Sparkles is a Western Australian short film screening as part of Flickerfest’s Best Of Australian Shorts program at Camelot Outdoor Cinema on Thursday, February 25. Filmed in Outback WA, it tells the story of a
30-something-year-old Down syndrome woman who runs away from a small country town, heads on a journey to the city and makes an unlikely friendship with an Outback Drag Queen on the way. BRAYDEN EDWARDS spoke to Producer Cody Greenwood to find out how in giving a voice to those often not heard enough in society, the film teaches us not to be afraid to celebrate who we are.

Congratulations on the screening of this film as part of Flickerfest, how long has it been in the works for?

Sparkles was funded through Screenwest’s Elevate 70 short film grant. We received the funding in April 2019 and filmed in July 2019. Although it was a short period, it was an intense development period whereby we were location scouting, casting, rehearsing and working with our heads of department.

Where did you go to actually film this movie? And what was it that made that a fitting location?

The film follows Courtney (Tina Fielding) as she leaves her past behind, and runs away from a small country town towards the city. We wanted the small country town to be a character in the film, and initially we thought we would shoot in Kalgoorlie. However as we drove out there for our location scout, we stopped in the town of Southern Cross and fell in love with the local pub and with the wonderful community.

We filmed our exteriors in this location and all of our interiors were filmed in locations around Perth, such as the Indian Ocean Hotel, Kalamunda Hotel and Percy Flints. The final scene takes place at Gull Karragullen. The lovely woman who owns the Gull station, Maz, has kindly offered her location to many filmmakers over the years. She is fabulous!

In your own film career, how is this different from what you have put your hand to before? And what was the experience you will remember most about it?

Sparkles is a unique project on and off the screen. I had never worked on a short film that had spent so much time in development. Jacqueline originally started working on Sparkles as a mentor to Tina through DADAA (Disability in the Arts, Disadvantages in the Arts, Australia). Her goal was to progress Tina’s story development and guide her in writing a short screenplay.

This mentorship took place over five months, starting in July 2018. This long lead time allowed Jacqueline and Tina to develop a strong working relationship and by the time I came on board, I knew this was going to be something amazing. My favourite experience of working on the film, was probably these initial days with Tina, Jacqueline and I, as we took the script and starting to work out how to make it come to life on the screen. It was a wonderful development process and I feel honoured to have been a part of it.

With such a unique storyline and setting for a film, how did the team go about recruiting the right actors for the roles? And what was it about the stars in the movie that made them a great fit?

Jacqueline had cast Gary Cooper as Diamond before she even met him. They had a conversation on the phone and she knew he was perfect for the role. Gary and Tina worked tremendously hard during rehearsals, putting in more time than what is standard on a short film. By the time we came to filming, Gary and Tina had developed an incredible bond and I hope this is reflected in the final film.

The film also introduces audiences to a diverse range of characters, and in a sense, diverse actors too. Did this film feel like it was recognising the importance of such voices being heard?

Absolutely. Given the subject matter of the film, diverse casting was of the utmost importance to our whole team, and Jacqueline went above and beyond to reflect this on screen. Three of our main cast were Indigenous (Gary Cooper, Bruce Denny, Siria Kickett) and we were so lucky to have cast such talented actors for this film. Then of course, we have our star Tina Fielding who has the living disability Down Syndrome and identifies as LGBQTI+.

These are the voices that need to be heard and these are the faces that we need to be seeing on screen. I hope that people watching this film can identify themselves in these characters and that Australian cinema will continue to celebrate diverse voices and faces.

What is the one thing you hope people will take away from this film after watching it?

Sparkles is a celebration of our differences and I hope people walk away from the film proud of their differences.

What’s next for yourself and the team behind the film? Are there any more upcoming projects we can keep an eye out for?

Our whole team from Sparkles has a new series in development so watch this space! Since Sparkles, Tina has participated in the Different Lens series and has a slate of projects in development. Jacqueline is also currently working on a new documentary series and continuing her role as mentor in the film industry I have a few projects that are due to be released this year. Under The Volcano, which is a feature music documentary about The Beatles’ producer Sir George Martin and his Carribean Studio, is due to premiere at SXSW film festival in March 2021. I will also be releasing a LGBQTI+ series titled Girl Like You, which has been co-directed by Frances Elliott and Samantha Marlowe.