Funding for Moorhouse, Rowe and Chessell films

08 August, 2013 by Don Groves

Films directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse, Michael Rowe and Ben Chessell received a total of $4.4 million in funding at Screen Australia’s board meeting on Wednesday.

The agency said the three features will generate almost $25 million in production investment. The casts include Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Melissa George and Canadian Roy Dupuis.


Winslet and Davis will star in writer/director Moorhouse and producer Sue Maslin’s comic drama The Dressmaker.  Adapted from Rosalie Ham’s novel, it’s described as a Gothic tale of love, revenge and haute couture.  Winslet will play Tilly, a glamorous young woman who returns after many years in Europe to her small home town in rural Australia aiming to right some wrongs from the past as she was accused of murder when she was a child. She also falls unexpectedly in love, which leads to her greatest loss and her most destructive deed. Davis will play her eccentric mother.

Moorhouse described the novel, which Maslin optioned four years ago, as "Unforgiven with a sewing machine." Shooting is due to start in early 2014. Universal Pictures International will distribute in Australia,  UK-based Embankment Films will handle international sales and CAA will represent the film in the US.

Working with Moorhouse will be costume designer Tim Chappel, director of photography Don McAlpine, production designer Roger Ford and editor Jill Bilcock.

George and Dupuis are attached to play a troubled couple in Rest Home, a psychological drama from Australian-born, Mexican-based writer-director Rowe. Dupuis will play a security guard in a retirement home who’s married with two kids and is hooked on painkillers and anti-depressants. His life spirals out of control when he catches his wife (Hunted star George) with her lover.

It’s a Canadian-Australian co-production between Serge Noël’s Possibles Média and Trish Lake’s Freshwater Pictures, with Rialto releasing in Australia/New Zealand and Pyramide International handling international sales.

Lake told IF she hopes to start filming in Montreal in November. It will be Rowe’s third film and his first in English following Manto Acuífero and Año Bisiesto (Leap Year), which won the Caméra d’Or in Cannes in 2010.

Chessell will direct Sucker, the saga of a young Chinese-Australian man on the cusp of adulthood, who learns about life and lies from an ageing conman and about love from his daughter. The screenplay is by Chessell and Lawrence Leung, based on the latter's play, produced by Robyn Kershaw and Jason Byrne, co-produced by Jocelyn Quioc and executive produced by Joan Peters.

Chessell made his feature directing debut as one of 10 directors on the 2007 comedy Little Deaths. He’s been working in TV, directing a segment of the NBC summer series Camp and multiple episodes of Offspring, Rush and Rescue Special Ops. Madman Entertainment will distribute Sucker in Australia and LevelK is the international sales agent.

Screen Australia’s Head of Production Investment Ross Matthews said, “These three feature films are all outstanding projects with huge potential. The Dressmaker is a distinctive and highly entertaining film from an experienced team and an A-list cast.

“Director/writer Michael Rowe is well versed in bringing a unique auteur vision to his films… and Rest Home also has the potential to be a break-out arthouse film with a long festival life.

Sucker is a fresh and original film from a talented first-time feature director, which should attract a wide demographic.”