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20 September 2017
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Danielle MacLean, writer/director Queen of Hearts

Danielle talks about the latest Indigenous short feature.

Why did you choose to make a short feature?

Somehow I thought making a short feature was safer if not easier than trying to write and direct a feature film. It seemed to be the next step from a short although I don't think it is necessarily the last step before a feature. I guess it was just a middle ground where I could test my skills as both a writer and director.

What interested you about the length? What can short features offer that shorts and features can't?

I think a short feature gives you a chance to expand the skills you gain from a short film without jumping straight into a feature. The fact that many Australian directors only get one chance to direct a feature film in their careers makes you realise that you need to be certain that you are ready for a feature film. I think the short feature is a good testing ground.

How did you settle on the narrative for the film?

The narrative for Queen of Hearts began with my own personal experience of loss when I was 12 years old. Looking back on the experience it made me realise how death can affect and change the whole family unit. Even though we are often told death is a part of life it doesn't get much easier to accept. As a child death seems to hold a lot more mystery and fear and I was interested in exploring these themes.

What's your film about?

Queen of Hearts is about a young Aboriginal girl, Penny, who is trying to come to terms with losing her Nana.

How important was casting?

The casting for Queen of Hearts was quite challenging as many of the key roles are children. This meant that quite a few of the roles were played by non-trained actors. I spent a lot of time going to schools and testing young children. Eventually we cast Kirsty McDonald as 'Penny' the lead role. I first spoke to Kirsty at the Gap Youth Centre in Alice Springs. She saw me with the camera and came over to ask what we were doing. Her enthusiasm was there from the beginning and she maintained it for most of the shoot.

As a filmmaker how has making a short feature given you the confidence to continue working in film?

A short feature has given me to opportunity to work with a fantastic crew and I think this along with the amount of time you get to spend on set is definitely an advantage.

What are your feature plans for the film? How is it going in festivals?

As Queen of Hearts was only recently finished its first audiences have been as part of the 50 Minutes From Home festival. We have received some very postive feedback. We are in the process of sending it out to festival so only time will tell how it will be received.

Queen of Hearts screens on SBS in November.

Queen of Hearts