This isn't director Gracie Otto's first Bonds rodeo. The crazy-talented Aussie director was the visionary filmmaker behind the lens our previous Originals campaign, set in the dusty outback town of Coober Pedy. Now, she's back for round two, directing the latest TV ad to launch our fiercely femme campaign, Join the Queendom. We caught up with Gracie to get her thoughts on what being part of a femme-powered project with all-female cast means to her.
You’ve gone and made an awesome chick flick! What lead you back here to Bonds?
I was so excited that Bonds invited me back to direct their Queendom film, because I had such a wonderful experience with them directing their previous campaign. Many of the same crew and creatives were involved again, so we began with a prior knowledge of how to work together, a shared understanding of what we wanted to achieve, and a determination to make another fantastic Australian film.
What was the best bit about creating a whole new world for these women?
The best part was discovering these beautiful, natural locations – the gums and the wildflowers and the rocky outcrops just presented themselves to our stories. The Australian landscape is so amazing, and shooting in the Blue Mountains gave us the most incredible backdrop for a film about strong, beautiful and independent women. It was a complete contrast to the intensive heat and red dust of the outback, but that was what I loved because it shows another beautiful facet of the country we live in.
And the toughest?
The toughest part of this campaign was shooting in winter – the shorter days and cold weather meant we had an incredibly tight shooting schedule. But the models were brilliant – they really were fierce warriors when it came to performing in underwear in bitterly cold conditions, but they made it look like the middle of summer!
What did you want people to feel after seeing this film?
I hope audiences feel proudly Australian – this is like the second chapter of Bonds in beautiful landscapes and the Queendom represents the beautiful diversity of Australian women. I hope audiences also enjoy the quirky Australian sense of humour – the nonchalance of one Queen not fazed by a giant spider, and another cracking macadamia nuts with her bare fist! I also hope people enjoy all the fun we had with throwback in-camera zooms and whip pans - our little nod to classic Australian cinema of the '70s.
You assembled an incredible cast of queens. What was that like?
Casting was an absolute joy. There were so many beautiful and strong women who came in to test, but the main criteria was matching them to the scenarios – so we needed someone who could really swing an axe and carry wood effortlessly, or work a scythe through the bushland. The girls we cast were all perfect for their roles and I was so proud of their work.
Was directing an all-female (spider included) cast different to other films you’ve directed?
I love working with women, and these girls brought their own personalities and attitude that gave strength to their roles. I do a lot of fashion films and have worked with some of the most beautiful women in locations around the world. But there is something special about working at home. Australian women are just so natural and at ease – they worked well together. And they have a sense of humour that Australian audiences relate to and that is really important.
You don’t just work in directing but in acting and stand up comedy too - all traditionally male-heavy industries. How has that experience been like for you?
I work predominantly as a director, but like to keep my hand in with acting. I’ve just finished shooting a short film at Lightning Ridge and directed myself – that was a lot to do with a tiny budget! Stand-up is something I’ve wanted to try, so I spent last year in Los Angeles doing to a lot of classes and performances and I found I loved it. It’s quite scary, but it’s addictive. Being female in this industry is quite challenging. I started directing as soon as I left school, so I was quite young in a male dominated industry. I still often feel that I have to be twice as good and prove myself with every job, even though I’ve been directing now for ten years and I am really proud of my body of work.
Do you think it’s important for women to be represented in the arts?
It’s a no-brainer. We’re 50% of the population and we’ve got just as much to offer as the boys if not more! Statistics show that there are great young female filmmakers coming out of film schools, but they are just not getting the same opportunities. It’s great that Screen Australia and others are offering new programs to try to improve the percentages.
Any words of advice to girls that want to break into any dude-dominant careers?
It’s a difficult industry for everyone, but particularly for young women. I’m hoping things are going to change, but it’s going to take time. My advice is to create your own projects so you can have creative control. And when you walk on to the set, just “own” it. I read somewhere that Jane Campion said not to be intimidated by a large male crew, just walk on to the set and focus on your DOP and your cast.
And finally, you mentioned on set you’re rocking the Originals. Which ones are among your go-tos?
Discover more of our Join the Queendom campaign here.
Image illustrated by @ailiebanks