Rosie Lourde: Directing is on the Menu

September 24, 2020
The actor, producer, film administrator turns feature director with Romance on the Menu, which premiered on Netflix.

We have been keenly tracking the career trajectory of Rosie Lourde, an actor who has transitioned behind the camera first as a producer (she both acted in and produced the groundbreaking web series Starting From Now), then as an Online Production Investment Manager at Screen Australia, and more recently as a director.

How did you come into producer Steve Jaggi’s (Rip Tide, Back of the Net) orbit?

It actually all started back in 2014. I was producing my first ever project, and I was way out of my depth. I had no idea what I was doing. I met Jaggi at a networking event and approached him about the project I was working on at the time. That was a feature called Skin Deep and I asked if he’d mentor me on it and come on board as executive producer. We started building a friendship and that evolved, and the roles changed obviously when he wanted to direct Chocolate Oyster, in which I acted. Throughout the time we’d spend together, he’d ask if I ever wanted to direct. I directed some stuff in theatre back in the day, but hadn’t really thought that directing for screen was going to be an option for me, to be honest, even though I’d always wanted to. And then the stars just happened to align. At the end of 2018, he sent me an email asking what I was up to and if I’d be interested in looking at a script and it happened to be Romance on the Menu, so I jumped at it.

You’ve produced, acted, you’ve been an arts administrator. How do you switch hats?

With great difficulty. I’ve been reflecting on that a lot, particularly across the lifespan of Romance on the Menu. The different understandings of the process that I’ve gotten from being different roles. Obviously as a director, I’m actor first, I’m all about character. And my skillset is understanding emotions and the portrayal of those emotions and that tension line between the chemistry and fully driving the story forwards. That was what my biggest skillset coming to the table.

But also, my film school was essentially producing a low budget web series. And in knowing that, and knowing that we were making Romance on the Menu for a certain price, that in looking at the script, I needed to use that part of my brain, the low budget producing brain, to figure out how we could not waste money and just make sure all of the money was maximised with screen time. So, we didn’t have too many location changes, and we didn’t have too many erroneous speaking roles and all that kind of stuff.

And then also, with being an administrator, the number of hours that I spent reading applications, reading scripts, talking with filmmakers, assessing projects, really, really helped me clarify the Venn diagram of what low budget producing is, and what engaging storytelling is.

I was actually really lucky that this project isn’t my baby. I care about it a lot, 100%. I almost feel like an Auntie to this project. Someone else birthed it, and then working with them, I got to help shape it and craft it. I spent a lot of time working on the script with the writing team because particularly, it was originally written for America. And when it got translated to being in Australia, we had an opportunity to really reimagine what that journey looked like.

And so, Christine Luby, the first AD and I, we did lots of initial location scouting to find where the magical locations are going to be. And then, retrospectively edited the script for those locations, just tweaking to be more specific to the landscape of Shorncliffe in Brisbane and bringing that to life. Because it wasn’t my baby, I was able to see it more objectively. And I was able to be just that little bit more practical with it when push came to shove.

You need to be open to opportunities in this industry, and to understand what your strengths are, but also be really clear about where the holes are in your skillsets and where that needs to be supplemented by other people who just know more or have more experience. And that’s been my ethos the entire time. What can I bring to the table? What will I need support with and taking it a step at a time.

Is directing something that you’ll be pursuing in the future?

100%. This is going to sound a bit silly, but I was surprised at how much I liked being in charge. My filmmaking career up until now has not been conventional and I don’t think that it’s going to be moving forward. I think I’m going to chop and change and be quite eclectic and move genres quite a fair bit. I will prioritise female-led stories. And for me, my biggest connecting point with any story that I go to or that I want to give my time and my energy to is: how much do they lean into the magic of courage and the support of community. With that in mind, it could be anything. I’ve got a horror film, which is part of the Deadhouse Dark anthology. To have a horror movie and a rom-com simultaneously is pretty bizarre, but I get the feeling that range might be indicative of what I’m going to do next. It could be anything and all that in between.

So, you don’t mind everyone asking you lots of questions all the time?

No, I loved that. But also for me, the magic of story happens in the electricity between artists, that space between filmmakers, where I offer a thing and the other person comes back with an offer that next levels that thing that I was offering. And just the vortex that happens when that happens on a film set, when it’s a collaboration where people are on the same page and vulnerably giving over their creative insight and their inspiration. I just love that. That was hypnotising for me.

How was your experience working with your leading lady Cindy Busby; a lot of people really love her as an actress.

And I know why. She’s extraordinary. She’s just magnetic. She has this quality around her, which is so alluring and grounded and vibrant and just stunning. I remember the first time that we Skyped actually, she’d just gotten out of the gym, she’d chucked on a fresh top and she was just glowing, and it was really clear that all I needed to do was get out of her way, and she was going to just bring such beautiful light and energy into the character and to the story. And that she’d just carry it. Obviously, I’d watched a whole range of her movies before that as well and knew that she had incredible skills and craft and technique and all of those things to back it up. But, really, all I needed to do was give her a pretty backdrop and some nice lights and point the camera in her direction and we’d be fine.

How did you study up on the rom-com aspect of the film?

I’ve consumed rom-coms my entire life, but this one sits more on the rom side. Obviously, having to think about what it was that I was going to be bringing to the story that was unique and how I could make it special for myself was really important to me. It’s that fear of being vulnerable and that fear of taking the risk of falling in love when you think that you’ve got everything under control and you’ve actually built your life around having things under control. And the ironic timing of it was that I was actually going through a horrendous breakup when Steve first sent me the script. I know we shouldn’t use art as therapy, but it was a really interesting opportunity to look at the struggle that I was going through and the fears that I was facing around possibly stepping back into the arena of putting myself out there and thinking, ‘what would that be like for these characters? What would those fears be that would come up for them?’

Romance on the Menu is streaming now on Netflix.


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