O’Connor backs local directors

28 July, 2009 by IF

By Brendan Swift

Actor Frances O’Connor says first-time local directors should receive greater support to continue their careers.


“I think it’s really easy to support first-time filmmakers and give them their first shot but I feel like sometimes in the industry there’s not a lot of continuity.

“Someone will get their first film up and it’s been a learning process for them but then they don’t get another go.”

The small size of the Australian film industry, largely underpinned by government support, has also resulted in experienced filmmakers struggling to complete projects, unlike the US, where O’Connor has completed much of her recent work.

She is set to star in upcoming local feature Blessed, her first Australian film since drama Three Dollars in 2005. Blessed – director Ana Kokkinos’ third feature – is a complex story about seven children and their relationships with their mothers.

Frances O’Connor as Rhonda in Blessed

“I’ve always really loved Ana’s films and have wanted to work with her,” O’Connor says.

“A lot of the time when I’m working on something you end up changing lines but this script was so perfect I didn’t have to change a word – I didn’t want to – every line had subtext behind it and it was just a matter of doing the best you could with it.”

“It all comes from script and if a script is solid then a film has a fighting chance.”

Kokkinos directed her first feature, Head On, in 1998 and in 2006 co-wrote and directed The Book of Revelation. The harrowing multi-narrative plot of Blessed is brought to life by an all-star cast including Miranda Otto, Deborra-Lee Furness, William McInnes and Sophie Lowe.

O’Connor plays Rhonda, a working class mother who continually finds herself in abusive relationships, using her bravado to mask her vulnerabilities.

“I really was intrigued by the character of Rhonda [and] putting her together – it was quite a challenge,” she says.

“A lot of it was inside out – her psychology and how she got to be the way she is. She was probably mothered really badly and was never given the tools to be a mother. Even though she is fiercely protective of her kids on some level, she just doesn’t have the tools to look after them.”

The film was shot between September 29 and November 21 last year in Melbourne, Victoria.

The $4 million production budget was provided by Screen Australia, Film Victoria, the MIFF Premiere Fund, Head Gear Films and Icon Film Distribution. It was shot on Kodak Super 16 before being transferred to 35mm.

Blessed was shown at the Melbourne International Film Festival and will be released nationally on September 10.