A Little Womance

Australian playwright and screenwriter Stephen Vagg and his wife, director Louise Alston, have teamed up again for Jucy

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Australian playwright and screenwriter Stephen Vagg and his wife, director Louise Alston, have teamed up again for Jucy, a new film about the payoffs and pitfalls that riddle modern relationships. The film has been described as "womantic" (the female equivalent of a "bromance") - it has the sentiment and trajectory of a romantic comedy, but it's about finding friends, not romance.

Vagg and Alston are the creative team behind the indie Australian comedy, All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane. Jucy will be the second installment in what will hopefully be a trilogy of quarter-life-crisis themed films. Jucy is a subtly crafted script examining the suburban status quo, and the relationships that create it: "It's about the changing nature of relationships in the 21st century, and in particular the intense bonds that can form between platonic couples. It deals with friendships with emotional benefits and how they can be more fulfilling - and intense - than ‘proper' relationships," says Alston.

Vagg and Alston's first feature film, All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane, had a long, evolving life. It began as a screenplay, but Vagg then chose to turn it into a play at the University of Queensland's Cement Box Theatre in 2000, before reshaping it back into a screenplay. The film went on to Australia-wide screenings in 2006 and received significant indie acclaim, receiving an AFI nomination and winning the Audience Award at the London Australia and NatFilm Festivals. Sunrise Film Distribution recently bought the Danish rights to the film after four sold-out screenings at the NatFilm Festival in Copenhagen. The natural and subtle comedy, combined with the honest and relatable treatment of human relationships, could steer Jucy on a similarly glowing course.

 “It is easier to make films set in suburbia on a low budget because you don’t have to spend money on costumes and sets and you can shoot in your own house!”

Jackie and Lucy - Jucy - are twenty-something girls who aren't doing too much too fast. They're best friends who enjoy smoking pot and video games, and their friends and family don't approve of their slovenly day-to-day existence and constantly pressure them to strive for more. But in reaching for more, they may lose the precious things they already have.

Vagg's script work could be described as naturalistic comedy - the laughs and craftsmanship are juxtaposed with a familiar setting and underplayed characters, making the audience a fly on the wall witness to what feels like a very real scenario. Vagg's scripts are designed to be humorous, relatable and makeable. "I guess you could call them a look at the world around me, at what I know - which is, admittedly, suburbia," he explains. "It is easier to make films set in suburbia on a low budget because you don't have to spend money on costumes and sets and you can shoot in your own house!"

The script began as an Alston brainchild, based on her observations of the friendship between the film's lead actresses, Francesca Gasteen and Cindy Nelson, whilst they were performing in All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane, in which they had supporting roles. Unlike Vagg's last screenplay, Jucy has been a highly collaborative scripting process. Alston developed the original treatment, and then brought in actors from All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane. The actors were asked to develop their own characters through improvisation to assist Vagg with the dialogue. Gasteen and Nelson were also brought in on script development. 

Kelly Chapman has come on board the Jucy train as producer. Chapman's background is broad spectrum, but she has demonstrated a particular talent for digital entertainment, producing Find 815, the on-line spin-off of the TV show Lost. In Chapman's suitcase, she's packed Steve Kearny and Chris Adams of Participant Pictures, bringing them into the Jucy project as executive producers. With the Pacific Film and Television Commission contributing $US32,000, the Vagg-Alston-Chapman team have enough funds to start shooting, and hope that more funding will be available for post-production.

On reviewing All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane, At The Movies' David Stratton said: "The film is very nicely written, and there's an honesty about it. There's a truthfulness about the way people behave that I found very appealing. I just believe these characters." The same honest and truthful writing and direction has been brought to Jucy, with the hope of producing a similarly empathetic yet funny work.

Picture Caption: Producer Kelly Chapman (left) and director Louise Alston on the first day’s shoot of Jucy.

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