Australian filmmaker, Talia Zucker, is one of just eight directors selected for the prestigious Directing Workshop for Women at the American Film Institute – and the only Australian in the cohort this year. The yearlong program, which first launched in 1974, is committed to increasing the number of women working as directors in film and TV.
FilmInk spoke with Zucker as she prepared to launch a crowdfunding campaign for the short film project she will make through the program.
“It was a lengthy selection process, as these things tend to be,” Zucker says from Los Angeles, where she is in the preliminary stages of the program. “We submit with a project and were grilled by about 15 panellists on how we visualise the film and why we’re making it.”
Zucker’s film, Child, follows a young woman from a Hasidic community who is struggling with motherhood after the birth of her first child. “It’s not so much of a religious film as it is a universal story about how hard it can be to be a new mum, and the pressures and expectations placed on women to excel at this role in life.”
Zucker, who grew up Jewish, explains that she has long been interested in making a film which explores the ultra-orthodox Jewish community. “This is not a story about a religious person wanting to leave the community, it’s more of an internal, observational story from within that world.
“It’s a world that is rarely seen on screen, particularly through the eyes of a woman,” said Zucker. “My hope is that by telling a universal story about the struggles of motherhood, it helps bridge a gap in our understanding of a culture that exists somewhat on the periphery of society.”
Child will mark the young filmmaker’s second directorial endeavour.
Previously, Zucker’s credits were predominantly in acting but the budding filmmaker has also set her sights on conquering other crafts. Her feature-length script In Vitro, which she co-wrote with fellow Australians Will Jaymes and Tom McKeith, was selected for the 2016 Sundance Screenwriters Lab and has received development support from Screen Australia. The filmmaker is excited by what lies ahead for In Vitro, with the team’s sights set on production late this year.
But for now – her focus is on the workshop. “The program doesn’t officially start until May but we are expected to raise the full budget of our films ourselves. They want us to get comfortable reaching out to people – because you do so much of that as an independent filmmaker – it’s as much about learning producing skills as it is a directing program.”
Recent participants of the program include Katrelle Kindred, who premiered her DWW short film, War Paint, in the shorts section at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Class of 2017 alum Courtney Hoffman will be adapting her DWW short The Good Time Girls (starring Laura Dern) into a feature film, and has separately signed on to direct Ruthless for Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners.