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Girl Asleep : coming to a cinema near you

Girl Asleep director Rosemary Myers talks winning CinefestOZ and the challenges facing independent films when it comes to distribution.

Rosemary Myer

Rosemary Myers will have barely had time to catch her breath after winning the Film Prize at CinefestOZ before her directorial debut Girl Asleep hits theatres. But she’s hoping the momentum will help her cross one of the biggest hurdles she’s encountered: getting onto cinema screens.

A large sum of the $100,000 cash prize from CinefestOZ Film Festival will go toward P&A, bumping up posters and press to maximise their coverage.

“I think the biggest challenge for the film in recent times had been getting cinemas on board to play it,” she says, particularly considering the traction they have gained at festivals.

Girl Asleep stars Bethany Whitmore as shy teen Greta, who’s pulled from her life of obscurity when to her dismay, her parents throw her a 15th birthday party and invite the whole school.

It not only won the Film Prize at CinefestOZ, but the Critics Prize at Melbourne International Film Festival, the Grand Jury Prize at Seattle International Film Festival, the Foxtel Movies Audience Award at Adelaide Film Festival, and it made its international premiere as the Opening Night film of Generation 14Plus at Berlin International Film Festival.

“You think with that kind of pedigree surrounding the film… but I’ve actually been surprised that (cinemas) haven’t been coming to the party to play the film more,” Myers says, noting that the cinemas that have come on board have been hugely supportive.

“I think that is quite surprising to me and quite tough. But hopefully it will do well in the first weekend and we can get it onto more screens.”

Myers does understand the position exhibitors are in, particularly with the amount of studio blockbusters targeted at the same teenage audience Girl Asleep also caters for.

“Obviously young people are consuming heaps of content, but it’s hard to get traction because there are so many blockbuster chains, like your Hunger Games-type things that are marketed to that audience,” she says.

“It’s hard for a tiny little film like ours to compete. Although all of this (winning CinefestOZ) is giving it great oxygen, which is fantastic.”

Myers isn’t wrong. After Girl Asleep took home Australia’s richest film prize, it picked up fourteen additional screens and days out from hitting cinemas it’s shaping up to be a 27 cinema-screen release. If it proves popular on opening weekend, there’s the hope of adding more.

Girl Asleep/Shane Reid

It’s an impressive result for the off-beat coming-of-age film, which marks Myers’ feature-film directing debut and has drawn comparisons to Wes Anderson and Napoleon Dynamite.

The film started out as a stage play by Windmill Theatre Company, where Myers, writer/actor Matthew Whittet and production designer Jonathon Oxlade create stories for young audiences.

Enter: the HIVE Initiative.

“We were very encouraged by an amazing initiative called the HIVE, which was Adelaide Film Festival, ABC Arts, Australia Council for the Arts and Screen Australia coming together to allow people outside of the film industry the opportunity to tell their stories in that medium,” she says.

“We were so pumped to be making a film. It was like a big dream for us.”

Together they carefully pieced together a team of like-minded people, including producer Jo Dyer, director of photography Andrew Commis, editor Karryn de Cinque, composer Harry Covill, executive producer Teena Munn and sound designer Luke Smiles.

“(At Windmill Theatre) we all work very closely and share a lot of aligned sensibility, so we needed to get people from the film world who kind of embraced that,” she says.

Myers and Commis spent a long time in pre-production storyboarding Girl Asleep in detail, evident in the precise framing and style of the final product.

The shoot itself was a whirlwind 22 days, filmed at Hendon Studios and a modernist house in Panorama in South Australia.

The result is a film that is unique in many ways. Although coming-of-age stories are not new, this perspective, from a 14-year-old girl, is not often seen in Australian cinema.

But it’s a time that speaks to everyone, says Myers.

“You’re either kind of heading for that time, you’re in that time, or you’ve been there,” she says.

“It’s where things change quite radically and you go from being a child to being an adult, so it’s quite an extreme time of life and I think the stakes do feel really high…

“There are a million and one stories in there.”

Girl Asleep releases in Australian cinemas through Umbrella Entertainment from September 8.

Click here to see where it’s screening.