Interview with Lois Randall: embracing diversity in film making, News

Interview with Lois Randall: embracing diversity in film making

Lois Randall is an Arts Manager and Screen Producer with over 20 years of industry experience working at national, state and regional levels. Randall recently produced a short film, Nan and a Whole Lot of Trouble, which had a strong female story, crew and cast. We caught up with her to talk about producing the film and asked for her thoughts on developing more strong female practitioners, characters and stories.

You have recently produced a short film, Nan and a Whole Lot of Trouble. Can you tell us a little about the film?

Nan and a Whole Lot of Trouble is a short drama written by Sue McPherson and directed by Dena Curtis. With great charm and humour it boldly tackles cultural taboos and complexities around culture, tradition and identity, as two elderly sisters of Aboriginal and Irish heritage – Nan and her sister Min – deal with loss. In their grief they revert to childish squabbles, and Nan’s granddaughter Fuzzy becomes the voice of reason.

The film was developed and produced through The Exchange program, an initiative of Screen Australia’s Indigenous department, in partnership with ABC TV, a program supporting Indigenous novelists to cross over to screenwriting. It was filmed near Lismore in the Northern Rivers region of NSW earlier this year.


Nan and a Whole Lot of Trouble is unique in that it was a predominately female crew - with an all female writer, producer, director team behind it. Can you tell us about that experience?

It was a pleasure to work with such a professional crew, both women and men. It wasn't a stated intent to have mainly women – we wanted a crew who would be supportive. But once we had Anna Howard ACS on board as DOP and a three-woman camera department, it rolled from there. It was a treat for everyone to work with Dena - she is very calm and clear as a director – and we were also lucky that Betty Fotofili was available as First AD. It was a great experience through the shoot and post working with editor Tania Nehme - there was plenty of humour, and basically everyone just got on with the job they love, and did a beautiful job.


How did you come upon the script for Nan and a Whole Lot of Trouble, and what made you believe it was good story?

It was a gift! I had developed a close relationship with the Indigenous departments at ABC TV and Screen Australia through producing The Gods of Wheat Street. Sue’s script was set in regional NSW and they thought it might be of interest. I loved the characters, the tenderness offset by humour, and the way the apparently simple story has an underlying narrative that speaks to modern Australia. And I was also fascinated by the whole tradition of mourning portraiture.


What was your process in putting the crew together?

Dena and I sought out heads of department and crew who we admired creatively, and who we thought would create the right atmosphere on set for our cast – it was a first acting experience for Noeleen Shearer (Nan) - and the subject matter is about grief, and potentially controversial. We wanted people who were experienced, calm (no “yellers”), and who would be sensitive culturally and to the nature of the drama. We also wanted to employ Indigenous practitioners whereever possible.


As a producer do you find there are discernable differences in working with a female creative team to working with a male creative team on a project?

I’ve worked with great creative teams of all different gender ratios. But I have also been one of the only women on a crew, which can be lonely, and very blokey crews can be intimidating for women, particularly in traditionally male departments. I think women role models are really important to inspire confidence for women in the industry. 

What I love most is to bring together a team who will put their egos aside and respectfully support each other to achieve the best result creatively, for the project. That can be powerful chemistry.


This film has a message about embracing diversity in cultural heritage, and has a lot of cultural complexities. With that in mind, what was your greatest lesson from producing this film?

Yes, Sue’s script has a strong message about embracing diversity of cultural heritage, and being true to your self, which is told through a glimpse into the world of her wonderfully authentic characters.

To me the important thing is to forge an emotional connection between the characters and the audience, then take them on an emotional journey. I hope Nan and a Whole Lot of Trouble speaks to audiences with heart, and I think Dena has achieved a beautiful balance of humour and tenderness so the message is subtle.


The film’s two leads are complex and strong female characters. With current momentum towards developing more leading female characters do you see a move towards creating strong female leads or is there more scope for a more nuanced and complex exploration of the female experience?

The characters of elderly sisters Nan (Noeleen Shearer) and Aunty Min (Pamela Young), and Nan’s granddaughter (Amba-Rose Atkinson), are authentic in their complexity.  I want to see strong female leads within a nuanced and complex exploration of the human experience – great character driven story telling.


Where can we see Nan and a Whole Lot of Trouble?  

We are thrilled that Nan and a Whole Lot Of Trouble will have its world premiere at Flickerfest in January 2016, on opening night in Bondi then touring nationally with Flickerfest’s Best of Australian Shorts program. It will also be screened on ABC TV later in 2016.


What are you working on now?

Making Nan and a Whole Lot of Trouble has lead to ongoing collaboration with Sue McPherson and Dena Curtis. In the short film Sue told a new story with three characters from her novel, Grace Beside Me. We are now working together to develop a children’s series for NITV adapted from the novel, which is currently in development with support from NITV, ACTF, Screen Australia, Screen QLD and Screen NSW.


Image 1 - From Magpie Pictures short film Nan and a Whole Lot of Trouble: Seated L-R: Noeleen Shearer (NAN), Amba-Rose Atkinson (FUZZY) and Pamela Young (MIN). Standing L-R: Anna Howard ACS (DOP), Betty Fotofili (First AD), Lois Randall (Producer), Sue McPherson (Writer), Dena Curtis (Director)

Image 2 - From Magpie Pictures short film Nan and a Whole Lot of Trouble: Behind the video split: L-R: Lois Randall (Producer), Dena Curtis (Director), Louise Carey (Script Supervisor)

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