Griffith Film School lecturer Priscilla Cameron is celebrating the Australian release of her debut feature film, The Butterfly Tree, which opened in cinemas this week.
Shot at Mount Tamborine, in the Gold Coast hinterland, and starring Melissa George and Ed Oxenbould, the film has made waves on the international movie scene.
Since its international debut at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this year, the film has been nominated for three Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) awards. It has also secured theatrical distribution in the US and UK.
“It’s my first feature, and it was done on a fairly low budget, so I’m really happy with the response,” Ms Cameron said.
“Getting selected for Toronto, which is one of the top five, A-list film festivals really put us on the map in terms of US studios and producers.
“It is also great to see the film get a wide theatrical release – it is one of those films probably best seen on a big screen.”
Ms Cameron spent a decade getting the film off the ground – working on the screenplay and raising financing in between raising three kids and lecturing at Griffith Film School.
“Only 16 per cent of directors in Australia are female, and I think a lot of that comes down to the difficult juggling act between motherhood and work,” she said.
“But all the skills you learn as a mother get drawn upon when you’re making a film, from making snap decisions to problem solving, learning to pick your battles and being able to put your own ego aside to meet the needs of others.”
As a first-time feature director, Ms Cameron said the key was preparation.
“Everyone on set was more experienced than me, from the cast to the crew,” she said.
“But I did lots of homework – I was very conscious of how little time and money we had to achieve what was needed.
“I always tell my students that a film can seem like a massive, overwhelming endeavour, but you just have to be prepared and figure out what is needed scene by scene, hour by hour, day by day.”
Students at Griffith Film School are reaping the benefits of Priscilla’s industry experience.
“My students have a lot of questions for me, from basic things like how many set ups to plan in a day to getting an overseas agent and finding funding,” she said.
“I think that is definitely a strength of Griffith Film School – the faculty here has such a wealth of industry experience and are at the top of their craft.
“I find teaching really invigorating – it’s rewarding helping young filmmakers hone their skills and follow their dream.”
Ms Cameron is currently completing her PhD at Griffith Film School, looking at domestic distribution models for first time feature film directors.