After a successful theatre run, the team behind The Association – the all-female film and theatre collective Girls Act Good (GAG) – are working away at a film version. Director Lee McClenaghan [above] dropped into The Westsider to chat about the film, and the role of women in key production roles.
Q: Firstly, can you tell us more about GAG?
A: GAG was started by Jennifer Monk; it’s basically an all-female group of actors, writers, directors, producers and designers which aims to provide more opportunities for women to extend their creative skills. Projects for women, by women.
Q: A theatre and film version – which idea came first?
A: Good question! We couldn’t decide which would work better, so in the end we just planned for both.
Q: The theatre version played out in a house set, but where and when did you guys film?
A: We hired out the house for about six weeks and the set was the same for both the theatre and the filming. We had a few chances to put some material together during the month that the theatre version was running, then we had 10 days at the end to set up and film.
Q: What differences are there between the two versions?
A: Well there were some personnel changes, and we were able to delve into some of the character back stories a bit more in the film version, but obviously the audience participation and element of immersive theatre isn’t really possible.
Q: ‘Immersive theatre’ – what is that exactly?
A: Face to face! The audience was limited to a maximum of 15 people each night, they were lead down a narrow garden path, it’s all secretive, and they were part of the show, then gradually the story unfolds around them. They were lulled into a false sense of security, then when ‘Patient Zero’ was revealed to them, it was quite a shock!
Q: ‘Patient Zero’? Sounds ominous.
A: Ha ha yes it’s the abusive husband of one of the ‘associates’. He was in an accident but was physically fixed up and then entered ‘mind retraining’. Think ‘Stepford Wives’ in reverse. But he’s all hooked up to medical equipment so it’s quite confronting.
Q: Were there any challenges during filming?
A: It’s tricky filming in a small house because you don’t have those studio spaces, plus timing – we had to film at night or just when people were available. We notified all the neighbours so that if they heard noises they wouldn’t think there was some kind of domestic situation taking place. One night a lady came and knocked on the door, she was carrying a plate of mint slice and was looking for the Yarraville Breastfeeding Association who were having a meeting next door. That was hilarious but also unfortunate as we missed out on the mint slice!
Q: So what is the vision for distribution? How will we see the film?
A: There are a few options; we will be submitting The Association to film festivals nationally and internationally including The Melbourne International, Sundance, St Kilda, Flicker Fest, Rocky Mountains Women’s Festival and Bentonville film festivals. We would also like to pitch The Association to networks including Stan, Netflix, ABC and SBS. Beyond festivals there is the option to do a web series, or even show as a stand alone feature.
Q: Funding is always a challenge – how are you managing that aspect?
A: Well we had a ‘Day in the Fifties’ fundraiser before the show, then all the proceeds from the ticket sales of the theatre version went towards film production. We are also aiming to raise $5,000 via the Australian Cultural Fund, which runs until 13 September.
Q: Are you enjoying your role as director?
A: Yes! Previously I’ve been an actor, producer, choreographer and assistant director, but I’ve always wanted to direct and there’s been great support from the crew, just good timing and a natural progression really.
Q: In the meantime, how can people keep up with the progress of the production and the women involved?
A: Check out the social channels, follow us on Facebook and also look out for trailers on social media and our website! You can follow GAG on Facebook: facebook.com/GirlsActGood or keep an eye on their website: girlsactgood.com.
For more information on contributing to the film, visit:
(All donations over $2 are fully tax deductible.)