Monday, August 9, 2010

Interview: Jan Chapman

Fresh from her reign over the Sydney Film Festival official competition, veteran Australian producer Jan Chapman has signed up to be a mentor for the seventh annual Qantas Spirit of Youth Awards. With films like The Piano, Bright Star, Lantana and Somersault to her name, any aspiring filmmaker would jump at the chance to work with Chapman.

“The way I work as a producer is that I work with the scriptwriters a lot in the development of the script and supervise the production on a day-to-day basis and report back to investors,” she says of her often misunderstood or publicly overlooked profession. “Then [there’s] the editing and the marketing of the film into the world. You’re responsible for the film right from the very first commitment to do it to the getting of it into the cinemas.”

So given this incredibly involved undertaking, how does Chapman go about choosing a project?

“Very carefully! It’s a personal choice for me,” she says. “Often seeing people’s short films makes a big difference…. that’s what’s very important for me in terms of trying to find people to mentor; I need to see something that gives me a sense of who they are, what their voice is like, what their interest in subject matter is.”

Qantas is asking young talent to ‘step up’ and apply for the chance to win a 12-month paid mentorship across seven creative arenas: music, fashion, film, visual arts, photography, visual communications, industrial and object design. For her part, mentoring is something Chapman has found herself increasingly undertaking.

“In the last few years I’ve been doing more executive producing and mentoring than my own projects really. I just finished a third film as an executive producer called Griff the Invisible with a young producer called Nicole O'donohue and a director-writer Leon Ford, and once again I found that it was very rewarding to actually work with someone who didn’t know what they were doing really, [but did have] determination, energy, and the project was something I responded to,” she says. “So it’s not that I think, ‘Oh I must give back,’ it’s just that I’ve found that I like doing it.”

Chapman also received a ‘special thanks’ credit for her involvement in Animal Kingdom, an acknowledgment that came as quite a surprise.

“Did I? That’s nice. Well I did look at the cut. That’s thrilling to me, because I saw David’s short films and to see his work develop so carefully; he’s just worked so well to get that film right… I was incredibly excited by it.”

In sharing a little of the advice she gives, one can see Chapman’s thoughts are equally applicable across any creative endeavour. 

“You have to believe in yourself, you have to be clear about what you’re trying to say, you have to not give up; I’ve had knockbacks and gone back again, she says. “Also listen to people’s reactions; sometimes you don’t want to hear a reaction that might be a little negative, but it’s wise to at least try and understand where it came from and what you could do to improve your work.”

To succeed in the industry, Chapman makes it clear you need to have commitment, tenacity and passion for your films. “They’re all like little lifetimes.”

Image - Chapman with Jane Campion and the cast of Bright Star

Published by Street Press Australia
Qantas Spirit of the Youth Awards registrations close TODAY 
***Update: Deadline extended to Wednesday August 11

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