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Podcast – Natalie Erika James: making debut feature Relic

Relic director Natalie Erika James discusses moving from short films to features, support from Hollywood, and advice.

Director Natalie Erika James on the set of feature film Relic

Natalie Erika James on the set of Relic

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The wheels were first set in motion for Natalie Erika James’ feature directorial debut Relic just after graduation from film school.

Producers Anna McLeish and Sarah Shaw from Carver Films had seen James’ graduate short Tritch at VCA (Victorian College of the Arts) and asked about feature project ideas. The one that James gave them wasn’t Relic, but four years later when she began co-writing the horror feature they reconnected.

Other names have since joined the list of producers – including Jake Gyllenhaal and Riva Marker, whose production company Nine Stories came on board. Meanwhile Anthony and Joe Russo (Avengers: Endgame) are listed as Executive Producers, and James says their independent production company AGBO “essentially co-financed with Screen Oz and Film Vic”.

After a world premiere at Sundance Film Festival in January 2020, the feature is now set to premiere exclusively in Australia on Stan from 10 July as a Stan Original Film.

Throughout the latest episode of the Screen Australia podcast, James talks through the development process and the evolution of Relic, including the significance of making the short film Creswick as a proof of concept for the feature. James also talks about an Indiewire article that helped her get traction in the US; what funding from Gender Matters: Brilliant Stories, Screen Australia and Film Victoria enabled them to do; and what she learned as a director’s attachment to Leigh Whannell on his 2018 feature Upgrade.

While discussing short films as a proof of concept, James also references Screen Australia’s Hot Shots Plus program. Please note this program has since closed, however filmmakers can apply to develop their feature idea through a proof of concept through the Generate and Premium Development funding strands. See here for more.

James co-wrote Relic with Christian White, and it stars Emily Mortimer and Bella Heathcote as a mother and daughter who travel back to the remote family home after the disappearance of widowed matriarch Edna (played by Robyn Nevin). When Edna returns she seems changed, and her daughter and granddaughter start to question if what they thought were symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are actually something else entirely.

For feedback about this episode, please email [email protected]

*Language warning: this episode contains some mature language*

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