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Podcast – Director Jocelyn Moorhouse on Savage River

Jocelyn Moorhouse discusses directing six-part ABC crime drama Savage River and a career working across different formats and genres.

Jocelyn Moorhouse, Katherine Langford and James Mackay

Find this episode of the Screen Australia Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Pocket Casts

Since directing Australian box office hit The Dressmaker, Jocelyn Moorhouse has been focused on Australian television, working on series including Wanted, Les Norton, Stateless, Wakefield, Troppo and most recently ABC’s Savage River.

“I love the fact that [in TV] it comes to air pretty quickly, because in feature films you spend years developing them and then years making them and trying to get them sold and seen, that it’s a much slower process,” Moorhouse says.

“Whereas in television you can work on something and it has an audience within months.”

Created by Belinda Bradley, Franz Docherty and Giula Sandler, Savage River stars Katherine Langford (13 Reasons Why) as Miki, a young woman who returns to her hometown in rural Victoria after eight years in prison. She’s determined to move on with her life, but when a murder rocks the community, all eyes are immediately on her and as she set out to prove her innocence, she uncovers some long-buried secrets along the way. The six-part crime drama from Aquarius Films premieres on September 4 on ABC TV and ABC iview. 

Throughout the latest episode of the Screen Australia Podcast, Moorhouse talks about directing all six episodes of Savage River, and working again with cinematographer Don McAlpine, who also shot The Dressmaker.

“I think he was the cinematographer on two of my favourite Australian films back in the 80s or even earlier – My Brilliant Career and Breaker Morant,” she says. “I remember seeing those two films and being really bowled over by how they looked. Of course I looked up who the directors were because I wanted to be a director, but the next thing I looked up is ‘who the hell is Don McAlpine?’ Even then he was pretty legendary… he’s a lovely human being, an Encyclopedia of facts about the Australian film industry and he’s… still passionate about making good looking films and television.”

Moorhouse also talks to producing on her husband PJ Hogan’s features, including Muriel’s Wedding, Peter Pan and Mental, as well as discussing screenwriting, general advice and pre-production on her upcoming Australian-shot feature film The Fabulous Four, starring Bette Midler, Susan Sarandon, Megan Mullally and more.

Watch Savage River on ABC TV and ABC iview from 4 September 2022.

Subscribe to Screen Australia Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Pocket Casts

Audio Transcript

[00:00:05] Caris Bizzaca Welcome to the Screen Australia podcast. I'm Caris Bizzaca, a journalist with Screen Australia's online publication Screen News. I'd like to firstly acknowledge the countries on which we meet - the unceded lands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This podcast has been produced on the lands of the Gadigal people who are of the larger Eora Nation, and it's where I've had the privilege to be able to work during my years at Screen Australia. Always was, always will be. On this episode of the podcast, we are joined by director Jocelyn Moorhouse, whose work includes feature films Proof and The Dressmaker, as well as episodes on TV series including Wanted, Les Norton, Stateless, Wakefield, Troppo and most recently Savage River - the six-part crime drama from Aquarius Films that premieres on September 4th on ABC TV and ABC iview. Created by Belinda Bradley, Franz Docherty, and Giula Sandler, Savage River stars Katherine Langford from 13 Reasons Why, as Miki, a young woman who returns to her hometown in rural Victoria after eight years in prison. She's determined to move on with her life but when a murder rocks the community, all eyes are immediately on her. As she sets out to prove her innocence, she uncovers some long-buried secrets along the way. Throughout the episode, Jocelyn talks about directing all six episodes of Savage River and working again with cinematographer Don McAlpine, who also shot The Dressmaker. Jocelyn then talks to her collaboration with husband P.J. Hogan, the director of Muriel's Wedding, Peter Pan and Mental, all features that Jocelyn produced on, as well as discussing screenwriting advice and her upcoming feature film, The Fabulous Four, which is set to be filmed in Australia and star the likes of Bette Midler, Susan Sarandon, Megan Mullally and more. As always, remember, you can subscribe to the Screen Australia podcast through places like Spotify and iTunes. Feedback can be sent to [email protected] and subscribe to Screen Australia's Industry eNews for the latest from the local industry. Now here's Savage River director Jocelyn Moorhouse.

[00:02:10] Caris Bizzaca Can you tell me a bit about your background in the screen industry and some of the projects that you've worked across?

[00:02:16] Jocelyn Moorhouse I have been around for quite a while now. I entered the film industry in the early nineties and the first film I made was a very low budget film called Proof, starring Hugo Weaving and Russell Crowe and Geneviève Picot. That went quite well and so I got to produce a film which was my husband's, and it was called Muriel's Wedding, and then we both went to America for a few years to work in big, bad old Hollywood, and then we came screaming back, but it did take a while - fifteen years later and three more children later we came back and P.J. made Mental, and I did The Dressmaker a few years back. And since then, I've been doing a lot of work in series drama.

[00:03:09] Caris Bizzaca We'll dive into the TV stuff in a moment, but you went to AFTRS in the eighties and I was just wondering, across your projects - you've written, you've directed, you've produced - do you feel like you were drawn to one of those in particular at first? And did that kind of evolve over time?

[00:03:28] Jocelyn Moorhouse Well, I always wanted to direct. I had been making Super 8 films actually back in the days when that's the only way a teenager could make her own films, so I made a bunch of Super 8 films. They didn't have any sound because it was not a very fancy camera, and that would have been awful anyway. I remember the sound. The sound on Super 8 was ghastly, so I did silent films and I just put David Bowie or Brian Eno music soundtracks to go along with them. You just have to press play at the same time as you start the projector. That's what I used to do when I showed it to my friends and later showed it to the film school in an attempt to get in. So yeah, I started making these short, silent films when I was about fifteen.

[00:04:17] Caris Bizzaca Okay, so always directing was the goal?

[00:04:20] Jocelyn Moorhouse I don't think I even knew it was directing. It was just [that] my mother was a very keen photographer and she also used to make home movies all the time on the same little Super 8 camera. So sometimes she'd give the camera to me and it just became a natural part of my childhood, and then later I realised I could tell stories that way, so I guess it was the storyteller in me who got attracted to the idea of telling stories through pictures.

[00:04:47] Caris Bizzaca And what do you feel led you into that writing/producing side?

[00:04:54] Jocelyn Moorhouse Well, I did love to write. I used to write - once again, I was a very creative young lady, and so even at ten years old, I was writing disaster stories. I think I'd seen The Poseidon Adventure at a tender age, and I started trying to create my own bushfire stories and floods, tidal waves, and I'd write these fifteen-page books and do really fancy covers for them and make my mum read them and my sister, and she said 'I think you're going to go into writing. I just have a feeling you're going to be doing something like that.' I don't think she ever imagined filmmaking because it just seemed so unlikely, but she had been a journalist for a while and her brother had too, so she probably thought I might go into journalism I'd say.

[00:05:47] Caris Bizzaca Yeah, or something like that.

[00:05:48] Jocelyn Moorhouse So she did encourage my writing, yes definitely.

[00:05:51] Caris Bizzaca Was that producing side, do you think that that was largely with the collaboration that you have with P.J. Hogan?

[00:05:58] Jocelyn Moorhouse Yes, the two of us had become really close to Lynda House by this point because she had produced Proof, and we used to see a lot of each other just socially as well as making films together, and she read the script called Muriel's Wedding and said, 'Oh my God, I would love to produce this, but Joce, I'm going to need you to produce it with me,' and so we did, that's what happened, and then I realised I really liked producing too, but I preferred directing.

[00:06:29] Caris Bizzaca And your latest directing work is on ABC, TV series Savage River. Can you tell me a little bit about what Savage River is about?

[00:06:41] Jocelyn Moorhouse Savage River is a thriller series. It's dark and moody. It's set in a small town in the Victorian mountainous area, and it's about a meatworks town. It's about this young girl, Miki, she went to jail for killing her best friend when she was fifteen and they've let her out, so she's in her mid-twenties and she's got nowhere to go, so she has to go back home to this town and bad things start happening. There's a lot of really secretive people, people with hidden agendas, and it looks like they want to frame her for a murder. It's all about how she tries to prove her innocence, but also uncovers some pretty dark, horrible secrets along the way.

[00:07:34] Caris Bizzaca And how did you get involved with this series?

[00:07:38] Jocelyn Moorhouse Angie [Fielder] and Polly [Staniford] from Aquarius Films approached me when I was editing Stateless. I had just finished shooting my block of Stateless, and they contacted me when I was still in Adelaide and said, 'Look, we love your work, we're really interested in you having a look at this.' And they were talking to other directors, too, so I wasn't sure if I'd get the gig, but when I read it, I read the first script and they hadn't done the rest yet. But there was a Bible which outlined what was going to happen, and I loved the characters, in particular I love the main character, Miki, who is played by Katherine Langford, the gorgeous and talented Katherine. And she's just such a great character, such a great female lead, and there was a lot of mother/daughter stuff in the show, which, of course, as a mother and a daughter, but as a mother of daughters, it sort of hooked me.

[00:08:38] Caris Bizzaca And you directed all six episodes rather than a block. Can you talk about the differences between taking on a full six episodes and the pros and cons of that?

[00:08:51] Jocelyn Moorhouse There aren't many cons. The cons is that you're absolutely exhausted. But it's mostly pros. It's wonderful because you have a lot of creative control, and I felt like I was making a very big movie divided into six episodes. It's got me as its - I'd like to call myself its mother, actually, but it's got me there the whole time, guiding the style and the look of it and helping the actors feel safe, because we go on the journey together and we can keep talking all the way through about the various characters journeys and motives. It was very satisfying for me creatively, I really loved it.

[00:09:38] Caris Bizzaca Did it feel quite different to directing on something where it's a block?

[00:09:43] Jocelyn Moorhouse Yes, it does, especially if I'm the set up director, which I was, and then I continued to direct it. It's got my voice all the way through it, I suppose - my cinematic voice. And because I didn't have to hand it over to somebody else and hope that they kept the style going, I had a lot of creative control over the mood. I could be quite obsessive and I was, about each and every episode. It was different because when you do a block, you take responsibility for those two or three episodes. But in this case, because I was responsible for the whole six episodes, Polly and Angie really wanted me to stay involved right to the very end, so that was wonderful because sometimes in television you can't be there for the sound mix or the music and that's very disappointing, especially if you've come from feature films like I have, so it was really good, in fact, we're still mixing the last two episodes now, so I can talk to the sound editors, I can really get into the nitty gritty of how the soundscape is working and how the music's mixing in. It's wonderful, I love doing that.

[00:11:06] Caris Bizzaca And six hours of television, it's the equivalent of like three long movies or feature films, but you're shooting with the pace of Australian TV. How do you prepare?

[00:11:19] Jocelyn Moorhouse Which is excruciating. Well, I had to be very prepared, and you work nights, you work weekends, you really don't stop. But you know that's what you're in for, and the same went for my creative partners. Don[ald] McAlpine was my DP and he was incredibly passionate about it and helpful, and we talked so much about the look of the piece and that went down to the locations we chose. We had a look and a palette we were going for, and then we would choose a location because it suited that palette, or suited the vibe we were after. And once you've done that, it does help you create your little universe, or world building, except in the real world. I mean we took two perfectly nice towns, Warburton and Myrtleford and made them creepy and evil. So it's all about which buildings you use, which areas look slightly creepy, like some of the forests, so we were just going for that dark vibe.

[00:12:28] Caris Bizzaca And so you mentioned Don McAlpine - legendary Australian cinematographer who you also worked with on The Dressmaker.

[00:12:36] Jocelyn Moorhouse That's true, and Peter Pan, he worked with P.J. on Peter Pan, which I was a producer on and also on Mental, so we go way back.

[00:12:44] Caris Bizzaca All those projects are very different in terms of tone and look. Can you talk about your approach in collaboration with Don on The Dressmaker and then now with Savage River?

[00:12:59] Jocelyn Moorhouse Don McAlpine is a legend of cinema and a legend in the film industry, the Australian film industry. If you haven't heard of him, I know you have, but if our listeners haven't, shame on you! [laughter] Go look him up immediately! He's been around for a long time. Don is now 87. Still a genius. I think he was the cinematographer on two of my favourite Australian films back in the eighties or even earlier. It was My Brilliant Career and Breaker Morant. I remember seeing those two films and being really bowled over by how they looked and of course I looked up who the directors were because I wanted to be a director, but then the next thing I looked up was, 'who the hell is Don McAlpine?' And I saw that even then he was pretty legendary, so to meet him and persuade him to work on our project was wonderful. He's a lovely human being, he's an encyclopedia of facts about the Australian film industry, and he's just fun. He's still passionate about making good-looking films and television and also working with people in a very warm and collaborative way. We have a shorthand now. I remember when we were getting ready to do The Dressmaker, it was the first time I'd actually worked with him as a director because I'd worked with him as a producer, but not as a director. I remember shyly saying to him, 'Don, I'm thinking of trying to go for a Western feel for The Dressmaker,' and he went, 'Oh, like Sergio Leone, yeah, I know what you mean.' I'm like, 'oh my God, he does, he knows all this stuff.' And so we would watch films together, we would look at photographs, screenshots, and that influenced the locations we looked for, and the same thing happened on this. He likes to tease me, he's like, 'Oh, you just trying to be an artist. Honestly, it's just bullshit.' 'Like, Don, don't be rude, you want to be an artist too.' And he [said] 'I do not.' Too late, you're already considered one.

[00:15:18] Caris Bizzaca 'You're an artiste.'

[00:15:19] Jocelyn Moorhouse Yes, but he's a rough Australian bloke so he doesn't like to talk about stuff like that, but that is how he sees the world though. He takes beautiful photographs.

[00:15:32] Caris Bizzaca You can one hundred percent say that in Savage River. It is so different to The Dressmaker: The Dressmaker has so much of that warmth and like you said, that kind of western look.

[00:15:45] Jocelyn Moorhouse It's dry.

[00:15:45] Caris Bizzaca Yeah! Savage River, the mystery is infused in the way that it looks and cooler colours.

[00:15:55] Jocelyn Moorhouse Well, originally it was going to be set in Tasmania but for financial reasons, it was moved to Victoria. But I'm a Victorian girl, I grew up there so I just had to slightly change my mental image because my mental image of Tasmania was always lush and green and cold and people kept saying, 'oh you're going to have to change that because now it's Victorian.' I'm like, 'Well no, there's plenty of lush and green and places in Victoria.' I lived amongst them, you just have to go looking for them.

[00:16:28] Caris Bizzaca Victorian noir instead of Tassie noir.

[00:16:31] Jocelyn Moorhouse Or Scandi noir, I love Scandi noirs and I remember when I first talked to Angie and Polly at Aquarius [Films], I [said] 'Oh my God, we could do our own Scandi noir.' And they went, 'No, we don't want to do that. We're sick of that. We like the idea of lush.' I [said] 'Oh, I can do that. Lush noir, yes.' The other thing that influenced us was just life itself because we didn't have the budget to build a fake abattoir. We needed to find a real one that wasn't working, and that's actually not very easy because the ones that are working, they don't want an annoying film crew around and a lot of them have been demolished, the old ones. But we found one in Myrtleford that had only been closed for about three years and it just needed a little bit of a cleanup and it was perfect, not too big. This is supposed to be a small town and a relatively small meatworks, but even so, at their height, this meatworks had been 'processing' is the word they use - processing up to a thousand sheep a day, and I can't remember how many cows.

[00:17:43] Caris Bizzaca It's a crucial location to the story.

[00:17:47] Jocelyn Moorhouse Yeah, crucial, and that was in Myrtleford, [so] okay, well it looks like we're here, which luckily for us, it's green and forestry, which is sort of what I was hoping for, so that sorted that out.

[00:18:02] Caris Bizzaca On Savage River, can you talk a little bit about coming on as a director and collaborating with the writers on scripts that were already formed when you came on board?

[00:18:18] Jocelyn Moorhouse Yes, it is quite a different process when you come on and the scripts already there, but usually the director comes onto a show relatively early, as I did, so that there were early drafts, so what you do is you go through each script with the writers and there were three different writers, actually four on Savage River, and you just go through the scripts with them and say certain things like, 'I don't really understand this bit. Can you explain it more clearly in the dialogue' or 'wouldn't it be great to have another scene that would explore the relationship between these two characters?' So I just kind of go through and suggest stuff, and then those changes have to go through the writers and the producers. We usually all sit around together and you spend half a day on each script. The writers go off and do some changes, send them to you. If you feel like they could make it better or the way that you would like it to be, then great and if they still haven't quite licked it, you give them more notes. It's a back-and-forth-process, but obviously I'm drawn to the project because I like the script. Usually, I only get the first couple of scripts when I sign on, but then I'll have an idea what the storyline for the rest of the show is going to be. But they often don't have all the other scripts written yet, and so more of a say because I can then see the storyline really early on. But I don't influence them that much though, because usually they've worked for years to come up with what they've created, so I try to be very respectful of that.

[00:19:59] Caris Bizzaca And mystery as well, those the scripts, the kind of plotting is so technical, precise.

[00:20:07] Jocelyn Moorhouse Yes, so I didn't change the scripts too much, just here or there.

[00:20:12] Caris Bizzaca You said earlier how you've been working in Australian television primarily since The Dressmaker which is 2015, so, Wanted, Les Norton, Stateless, Wakefield, Troppo, now Savage River. What do you enjoy about working in Australian television?

[00:20:32] Jocelyn Moorhouse I enjoy being employed. (laughter)

[00:20:35] Caris Bizzaca Always a good thing.

[00:20:38] Jocelyn Moorhouse That's that was a bit facetious, but of course I enjoy that, but I also love the fact that you can do something and then it comes to air pretty quickly because in feature films you spend years developing them and then you spend years making them and trying to get them sold and seen that it's a much slower process, whereas in television you can work on something and it has an audience within months. For me, who just wants to tell stories to people and have them enjoy them and watch it, it's a faster process. Not that I love the speed of the shoot, I do not, it's really, really exhausting for everybody, and if I had more time, and I always say this to everybody, the actors, the producers, 'if we had more time, this would be better.' It all comes down to budget. You have to make it within a certain time period, and everybody does their absolute best to get it as good as it can be in a limited amount of time, so I'm very proud of this because I think it's really good.

[00:21:51] Caris Bizzaca So you've directed on a number of television projects. What about writing on television? I saw you had some credits on the Flying Doctors.

[00:22:04] Jocelyn Moorhouse I did, when I was a youngster, back in my twenties.

[00:22:09] Caris Bizzaca Television's changed a little bit?

[00:22:12] Jocelyn Moorhouse Well they wouldn't even give me a chance to direct back then because I just got out of film school.

[00:22:17] Caris Bizzaca Well, would you consider writing on television now?

[00:22:22] Jocelyn Moorhouse I am actually trying to write my own - I'm developing a project with Rosemary Blight [from] Goalpost Pictures, and we are trying to get this going, which is a sort of dark comedy about a woman who completely forgets who she is and how that affects her family and friends and how it forces secrets to be brought to the surface as she finally gets her memory back, so we're working on that, and I would write that and direct it. So that's my dream at the moment, is to write and direct something that's come from my weird subconscious.

[00:22:59] Caris Bizzaca And is it true that you're also in pre-production on another feature?

[00:23:05] Jocelyn Moorhouse Yes, it is true, yes. Amazingly, I'm in pre-production on a movie called The Fabulous Four, which stars Bette Midler, Susan Sarandon, Sissy Spacek and Megan Mullally. I'm totally thrilled about that because I love all those women. I can't wait. It's a comedy, so I'm thrilled.

[00:23:33] Caris Bizzaca And you have a co-writing credit on that and looking at your features that you've directed on, you've either co-written or written them, so like Proof, The Dressmaker, now The Fabulous Four. Why is that? Why do you like directing features that you have also had some writing involved?

[00:23:55] Jocelyn Moorhouse Well, it's usually because the producers ask me if I'd like to do a pass, so that's what happened. And the writers were fine with it, I basically came onto the project, talked to them about it because it's about women of a certain age and the original writers were very funny and had some great ideas, but what I felt that I could bring to it was the idea of a woman who's way past fifty, so, yes, I'm sixty-one. I thought I know what this needs because it's about women, some girlfriends that haven't seen each other in a long time getting back together again. There's all kinds of things that went wrong there, friendships and resentments but really deep down, they adore each other. They knew each other at college, and one of them is getting married again, and so they're forced together and have to resolve all those issues, and it's very funny. It's like bridesmaids for grandmas, so I found it irresistible. And then, of course, the actresses got involved and they had a million notes, and so I had to do another pass to address their notes. So that's what happened, I am a writer/director, so sometimes when I come on to a project, the producers will say, look, if you want to have a pass, please do. And I'll go, okay, if that's all right with the writers, I'd be thrilled to do that. But it's not a whole, huge change. It's just little things. Well big enough that I'll probably get a co-writing credit. I shouldn't have said just little things, no, there are some major things, too.

[00:25:31] Caris Bizzaca Well, you're bringing your experience and worldview to it, which I'm sure on the directing side also helps in terms of envisioning it then for the screen.

[00:25:41] Jocelyn Moorhouse It does and it helps when I talk to the actresses, because we have a lot in common. We've got grown up kids, we've gone through a lot of life experience, like you said, and I wanted to speak to that because I don't think there's enough storylines about women of that age group.

[00:25:56] Caris Bizzaca You mentioned the time commitment that's involved with features. You were saying this story resonated with you, is that something when feature film ideas come across your desk that you have to think about it, maybe harder knowing the time commitment?

[00:26:18] Jocelyn Moorhouse Oh, absolutely, if I read a script and it appeals to me, I also have to think, well, does it appeal that much that I'm willing to sacrifice possibly three years of my life to it? Because that's usually about how long it takes, if we're lucky. I've got some projects that I've been trying to get going for donkey's years but I haven't given up on them, so it turns out that sometimes the landscape for financing changes, sometimes people's tastes change, and it's hard to get things going, so the fact that this is actually going is a miracle, and I'm thrilled because it's a story I really want to tell. I have some girlfriends, dear friends, that I met when I was in college, and I love them, and it's great to be able to do a film that celebrates girlfriends that have been around that long.

[00:27:13] Caris Bizzaca And correct me if I'm wrong, so is it back in the US system?

[00:27:19] Jocelyn Moorhouse No, except we're filming it here. He's an independent producer, it's Southpaw [Entertainment] Productions. It's not a studio film.

[00:27:28] Caris Bizzaca Okay, and you mentioned before that you were writing a dark comedy, a TV series that you were working on, and I think about Muriel's Wedding [which] is obviously [an] iconic Australian comedy, but it is very dramatic, and then you think about The Dressmaker similarly walks this line between comedy and drama in a way that when people describe Australian comedies, they have this this quality to them, which seems quite tricky to actually nail. I was wondering if I could get your thoughts on that and trying to achieve that.

[00:28:12] Jocelyn Moorhouse It is tricky, The Dressmaker has a lot of the same kind of dark comedy because well, first of all, Rosalie's book, Rosalie Ham's book was very darkly comic. But I co-wrote The Dressmaker with P.J. Hogan, who made Muriel's Wedding, so we loved that aspect of the book, and we wanted to preserve it and also maybe go even a bit further. I think it is hard, but I think if it's actually the way you are as a person and the way you view life, it's easier. P.J. and I do view our lives as black comedy most of the time, because we've had some very funny and very dark things happen to us, and I think these days everybody probably views their life as a black comedy. It's hard because when you're trying to pitch it to people in finance, they often say, well, is this a comedy or is it a drama? And you give them examples of successful films that actually are both, and some people get it. But it's always a harder pitch, even though these days when I'm trying to pitch this project of mine called Empty, because basically she has no memories, so her brain is empty, also her womb is empty because she's just had a hysterectomy, so it's all related. I try to say, 'look at Fleabag' or 'look at I May Destroy You.' These are hilarious shows, but also incredibly sad at times, but really successful. Succession, very funny, but really tragic. I just try to make people realise they've already seen and enjoyed the kind of comedy I'm trying to make, you just may not have realised that's dark comedy. Get Shorty, that's mostly hilarious, but at times very sad. Better Call Saul, which I love, is both very, very funny, but it also could make you cry. So that's my favourite kind of drama, comedy-drama.

[00:30:19] Caris Bizzaca I've heard a lot of people describe comedy as the edit being so important for--

[00:30:26] Jocelyn Moorhouse --timing.

[00:30:27] Caris Bizzaca Yeah, I'm wondering with a dark comedy, how much do you think is on the page and how much is in the edit? Is it both?

[00:30:36] Jocelyn Moorhouse It's both, it has to be a good script. It has to be on the page, has to read like, this is going to be funny and sad, but you also have to choose actors who know how to do that kind of comedy, so it's casting, and then in the edit, yes, you don't want to muck with their timing, or you might want to fine tune it a bit. So, yes, it's all the way through you have to have that sensibility.

[00:31:05] Caris Bizzaca Generally with getting notes back, whether it's on a feature, whether it's on a TV series, I was wondering if you had any advice on just on getting notes.

[00:31:18] Jocelyn Moorhouse My favourite thing about post-production [laughs]. I think you have to remember that the people who are giving you notes, they did develop this project and they paid for it, so you have to respect their thoughts and most of the time, on the projects I've worked with, the notes haven't really upset me. If I have to cut something I love, that upsets me and I will let them know. I mean, without screaming at them to say, well, I just want you to know that I don't agree with that note, but I know that they have the final say, so if they want it, it'll go in. Or if they want to take it out, it'll go out. But I think that's all I can really do at this stage, because it's very rare for directors to have final cut, especially in television. You just don't. But what you can do is try and talk them into things. So that's what I try to do. I try to give them a very good reason for why they shouldn't cut it. Unless, of course they say, 'well, we have to cut ten minutes, Joce. That's just something that we can't change', and then I might say, 'well, can I cut something else? Can we do this together?' And you know what, usually they say, 'okay, let's figure it out together.' I think you just have to be willing - I mean if I'm advising other directors, you have to be willing to be reasonable and listen to their thoughts, try and work out why they don't like something or they want something back that you didn't like, and then either try and come up with a compromise or make what they've asked you to put back, try and make that itself better - more to your taste and liking. It's fine tuning towards the end of the notes sessions, but I think everybody has to respect each other and know how these things get made.

[00:33:15] Caris Bizzaca And to wrap up, we always end on a bit of an advice question, a broad advice question. What kind of advice would you have for people - it could be writing, it could be directing advice, producing advice - do you have any little titbits of advice for anyone out there listening?

[00:33:41] Jocelyn Moorhouse If you can write, lucky you, because you can create projects and then go and pitch them. If you can't, make friends with somebody who is willing to work with you because being a really good creative producer is also just as important if you find the right people to work with you. In terms of people just starting out trying to get things going, the world is different today than it was when I was a young filmmaker. You can make films or videos, whatever, you could make dramas and put them on Vimeo, draw people's attention to them. Even if you just create that Vimeo link for two or three producers, they will watch it. I still love watching short films, so I would try and get something made, even if it's cheapo. Because if the story's good and you have good angles - and you could even get good angles on an iPhone - do it and then upload it and get people to watch it. Enter it in festivals. Don't wait for somebody to give you permission, just do it. And the other thing would be, don't try to be someone you're not. If you find your voice, focus on developing your own voice because that's what you've got to offer in the film and television industry is: you. Nobody else is like you. You will tell a story in a way that nobody else does. But the other final bit of advice I always give to young writers, is choose the films you love or the TV shows and what works for you? And get hold of the screenplays and study them because you can learn a lot from reading good writing.

[00:35:24] Caris Bizzaca Well, thank you so much for your time today, really appreciate you joining us on the podcast and talking to us about your career and Savage River.

[00:35:32] Jocelyn Moorhouse Well, thank you for your interest.

[00:35:37] Caris Bizzaca That was director Jocelyn Moorhouse, and you can watch Savage River on ABC TV and ABC iview from September 4th. If you want to hear more from Jocelyn, you can check out her 2019 book, Unconditional Love: A Memoir of Filmmaking and Motherhood. Don't forget to subscribe to the fortnightly Screen Australian newsletter to keep up to date with new initiatives, opportunities, videos, articles and more. Thanks for listening.