TV writers have not been acknowledged, says Lou director

Belinda Chayko

Writer/Director Belinda Chayko, who is completing her film Lou this week, says television writers have traditionally not received the acknowledgement they deserve for their creative contribution.

Chayko, who wrote the Australian Writers’ Guild award-winning telemovie Saved (2009), believes the recent Mini-Series and Telemovie Agreement between the AWG and SPAA is a good step towards improving the position of writers in the industry.

The agreement will see writers’ fees become a percentage of the production budget.

“A percentage recognises the writer as an absolutely key creative in the making of a film or television, and particularly in TV, which has been so producer-driven in the past and writers have not been as acknowledged as they need to be,” she said.

“It’s one of those things where a financial validation becomes an industry validation; these things go hand in hand and you can’t separate them. It means that writers are going to be taken very seriously in terms of their contribution,” explained Chayko.

The filmmaker is putting the finishing touches on her family drama Lou, about an 11-year old girl and her Alzheimer-inflicted grandfather, played by British star John Hurt. It was shot in NSW last year, and will be released by Kojo Pictures later in 2010.

Chayko is also developing the psychological horror film The Carrier with her Lou production partners Michael McMahon and Tony Eyres. It is based on an original screenplay by Sean Smith, and Chayko defines it as “kind of like The Shining, centred around a family and what happens to them when certain events take place”.

One of the benefits of working on a genre film is that financing does not revolve around its cast, and they won’t necessarily need famous names to produce the project, like they had to do with John Hurt and Lou.

Lou was initially conceived as a very low-budget film with an all-Australian cast, but they could not raise the funds and decided to look for a well-known actor in order to make it happen. Hurt’s salary took “a reasonable amount of the budget”, but Chayko believes it was well worth it.

“What we get back in terms of marketing by having him in the film is well-worth what you pay for an actor of his calibre. He was also the reason we managed to finance the film, and he will help our agent (Bankside) with international sales,” she said.

Lou will be shown to exhibitors in the coming weeks, and it will also go to major markets such as Cannes, San Sebastian and Toronto. Although an Australian release date has not been confirmed, Chayko believes there’s a “reasonable” audience for Lou.

“We’re in Mao’s Last Dancer/The Boys are Back territory. We’re not going to get weighed down by negativity,” she said.


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