Fadia Abboud with Hunter Page-Lochard and Alexander Bertrand on the ‘Les Norton’ set (Photo: Tony Mott).
For someone who for years had no aspirations to become a filmmaker, Fadia Abboud’s career has rocketed.
After co-directing an episode of Here Come the Habibs! with Darren Ashton, she landed her first TV drama gig on Australian Gangster, Roadshow Rough Diamond’s miniseries for the Seven Network.
From there she segued to directing three episodes of the same producers’ comedy-drama Les Norton starring Alexander Bertrand, David Wenham, Rebel Wilson, Justin Rosniak and Pallavi Sharda, for the ABC.
When Roadshow Rough Diamond’s John Edwards and Dan Edwards were setting up Australian Gangster with the creator Gregor Jordan, they realised Jordan would not be able to direct all four episodes of the saga which stars Bertrand as a Sydney criminal.
Looking for a director who had a similar sensibility – the ability to handle dark material with a sense of humour – they came across Abboud.
John Edwards says: “We watched Fadia’s short films, she met with Gregor, they connected immediately and we hired her on the spot. We wanted to have a similar voice on Les Norton so she was an obvious choice.”
Fadia tells IF: “I was really lucky with my two episodes of Australian Gangster because there was a lot of rich emotional family material, which I loved exploring. John and Dan were really supportive and they surrounded me with really good people.
”I started with Gregor when we were in pre-production so I shadowed him, went to all the meetings and jumped in when I had to.”
Her short which most impressed the producers, Big Trouble, Little Fish was set on the day of the Cronulla race riots and followed a young Lebanese/Australian guy who, with his mates, heads to the scene intending to kick heads but turns back for love.
In between the two Roadshow Rough Diamond productions she directed an episode of Hardball, Northern Pictures’ children’s series for the ABC.
She enjoyed collaborating with Bertrand again on Les Norton alongside the creator Morgan O’Neill, the set-up director Jocelyn Moorhouse and David Caesar.
Asked what she learned most from watching Moorhouse on set, she says: “Take your time. Get the shot you really want, not more of everything.”
Born and raised in Parramatta to Lebanese parents, after leaving school Fadia worked in shops and in advertising for Strathfield Car Radios.
“I never intended to be a filmmaker until there was a turning point and I knew I had to change my life,” she says.
She did preparatory documentary and introduction to filmmaking courses at Sydney University and then started a Bachelor of Communication (Media Arts and Production) degree at University of Technology Sydney.
For two years she deferred uni to work at ICE (Information + Cultural Exchange), supporting and developing cultural programs using multimedia for refugee, migrant and non-English speaking communities in Western Sydney.
For 10 years she co-directed the Arab Film Festival Australia. After she made a few short films and a web series Screen Australia urged her to get an attachment, so she approached the producers of Here Come the Habibs!
The filmmaker is grateful to Create NSW, which funded her first documentary I Remember 1948, in which Palestinian elders shared memories of the year they became refugees, which screened on SBS.
Create NSW also funded her last short film, Concern for Welfare, the tale of a gay Lebanese probationary constable who kicks against her Muslim brother’s controlling behaviour, a co-pro with SBS.
In early September she is shooting proof-of-concept scenes for Sex in the West (working title), a TV dramedy she developed with Sarah Walker, Amal Awad and story consultant Jane Espenson, produced by Wooden Horse’s Jude Troy.
Backed by Screen Australia story development funding, the project revolves around Arab women Samira and Rima, one Muslim, the other Christian, whose desires and ambitions clash with family and community expectations.
Asked about her ambitions, she says: “If I get ongoing work as a director, making shows I really love, that would be great. If I get to make a show of my own, to represent and tell a story about Arab women, that would be amazing.”