Lou


Lou

LOU

STARRING JOHN HURT, EMILY BARCLAY and INTRODUCING LILY BELL-TINDLEY

Kojo Pictures is proud to announce the national release, on June 17, of the new Australian feature film LOU, starring John Hurt and Emily Barclay and introducing, in a remarkable first performance, Lily Bell-Tindley.

The national release on 17 June follows the world premiere of LOU as opening night film of the 2010 Dungog Film Festival in last week.

LOU, written and directed by Belinda Chayko, was filmed on location in the stunning cane fields surrounding Murwillumbah in northern NSW. Producers are Helen Bowden, Michael McMahon, Tony Ayres and Belinda Chayko; Executive Producer is Liz Watts.

The film tells a tender story about the relationship between 11-year-old LOU (Lily Bell-Tindley) and her grandfather (John Hurt). Not long after Lou's father walks out of her life, her irascible and befuddled grandfather crashes in. But when Doyle comes to stay, Lou discovers, against all her expectations, the healing power of love.

Eleven-year-old Lou's life was instantly turned upside down when her father walked out on hermother and two sisters ten months earlier.

Feeling abandoned, she copes by building a tough shell around her heart . afraid to let anyonehurt her again. Lou blames her mother for her father's departure and refuses to let her get close.Life suddenly becomes more interesting when her estranged grandfather moves in to thefamily's ricketty, rented home. Doyle brings chaos with him, not least because he is ill andbefuddled . living largely in the past.

In his confused state, Doyle mistakes his granddaughter for his long departed wife, showeringher with attention in an attempt to win her affections. Lou, intrigued, plays along with thefantasy, using her bond with Doyle against her mother.

As the game progresses, Lou begins to experience genuine care from Doyle. Her tough shellbegins to be chipped away and Lou ultimately understands what it is to be loved - in the mostunexpected of circumstances.

LOU
Starring: John Hurt, Emily Barclay, Lily Bell Tindley
Director: Belinda Chayko
Rated: M
Running time: 82mins
www.louthemovie.com


About the Production

LOU is a powerful emotional drama about the tender relationship that develops between Lou, the11-year-old daughter of a floundering single mother, and her grandfather who, suffering theconfusions of Alzheimer's disease, unexpectedly lands in her life.

The film introduces, in an astonishing first performance, Lily Bell-Tindley in the eponymous role andstars charismatic British actor John Hurt as her grandfather.

Their story is set in the lush cane field country of northern NSW, with spectacular dormant volcanoMt Warning as a backdrop - one of the most beautiful places in Australia, although rarely seen onfilm.

Belinda began writing the script while still living in Sydney but moved its urban setting to the countryafter she resettled in Murwillumbah. Over time she came to appreciate the remarkable beauty ofthe area and began to consider the opportunities it presented as a film location.

"Films about struggling families tend to be set in grey tower blocks and other drab surroundings - somuch so it's become a cliché. In this region, there's poverty yet people are living in physically verybeautiful surroundings. I think that creates a tension that I was keen to work with in the film,"Belinda says.

"The other benefit is that we have ended up with some truly beautiful images which suit what Ibelieve is a very romantic story. I wanted to create an idealised world in which these characterscould exist - could dream their dream - and the landscape helps do that."

For John Hurt, filming in Australia was an opportunity to return to a country with which he has hadlong ties. He had close family members living in Australia for many years and had enjoyed verymuch making the film The Proposition in the outback in 2005.

Securing Hurt for the role of Doyle was key to the successful financing of LOU says Tony Ayres, whoproduced the film with Matchbox Pictures partners Helen Bowden and Michael McMahon."Because the film is a relationship drama, the casting is everything. John has such a fineinternational reputation and is a very sympathetic actor. We felt he would bring gravitas to theproject which would give international buyers faith in the film, and we knew he would be absolutelyright for what is a sensitive role," Tony Ayres says.

"John read the script and loved it. He found it very moving."

Belinda Chayko says it was a 'red letter day' when John Hurt said 'yes': "John was perfect for therole," she says. "I've always admired the way he embraces a character's vulnerability and that wasimportant for the character of Doyle, who is struggling with significant losses."

"He was incredible to work with and has given a beautiful performance."

Belinda's inspiration to write LOU was two-fold: observing an uncle ill with Alzheimer's and meetinga young girl in foster care.

"I was struck by the pain and the loss my uncle felt through the process of the disease. It was painfulfor him because he was aware, at times, that he was losing a sense of his identity. It was like he wasgrieving that. But he was also able to give us something - through his parallel reality he was able toshine a light on our reality at times, to cut through the crap, which was liberating," Belinda says."The young girl I met had built a hard shell around herself, to protect herself from the hurts she'dfelt in the past. I started to think about what it would be like for a girl who never allows anyone tobreak through that shell, what kind of future would she have? Or, what might change for her if, at akey point in her life, she is able to experience being loved by someone unconditionally andprofoundly.

"I didn't realise I'd written a film about the healing power of love until I was quite a long way intothe script. But that's what it is - both Doyle and Lou give each other the gift of love. For Doyle itheals the hurts of the past, for Lou it opens up her heart for the future."

Producer Michael McMahon was struck by the tenderness and beauty of Belinda's script, as well asits honesty: "It maintained those qualities throughout the various drafts. It was always beautifullywritten. What was so wonderful was the journey of the girl - how, through the arrival of hergrandfather, she learns there is love and warmth and that people can care for each other. It's a veryuplifting story."

With John Hurt in place, the role of the young mother was offered to New Zealand actress EmilyBarclay, acclaimed for her performances in films such as Suburban Mayhem and In My Father's Denand the television drama The Silence.

"Emily Barclay was a revelation. She's a fantastic actor and I've always loved her performances, but Icouldn't imagine how much she would be able to bring another dimension to the character of Rhiathat is so unexpected and yet just so completely right," producer Helen Bowden says. "There wasalways a level of worry, leading up to filming, that audiences would judge Rhia harshly. Belinda wasalways concerned to ameliorate that kind of judgement of the character which is exactly whatEmily's performance achieves."

Last to be cast was the role of Lou.

"The character was written at a very fluid moment of life, when she is just on the cusp of puberty. Sowe had to cast very close to the beginning of filming because six - 12 months in the life of an 11 or12-year-old can make a phenomenal difference," Belinda Chayko says. "That put an enormousamount of pressure on us to cast in a very short period of time. Our wonderful casting director,Nikki Barrett, always assured me that we would find Lou; though there were moments when I wasterrified that filming would start without our lead actress. Nikki's confidence was a great help."Amazingly, we discovered Lily just down the road. I first saw her at an audition at Byron Bay. Sheperformed well but it wasn't the audition that really grabbed me - it was something more about herattitude as she walked back out the door. I saw something of Lou in that walk and we recalled her onthat basis. It was in subsequent try-outs that we discovered the depth of Lily's ability as aperformer."

Producer Tony Ayres says: "Lily Bell-Tindley is a find. She is magnificent in this role and we're allvery excited about her as an actor and this film as a vehicle to launch what we hope will be a greatfilm career, if that is what Lily chooses to do."

John Hurt says Lily's maturity and poise at only 12 was remarkable. "Working with child actors isalways a gamble, but the gamble paid off! She's a very bright 12-year-old and most receptive andeager to learn."

A sense of yearning and nostalgia runs through LOU. For John Hurt, it's felt through the characterDoyle's memories of his life at sea and the solace that Lou brings him. "In his diminished mind anddiminishing mind, she becomes the image of the love of his life and that is a solace to him."That sense also informed the choices of production designer Pete Baxter. Belinda Chayko initiallydiscussed with him a palette of greens, golds and pinks, evocative of sunset over the cane fields."I went off and did some research and came back to Belinda and DOP Hugh Miller with a whole lot ofphotographs that had been processed in a way that gave a very nostalgic feeling and a real softness.They were like old photographs and that really appealed to Belinda because so much of the film isabout memory."

The film is set primarily in a Queenslander house (weatherboard house on stilts) where Rhia and herchildren live, and the surrounding cane fields. Miraculously, the locations survived catastrophic andunseasonal floods, which hit the region just before filming began. The region is renowned for itsrainfall - and hence its lush green rainforest.

Producer Helen Bowden recalls the mayhem: "Our runner arrived at John Hurt's house with scriptamendments, just as his street was being evacuated and he was about to be taken away with otherresidents to sleep on a mattress at the local technical college!

"Our timing for filming was driven by the financing but also when the sugar cane is burnt, as wewanted to capture some of that for the film - and we had been told it was the dry time of the year.We had four perfect weeks of pre-production and I think I had a false sense of security that perhapsit was just going to be fine. But a week out, before shooting, the rain started. At one point, as wellas saving John Hurt from evacuation, we couldn't get to our main location house because of thefloods, we couldn't get our lead actress out of her house to come to rehearsals, the door had blownoff the rehearsal room and we had two days without power in the production office. It was chaos, itwas real chaos. Then, just before we started shooting, the floods went down. Although we did havetwo weeks of rain that followed which was pretty stressful, a flood during the shoot would havebeen disastrous so ...we were lucky."

Miraculously, the rain also stopped for the summery beach scenes and a spectacular late afternoonsun dropped behind Mt Warning, casting incredible golden light over the cane fields, on the dayBelinda filmed a pivotal moment in the story when Lou dances unselfconsciously against the settingsun.

Cinematographer Hugh Miller says he treated the landscape like another character in the film. "Forthe children in the film, the environment is such a huge part of their lives so we scheduled certainscenes at certain times of the day so, for example, the sun would be in exactly the right place. Thesoft colour palette meant we decided to shoot a relatively low contrast look, which is done partlythrough grading but also with filters, which gives the piece real gentleness," Hugh says.

LOU was shot digitally, enabling long takes not interrupted by changing film magazines, importantwhen working with children. In the story Rhia has three children. Lou has two younger sisters,Leanne and Lani, played by sisters Charlie-Rose and Eloise MacLennan.

Much of the film was shot hand-held, another creative and technical decision influenced by thechildren, Hugh explains. "Belinda and I liked the idea of a hand-held look and it also had thetechnical advantage that it wasn't so important if the kids didn't hit their marks. It was great too inconfined spaces, such as the main house location."

Hugh shot LOU on a Sony digital F35 using film lenses: "We used old lenses because we liked thequality and the softness they gave. The way we shot the film was great for faces so worked verywell, particularly for scenes with Lou and Doyle together.

"I loved the script when I read it and thought, photographically, it should be a real exploration of thecharacters. It had a simplicity and an honesty in its story telling and that really appealed to me as acinematographer."

While the Lou/Doyle relationship is central, producer Helen Bowden also believes audiences willrespond to the changing dynamic of the relationship between Lou and her young mother Rhia."At the beginning of the film they are locked into a tension that can't quite resolve. Lou's headinginto puberty and she's angry with her mother, while her mother never really had an adolescence andso at times is a great mother and at other times really just wants to have the teenage-hood that shenever had. The relationship between Lou and Doyle is a catalyst for Lou and Rhia to realise that theyare a family, that they do love each other and that there is a way forward.

"I think that is an experience that's common to many families and is therefore very moving. Belinda,Tony, Michael and I set out to make a film that made people laugh and made people cry, and, withthis amazing cast, we've got performances which do that."

LOU is a MATCHBOX PICTURES production, produced with the financial assistance of Screen NSWthrough its production investment program and the Regional Filming Fund, Film Victoria, the SouthAustralian Film Corporation and Screen Australia. Bankside Films is the international sales agent andKojo Pictures is Australian/New Zealand distributor.


THE CAST

JOHN HURT as DOYLE

John Hurt, born in 1940 in Derbyshire, is one of the most acclaimed actors of his generation. Johnstudied acting at RADA and for nearly half a century, he has acted in numerous international film,television and theatre productions.

Hurt has won Golden Globe (Midnight Express) and BAFTA Awards (The Elephant Man, MidnightExpress, The Naked Civil Servant) and was honoured with two Academy Award nominations for hisperformances in The Elephant Man and Midnight Express.

In addition to winning three BAFTA Awards, he has also been nominated for The Field, Alien and 10Rillington Place. Hurt has also won a Special Teddy at the Berlin International Film Festival (AnEnglishman in New York) and was nominated for an Australian Film Institute Award for BestSupporting Actor for The Proposition, his first Australian film.

Hurt initially came to prominence for his role as Richard Rich in the 1966 film A Man for All Seasons.Other major film performances include Alien, Nineteen Eighty]Four, Indiana Jones and the Kingdomof the Crystal Skull, Hellboy, Hellboy II, Scandal, Shooting Dogs, the Harry Potter series , The Hit, V forVendetta, Love and Death on Long Island and 44h Chest.


LILY BELL]TINDLEY as LOU

The leading role in LOU is the first on]screen performance for Lily Bell]Tindley, who lives with herfamily on the north coast of New South Wales, close to where the film was shot. Lily is from amusical family and has been performing in school plays and studying drama for several years. Lilywas discovered by LOU casting director Nikki Barrett just weeks before production began.


EMILY BARCLAY as RHIA

Emily Barclay burst to international prominence in the acclaimed New Zealand feature In MyFatherfs Den, for which she was named the Most Promising Newcomer at the 2005 BritishIndependent Film Awards. Emily followed that performance with the Australian feature SuburbanMayhem, winning Best Actress Awards at the 2006 Australian Film Institute Awards and the InsideFilm (IF) Awards. Emily starred with Richard Roxburgh in the television drama special The Silenceand with Suburban Mayhem co]star Michael Dorman in David Caesarfs most recent feature filmPrime Mover. In 2009, Emily made her stage debut with Company B for Gethsemane, alongside DanWyllie and Rhys Muldoon. Most recently, Emily lent her voice to the animated feature Legends ofThe Guardians and returned to the stage in the highly acclaimed season of That Face for Company Bwith Susie Porter and Marcus Graham. Emily was born in the UK but grew up in New Zealand.



MORE