Frosty somersault sends director to Cannes

Frosty somersault sends director to Cannes - 22nd April 2004
(Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald)

If Cate Shortland wins an award at the Cannes Film Festival next month she may just thank the producers of The Secret Life of Us.

The 35-year-old Sydney filmmaker, whose debut feature, Somersault, has been invited to screen at Cannes, credits work on the television drama for keeping her in the industry when she was on the verge of quitting.

"There have been several times when I've really struggled to get work, and television has been my saviour," she said yesterday. "It allowed me to be creative and keep working."

Shortland spent three years directing episodes of The Secret Life of Us. It taught her to work quickly and not be in awe of actors, skills she applied to directing Somersault, a $4 million drama shot in and around the ski-field town of Jindabyne.

This week she learnt that the film had been chosen to screen in the Cannes Film Festival's Un Certain Regard category. As a first-time director she is eligible for the Camera d'Or award.

The Un Certain Regard category was contested last year by the popular Australian feature Japanese Story.

Somersault's heroine is played by Abbie Cornish, 21. The cast includes Sam Worthington, Lynette Curran and Erik Thomson, who won a Silver Logie last year for his role in All Saints.

Asked to describe her film, Shortland said: "It's about growing up, falling in love and family. The conflict we all have in our lives."

Shortland, a Sydney University graduate who studied directing at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, made several short films before Somersault. She intended to make her film at Lake George, near Canberra, but switched production to Lake Jindabyne, a location she and her producer Anthony Anderson remembered from childhood.

"It was always going to be a frosty, winter film," Anderson said yesterday. "There's the notion that Australia is beaches or the outback. But for us it's [Jindabyne in winter] very much part of our experience."

Shortland and Anderson will have an experienced guide when they travel to Cannes for the festival, which runs from May 12 to May 23. The film's executive producer is Jan Chapman, whose credits include The Piano and Love Serenade.

The three met when Somersault became the first project to be accepted into the Aurora script development program run by the NSW Film and Television Office. Chapman was one of their mentors.

She warns that Cannes is not all Krug and air kisses.

"Every time I've been there someone's been in tears," Chapman said. "It's full of elation and full of disappointment. You need to keep your feet on the ground."

Anderson said Somersault would be released locally in September, but may be previewed at the Sydney Film Festival in June.


Official websites

Cannes Film Festival

NSW Film and Television Office

Filmfestivals Entertainment Group


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