Jocelyn Moorhouse explores the line between sanity and madness in ‘Wakefield’

17 March, 2020 by Don Groves

Jocelyn Moorhouse with DOP Martin McGrath on the ‘Wakefield’ set.

Jocelyn Moorhouse was shooting the ABC’s Stateless when Jungle Entertainment offered her the gig of set-up director of the ABC drama Wakefield.

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The concept was unlike anything she’d ever heard of, centering on the interaction between staff and patients at a Blue Mountains psychiatric hospital, leavened with musical numbers and tap dancing, so she was hooked.

Brit Rudi Dharmalingam (Tin Star, The Split) plays Nik, a gifted psych nurse in the eight-episode show created by Kristen Dunphy, who is the showrunner with Sam Meikle, produced by Shay Spencer and Ally Henville for Jungle Entertainment and BBC Studios.

The sanest person in a pretty crazy place, Nik is confronted by a dark secret from his past when a song gets stuck in his head.

Reuniting with the director after collaborating on the Seven Network’s Wanted, Geraldine Hakewill plays a psychiatrist, with Mandy McElhinney as the head nurse.

Dan Wyllie and Harriet Dyer play patients and Ryan Corr is the husband of another patient.

“It’s a brilliant script which explores the fine line between sanity and insanity and is very funny in parts,” says Moorhouse, who is directing five episodes.

In his first TV job Kim Mordaunt is directing the other three. Dunphy and Sam Meikle are co-writing with Joan Sauers and Cathy Strickland.

Martin McGrath is the DOP, Victoria Williams is the production designer, Christopher Horsey (Tap Dogs) is the choreographer and Caitlin Yeo and Maria Alfonsine are in charge of the music.

Despite the success of The Dressmaker, the director turned to TV after several feature projects she was attached to did not eventuate.

She is grateful to Rebecca Gibney, whom she’d known since the actress appeared in Moorhouse’s husband P.J. Hogan’s Mental, for giving her the opportunity on Wanted.

Experienced DOP Mark Wareham assured her before filming of Seven’s crime drama started “you’ll be right Joss,” and helped her adjust to the pace of TV series production.

After that she worked on Roadshow Rough Diamond/ABC’s Les Norton. Then Cate Blanchett asked her to direct a block of Stateless, which she produced with her husband Andrew Upton and Matchbox Pictures.

Blanchett and Moorhouse were neighbours for some years, their kids went to the same school and Joss directed Sex with Strangers, a two-hander starring Jacqueline McKenzie and Ryan Corr, for the Sydney Theatre Co. in 2012 when Blanchett and Upton were co-artistic directors.

After Wakefield wraps in July she will resume developing with producer Sue Maslin The Variations, a feature drama about 19th century German musicians Clara Schumann and Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms.

The Schumanns mentored the young Brahms, who came to live with them and fell hopelessly in love with Clara, which was unrequited.

Maslin aims to set the film up as a co-production to be shot in Germany and Austria with post in Australia. The narrative follows the three leads as they age from their 20s to 40. “Period dramas are expensive so we will need some big names to sell the film,” Moorhouse says.

The writer-director is also developing a TV series about a woman who suffers from amnesia, forcing her to rebuild her relationships with her husband, family and friends, with Goalpost Pictures’ Rosemary Blight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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