INSIGHT: Rosemary Blight - Bucking the Digital Trend Down Under

Published on website: March 31, 2014
Categories: Q and A
Rosemary Blight. (Photo credit © Goalpost Pictures, all rights reserved.)
Chris O’Dowd, Deborah Mailman, Shari Sebbens, Jessica Mauboy, and Miranda Tapsell in a scene from The Sapphires. (Photo credit © Goalpost Pictures, all rights reserved.)

For more than 20 years, Rosemary Blight has been at the forefront of Australia’s independent film movement. As a producer with Goalpost Pictures, one of the country’s best-known independent production companies, Blight has had a hand in bringing more than two dozen projects to fruition, for both the big and small screens. She has worked with the likes of such talents as Tom Wilkinson, Joel Edgerton, Chris O’Dowd and Charlotte Gainsbourg. And she has been recognized for her creative abilities with a slate of awards, including the Australian Film Institute AACTA Award for Best Film for The Sapphires.

Here, Blight talks about moving an audience, letting story dictate capture medium, and getting in the way of Tom Wilkinson.

As a producer, what most attracts you to a project?
Ideally, what attracts me to a project is something where an audience will experience a world that is completely different for them. I want to move an audience — to make them laugh or cry or think.

At what point in the development process do you start thinking about the capture medium?
The discussion starts before pre-production, when you’re sitting with a director, you’ve chosen your DP, and together you’re looking at the material and asking: What does this material need?

Many say the film versus digital conversation is a purely economic discussion. What part do finances play in that decision for you specifically, and what are the other considerations you discuss when determining the appropriate medium for a project?
I’m actually not of the school where I think that digital is any cheaper than film. ... I think that you’ve got to look at what the story and style of the film demands. We look at the philosophy of the production, we talk to the DP, we talk about what we think the characters require, we talk about the look, and then we make our choices. Then we look at the budget and say, ‘Okay, now how are we going to make it work?’

My experience is that making a choice of film versus digital is the same choice as to whether you’re going to work in a studio or on location. It’s like a choice of character: Your capture forms the character of your film. So, if you’ve all decided that film is the way to go, you look at your budget and make choices around accomplishing that.

You opted for film on your two most recent projects, The Sapphires and Felony. Can you talk a little bit about how you came to this decision on each project?
The Sapphires was shot by Warwick Thornton. When we had the script almost ready to go, Warwick wanted to shoot it on film. It was a big feature film to shoot — there were lots of locations — but Warwick was most comfortable with film. It was never up for debate from that point. We were shooting in Vietnam, and literally sending rushes out to Bangkok every day.

There’s also a texture to film that you don’t get with digital.
Aside from Warwick saying, ‘Film is what I want,’ that was the other key. We were capturing the 1960s and we didn’t have a budget of $50 million to recreate everything, so we had to take some license. What the team achieved was incredible, but shooting on film just gave us that extra help to sell the period.

What about Felony? Why did you decide on film for that project?
We actually did a lot of camera testing for Felony with our DP Mark Wareham (ACS). We tested all the major digital formats that have emerged with a variety of lenses. We tried four or five different cameras, film versus the top-notch digital cameras. Matthew Saville, the director, was very open-minded about it. What we wanted was to make a grown-up, adult morality thriller. We wanted people to feel that they were watching something of great substance; something that was entertaining, but something that was a sophisticated piece of work. It’s an incredible script, and we didn’t want anything to get in the way of the great dialogue. I mean, we had Tom Wilkinson. Who wants to get in the way of Tom Wilkinson?

Felony is all about the performances, and the depth of film allowed those performances to be the focus. With Felony, I felt like I could sort of put my hand into the screen and feel it.