Lisa Nicol’s Wide Open Sky to tour regional NSW before April 7 national release

11 February, 2016 by Harry Windsor

Wide Open Sky.


Wide Open Sky was the winner of the Audience Award for Best Documentary at last year's Sydney Film Festival.

Director Lisa Nicol's documentary tells the story of Moorambilla Voices, an outback children's choir assembled every year by teacher Michelle Leonard.

"Michelle had children at the same school as me, and I heard about her choir and her doing incredible things with these kids who have no music education", said Nicol (whose previous documentary, A Night At Sea, was about musician Louis Tillett).

"It was so ambitious, and the more I heard about it the more intrigued I was". 

Nicol got the ABC onboard by filming a twelve-minute sizzle reel at one of Leonard's music camps. 

For the shoot itself, the filmmaker and regular collaborators Anna Craney (editor/producer) and Carolyn Constantine (DOP) plus a sound recordist travelled around the remote regions of western NSW.

"We followed Michelle throughout the year. There are three stages to the choir. Michelle goes out and does a big audition tour in the region, then they come together for a camp in Baradine, then they come together again for a final rehearsal and a concert". 

"There were three distinct parts of the story which gave the film a natural structure. Plus we went and shot with the individual children in their towns".

Nicol describes the shooting periods as "pretty chaotic, especially during the audition tour".

"Michelle's got this incredible schedule where she visits 55 schools in three weeks, and does two schools a day. She also does the girls and boys seperately, so trying to keep up with her and cover what was going on and cast the children at the same time was chaotic and challenging".

Key to Nicol's job was finding the film's stars. She eventually narrowed the film's focus down to four kids, some identified earlier than others.

"Kyh [photo above left] we met when we went out to do the sizzle reel. He really leapt out – this chatty little fella from Lightning Ridge who was just charming and gorgeous and had great dreams". 

Premiering her film at the SFF last year, Nicol found the audience reaction "incredible". 

"I was very nervous and run off my feet, but as soon as the film started and people were laughing I relaxed".

eOne will open the film nationally on April 7. In the meantime Nicol is gearing up for regional tour in March, stopping in to Walgett, Brewarrina, Bourke, Cobar, Coonamble, Lightning Ridge, Baradine and more – "showing the film to the communities where it was shot". 

"None of those places have cinemas, so we're screening in community halls and anywhere we can find. I'm throwing my kids in the back [of the car]. It should be good". (laughs)

Trailer is here.