Giovanna Mercuri combines her passions for films and improving mental health
In Giovanna Mercuri’s day job is an accredited mental health social worker, she visits clients in their homes. In her other role, she makes feature films and TV shows which she sees as an extension of her mission.
The singer, dancer, actor and former schoolteacher has produced, written, directed and acted in two features, Locked In and The Target, and is preparing to shoot her third, Fine Line, next year.
In between her own projects she directed Just Ruby, a feature scripted by Damien Leith and Eileen Stapleton.
The drama stars Leith as Irish singer Danny, who meets sisters Betty and Ruby Stone (Bonnie Ferguson and Danielle Rodney) while performing at a local pub in outback NSW. Romance and drama ensue amid a crippling drought and the resurfacing of an earlier tragedy. Mercuri’s Locked In Productions produced with Leith and Stapleton.
“The story is an uplifting one, showing how people come together to help others in a time of need, and is designed to warm people’s hearts,” the Melbourne-based filmmaker tells IF.
“Working in drought stricken town of Murrurundi was a massive eye-opener and I adored working with Damien and Eileen and the cast and crew.”
Her debut feature Locked In cost just $1,500 and used a lot of volunteers. She played a woman who was in a coma as a result of domestic abuse.
Melton City Council donated $10,000 towards The Target, which cost $15,000 and showed how bullying in all its forms affects people of all ages.
Featuring Damien Leith, Mercuri and Laurie Whitehead, the plot followed a woman as she delivers a eulogy at the funeral of her husband, who committed suicide because of workplace bullying. While she speaks, those listening experience flashbacks of incidents when they were bullied.
“Almost all the 120 cast and crew had been bullied throughout their lives, so they passionately supported this project,” she says. “Making this movie feels like an extension to my work.
“As an accredited mental health social worker, at times I feel so helpless as I am helping clients in the aftermath once damage has been made. I make movies and TV shows about mental health and serious life issues as a tool for early intervention, educating audience members through dramas based on true stories.”
Also based on a true story, Fine Line will revolve around a karate teacher (Ben Rose) who grooms a 19-year-old female student yet to be cast. William Hutton will play the karate studio’s boss.
Mercuri is raising the finance and intends to have a table read when the casting is completed in December or January. Locked In and The Target are available on DVD. Bounty Films’ Leslie Morris is in negotiation to distribute both titles.
The Melton Council also supports her TV series The Travel Counsellor, which sheds light on issues such as bullying and domestic violence and screens on Sunday nights on community Channel 31.