For most uni students, juggling work and study is part of life.
But the casual jobs used to subsidise tertiary education don’t often come in the form of writing, co-directing, producing, and starring in a feature film.
Such is the case for 21-year old Emilie Lowe, who is preparing to shoot The Canary while completing the final year of a scriptwriting degree at Edith Cowan University.
Set against the backdrop of 18th century Australia, the story follows Claire (to be played by Lowe), a young woman who is forced to navigate the open ocean after the transport vessel she is aboard sinks.
With little but a lifeboat and caged canary beside her, her survival depends on defying the social standards of the time and utilising her inner-strength and determination.
Lowe, who has set up a crowdfunding campaign for the film, said while she had initially planned to shoot the project following the completion of her degree, the uncertainty of the last 12 months had prompted her to take what she had learned and put it into action.
“I thought for ages that I wouldn’t be able handle both [uni and the film], but when the pandemic happened, I thought ‘You know what, I’m just going to do this’ because you don’t know what is around the corner,” she said.
“I’m working with some amazing people and we all just wanted to make a big WA film, so we just went for it.”
Like her character, overcoming the odds has been a defining trait in the work of Lowe, a dyslexic writer, and her co-director Peter Renzullo, a legally blind filmmaker, who have previously collaborated on short films, music videos, narrative pieces, and imagery shoots since meeting on the set of Renzullo’s debut feature, Anticipation.
The pair are in the final stages of pre-production for their upcoming project which is a co-production between her Salt and Honey Productions company, Renzullo’s Scudley Films, and Silvergum Publishing.
Lowe said while the film was about the female struggle, there were broader themes that applied universally.
“It’s a tale of human endurance and human survival, as well as overcoming odds, both internally and externally,” she said.
“I hope anyone who watches this film will come away feeling a sense of empowerment, whether they be male or female, older or younger, West Australian or not.
“I really hope we can share this important story.”
WA’s landscape promises to be a key part of The Canary’s aesthetic, with multiple locations locked in across the state locked in for shooting across the coming months.
Settings for the film include the historical buildings of Fremantle, the Scarborough coastlines, and the town of Yallingup in WA’s South West.
There are also plans to use the historical ship, STS Leeuwin II, for the scenes filmed out on the open ocean.
Lowe said her intention had always been to use WA terrain as part of the story.
“I originally had it the character was stranded on a beach and couldn’t get off unless she accepted something,” she said.
“Then it progressed to her being stranded in a forest and having to withstand all the elements there, but I eventually decided I really wanted to use WA’s vivid rugged coastlines, as well as the ocean, which is such a big part of Australia.”
With filming scheduled to wrap before the end of the year, Lowe said she was aiming to submit The Canary to international film festivals, while also pitching to local distributors.
“Given we are filming a lot in Fremantle, we are hoping to showcase it at the festivals there, as well pitching to streamers such as Stan,” she said.
“But we really want to put it out there to those international festivals and show them that WA has beautiful coastlines and creative people working here.”