5 minutes with Miley Tunnecliffe

Cinema Australia Original Content:

Karin Kowi as Grace in In Australia.

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Filmmaker Miley Tunnecliffe has released a trailer for her powerful short film, In Australia, which will screen at Flickerfest this weekend.

In Australia follows Grace (Karin Kowi), whose choice to leave her husband (Ben Mortley) after he turns from the man she loves into an abusive partner, sends her across the country. But Grace finds the outside world is as dangerous as the one she just left.

As well as writing and directing film, Tunnecliffe has also written for broadcast TV including The Heights and 100% Wolf for ABC. Tunnecliffe also wrote and directed the short series Molly and Cara commissioned by SBS and is currently participating in the ATTAGIRL Film Lab, developing her first feature film with producer Kate Separovich.

We grabbed five minutes with Tunnecliffe to find out more about In Australia.

I remember seeing one of your earlier short films back in 2015 called Love in a Disabled Toilet, which you wrote. It was a genuinely gut-busting comedy and far removed from the dark depths of In Australia. As far as comedy and drama goes, do you prefer one over the other?
Thank you so much! Love in a Disabled Toilet was a breakthrough for me. It was my first funded film and that experience taught me so much. I’ve always loved a huge range of genres. I grew up with Pretty Woman and When Harry Met Sally as much as Aliens and Terminator. When I’m developing story, I’m drawn to character. I love exploring stories about dysfunctional people and relationships trying to overcome something big. I have so much empathy for people who are just trying to ‘get it together’ but stumble along the way. People just being flawed humans. Aren’t we all? The story dictates its genre. It’s taken time and work, but I’m very grateful to not be pigeonholed into just one genre.

In Australia follows a woman desperate to escape a violent marriage. Why did you want to explore domestic violence on film?
I wrote this film at a time when the murder of Australian women was reaching a new height of awareness in our media. It seemed every week there was a terrible new high profile event. It was, and still is, extremely triggering for myself and many women I know. Talking to other women, I felt overwhelmed by the volume of stories of threat we had all experienced and the mark it had left on our lives psychologically. For me, this is a film about trauma and how we live with it. How is affects us, and how we deal with it. Because often, even after we’ve removed ourselves from the situation, that threat is still carried within us. That’s why this film begins as our protagonist Grace escapes from her abuser. So we’re actually exploring the psychological terror that follows her rather than the DV events themselves. I think as an audience, as humans, regardless of the particulars of our own experience, we can all relate to that.

How deep did you go with your research into domestic violence, and what effects did that have on you as a filmmaker?’
I did some research. There’s some incredible websites and individuals out there who are tirelessly working to lay witness and record violence against women. My producer, Emilia Jolakoska, and I also had many long discussions about our own stories; what we wanted to say and what our intentions and our responsibilities were when it came to this sort of storytelling. Because I believe there is a responsibility on filmmakers when putting stories like these out there. It was important to us to tell a story that honoured the dark, but also embodied the hope. It’s definitely not ‘pleasant’ to delve into this area, but for me life is about the dark and the light. Love and pain. They give context to one another. And I’ve come to learn you can’t have one without the other. So there was actually a cathartic element for me in making this project.

Tell us about the title In Australia?
It came about from the first line of the startling statistic from the White Ribbon organisation that “In Australia on average, one woman a week is murdered by a current or former partner.”

You recently received scripted development funding through ScreenWest for your feature film Proclivitas. What can you tell us about that project?
Yes! I’m working with producer Kate Separovich. It’s a psychological horror that explores the terror of addiction. It’s about a woman who begins to suspect her husband’s addiction is manifesting as a dark presence in their home. We were selected to develop it as part of the Attagirl International Film Lab and funded by Screen Australia to participate in it. It’s been so wonderful. We’re working with extremely smart and talented mentors from the UK, the US and Canada. And now we’ve been supported by Screenwest. We’re very excited about this story. Like In Australia, it’s a personal story and one I hope will entertain and resonate.

In Australia will screen at the Academy® & BAFTA qualifying Flickerfest International Short Film Festival in the Best Of Australian Shorts 1 program at 4pm on Saturday, 22 January. More screenings will be announced soon. 

UPDATE (21.2.22): In Australia will screen at the WA Made Film Festival on March 12 in Perth. Details here

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