who takes a summer job at a large department store where she works alongside a group of saleswomen who open her eyes to a world beyond her sheltered existence.
The film will be produced by Allanah Zitserman and Samson Productions’ Sue Milliken. Beresford and Milliken have written the screenplay, and Morris Ruskin of The Ruskin Company will executive produce.
Beresford said he had been obsessed with adapting the book since being introduced to it by Clive James. James, Beresford and St John attended Sydney University at the same time, and the production has enlisted the uni's support.
Beresford said he was "attracted by Madeleine’s wit, her light touch, her deft characterisations and her portrayal of a Sydney I knew so well – the Sydney of the 1950s and ‘60s – a time when the whole of Australia began to change because of the influx of European migrants (most of them escaping a depressed war-ruined Europe), who brought a whole range of talents (and invariably delicious cuisine) that created the successful multi-cultural society of the Australia we live in today.”
Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason said the feature "promises to be visually stunning, with a female-led story that has the potential to be another box office hit like The Dressmaker.”
Speaking to IF last year, Milliken noted that the success of The Dressmaker had helped: "This kind of material suddenly has an audience. It's not the same kind of film at all but it's in the same kind of audience range and it's set in the 50s and so on. There's an older audience for these kinds of films."
Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions has taken worldwide distribution rights.