Premiering as part of this year’s Mardi Gras Film Festival is a locally produced work unlike any other.
The Greenhouse details a family who some years ago witnessed the death of one of their mothers, while three children have moved away, one daughter, Beth, still languishes at her family home with her surviving mother. On the eve of their mother Ruth’s 60th birthday and a family reunion a vivid dream entices Beth out onto the property, where she discovers a greenhouse within which she slips into a past where their dead mother is still alive, yet in this paradise, not all is what it seems.
“I started developing The Greenhouse after a mentor asked me ‘what made me tick’ and what I genuinely cared about. I had never been asked that question before or never really seen my work as the conduit for that stuff. I thought my films needed to be entertaining and genre, particularly for long form you need to be saying something and it needs to be something you have felt passionate about for years,” The Greenhouse writer and director Thomas Wilson-White tells Star Observer.
Having for some time created short films, the young filmmaker decided it was time to embark on creating a feature length film. The Greenhouse is nothing short of a spectacular debut, and one which draws heavily on his own heartbreak and personal experience.
“I just couldn’t imagine my life without my mums. One of them had been diagnosed with cancer at that point and it made me so emotional when I thought about it, what my life would be like without them, and that’s the genesis of the film. I wanted to explore and play around with time in this story, I thought it would have been more science fiction, but it’s much more pulled back but in a really cool way. I’m really proud in how it came about.
“You don’t realise you are doing something that there are no real touch stones for until you are doing it and suddenly every conversation you are having is with people questioning the integrity of the concept and how you are going to pull it off. I think that can read as naivety or an inability to pull off a concept. It felt like we were doing something for the first time, and in some ways, we were.”
“I wanted to avoid answering those more obvious questions that audiences might have about an alternative family, and how they came to be this family unit. Growing up in an alternative family, the first question out of people’s mouths when they find out I had two mums is how I was created. I wanted to avoid that being something that you are given to early in the film, and really you don’t get those answers. Any other person from a nuclear family is not going to have that pressure and I didn’t want to have to answer those questions myself.”
Of course, any film as ambitious and breathtaking as The Greenhouse, simply could not have been created without some form of professional support, which is where the Queer Screen Completion fund stepped in. Since 2015, this program has continued to see a number of quality Australian queer films come to fruition including Unsound which has been recently released to critical acclaim. On what the support of the Queer Screen Completion Fund meant for the development of the film, producer and lifelong friend and collaborator of Wilson-White, Lizzie Cater explained.
“Mardi Gras in 2018, gave us a grant when we had a rough cut off the film, but there was quite a lot of work to do. But we went to Cannes and took it to the international market there, and were able to set up a whole bunch of amazing meetings. I think that that really progressed the life of the film, we got some amazing critical feedback, and the reaction was unanimously positive. The film is what is now because of that experience. We are so lucky to have Mardi Gras in our corner, and they had the most beautiful reaction to it. As independent filmmakers we survive off that.”
“Last year was really scary in some ways, we were finishing the film in lockdown skyping sessions with our actors all across the world, with our sound designer in Brisbane who we had never met. From finishing the film, the pathway from there to an audience was under a lot of scrutiny, to be honest I was freaking out about if we had been very unlucky with the cinemas closed and if the only films to survive were to be big Hollywood films. But we have been really lucky, we have a festival circuit lined up. Once you have looked into the abyss, every opportunity we are getting now is truly amazing, it’s a really exciting time, people are coming back to cinemas with vengeance.”
“It was a baptism by fire,” Cater adds. “But we are in a privileged position in Australia, we were really lucky to be given that intense period last year of being able to finish it and concentrate on it single mindedly, and I think there will be a real revolution of how we make art and make cinema.”
Pausing for a brief moment, Wilson-White concludes by saying, “This is genuinely a huge part of my heart, and I hope people enjoy it and take themselves on a journey and pause for self-reflection at the end of it. I think it will elicit a real response in audiences, but I really don’t know how it will land until that first screening, but I honestly do believe in it with my whole heart.”
Tickets for The Greenhouse’s premier screening on February 19 have already sold out, however there is strictly limited number of tickets available for Saturday, Feb 27. With further screenings in other Australian cities soon to be announced.
For more info, head to the Queer Screen website.