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Podcast – Producing Ladies in Black

Ladies in Black producers Sue Milliken and Allanah Zitserman break down the financing and distribution of their new feature.

Sue Milliken and Allanah ZitsermanSue Milliken and Allanah Zitserman

After more than two decades of trying to get Ladies in Black off the ground, Milliken (who also co-wrote the film with director Bruce Beresford) admits she had all but given up. But then Zitserman came on board and within a year they were shooting.

Together, the producers discuss with journalist Caris Bizzaca how they streamlined the pitch, took it back out to market and secured a deal with Sony Pictures – not just for Australia, but for a global distribution deal – and why having a positive filmmaker-distributor relationship can make or break a movie*.

“They are as important as the filmmakers really,” Zitserman says. “Because you make the film, but then you hand it over to them and it’s up to them to be able to get it out to audiences, and their passion is crucial.”

Milliken adds: “The distributor can bury a film, or they can make it work… It just depends on their enthusiasm and their skills, so it’s a very important relationship.”

Zitserman also goes on to detail how they turned to branded content partnerships with companies such as David Jones to fill their financing gap – and why she thinks these offer filmmakers and companies a wonderful opportunity.

“What is a better way to reach a customer than through film? Film has a global audience. It has the potential to move people. It couldn’t be better,” she says. “[But it] has to be authentic.”

Milliken also talks about the long journey of Ladies in Black from page to screen and how she feels now that 24 years after she set out to make this film with director and friend Bruce Beresford, it’s finally hitting screens.

“It’s a little bit like Alice in Wonderland. It’s the strangest experience.”

Ladies in Black is in cinemas now.

*Any project applying for Screen Australia feature production funding must also have, as part of the eligibility criteria, an offer from both a domestic distributor and international sales agent. See the eligibility criteria here

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