Margot Nash is a screenwriter and a director with a background as a cinematographer, a film editor and an actor. She holds an MFA from the UNSW. Her research topic was: The research, writing and visual preparation for a feature film. Her most recent film The Silences (2015) about family secrets won an AWGIE (Australian Writer's Guild ) Award, Documentary: Public Broadcast or Exhibition. The Silences screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival, NZIFF, the American Documentary Film Festival (Amdocs) in Palm Springs, Adelaide Film Festival, Canberra International Film Festival, and the Queensland Film festival and at Screenwave International Fim Festival.
In 1994 Margot wrote and directed Vacant Possession, a feature drama about family, racial conflict and the complexities of reconciliation for which she was nominated for Best Directing and Best Original Screenplay in the AFI awards. Vacant Possession won a Speciale Mention du Jury at the Films De Femmes festival in Créteil in Paris in 1996, and in 1999 three of her films For Love Or Money (co filmmaker), Shadow Panic and Vacant Possession screened in Créteil as part of a Tribute to Australian and New Zealand Women Filmmakers. In 2017 Vacant Possession will screen on SBS/NITV.
Margot has worked extensively in the Pacific running documentary training workshops for Pacific Island women television producers. She has worked for SBS and CAAMA as both a consultant and a mentor for Indigenous filmmakers, and for Metro Screen in the Multicultural and Indigenous Mentorship Programs.
In 2005 she directed her second feature Call Me Mum about mothering, family and race relations. Call Me Mum was short listed for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards as well as the AWGIE's, and received four AFI Award Nominations winning Best Supporting Actress Television Drama and sharing an Outstanding Achievement in Screen Craft, Television award.
In 2016 the Melbourne Cinematheque at ACMI honoured Margot with a retrospective of her work called Between Past and Present; the films of Margot Nash. More of Margot's creative work can be found at Australian Screen Online (opens an external site).
Member AWG Australian Writers Guild, Australian Directors Guild, Australian Cinema Pioneer
Screenwriting Research Network
The Silences (2015)
Australian Writer's Guild AWGIE Award for Documentary
Jury Award for Best Feature 2016 Reel Festival of World Cinema in Sydney
Nominated ASDA (Australian Director's Guild) Award for Feature Documentary
Nominated ATOM (Australian Teachers of Media) Award.
NSW Premier's Literary Awards Judge (scripts and plays)
Australian Screen Directors Awards Judge (features)
Sydney Film Festival Dendy Awards Judge (documentary)
AFI Australian Film Institute Awards Judge (feature documentary)
Filmmaker in Residence Zürich University of the Arts 2012
Artist in Residence in the Bundanon Writer’s Cottage 2010
Visiting scholar NIDA 2008
Theory and practice of screenwriting for features, shorts, documentary, experimental and television. From script to screen: the theory and practice of film directing. Adaptation. Gender studies. Indigenous studies.
Current research: Subtext and shadow narrative, Australian underground film history, women screenwriters in the silent era in Australia.
Writing for the Screen
Mise en Scene
The Silences (Nash, 2015) is a feature-length personal essay documentary
about the tangled bonds, secret histories and unspoken traumas of family
life that stretches from New Zealand to the Australian suburbs. It is an
exploration of early childhood and the 'silences' of the past that resonate in
the present. It is a film about family secrets and the ties of love, loss and
kinship between a mother and daughter. The literary tradition of the family
memoir is well established and, according to Jonathan Letham, 'One can
easily argue that works of literature, which have focused the memory of the
individual in subjective ways, are sufficient in number and quality to
compose a genre in its own.'1
In the cinema the essay documentary, whose
origins lie in the literary essay, is both well established and a genre in its
own, but essay films are not necessarily subjective individual works of
memory. Michael Revov argues the subjective was in fact shunned in
documentary cinema until the 1970s when a 'new subjectivity' emerged
out of the social movements of the time, giving rise to 'work by women
and men of diverse cultural backgrounds in which the representation of the
historical world is inextricably bound up with self-inscription
Lottie Lyell was a much-loved silent movie star in the early days of cinema in Australia. She was also an accomplished writer of scenarios, film director and film editor. Quietly working alongside director, Raymond Longford, her considerable influence and contribution to the 28 feature films they made together was well known in film circles, yet often went unnoticed by the public, and un-credited on screen. However, in 1916 Lyell began receiving co writing credits and, before her untimely death from tuberculosis aged 36, she was receiving sole scenario writing, co directing and film editing credits. Lyell grew up in the era of the suffragettes and many of the films she and Longford made had spirited young women as central characters. She was the leading player in most of the films, did all her own stunts and was an accomplished horsewoman. Lyell and Longford were partners on and off screen, but never married and many of the films they made were about women who step outside of convention and consequently suffer at the hands of men or the law. Their most successful film The Sentimental Bloke (Longford 1919) was shot on the streets of Sydney and depicted working class life with a documentary quality and a naturalistic performance style that was unusual for the time. Lyell, who played the lovable Doreen, was a trained stage actress, but she clearly understood the demands of the new medium. In this paper I will focus on Lyells work as a scenario writer and argue that the knowledge she brought as an actress, and a film editor, informed her skills as a writer and a director, and what has been described as Longfords understanding of film language can arguably be attributed to the silent work of a woman whose growing understanding of the new medium increasingly informed the photoplays she was a major contributor to.
This article explores the concept of a shadow narrative lying under the surface of the main film narrative through a case study of the 2012 film 'Lore'. The film is based on the second story in Rachel Seiffert's book 'The Dark Room'. It was adapted for the screen by British screenwriter Robin Mukherjee and Australian director and screenwriter Cate Shortland. I will search for the structure of this narrative through an analysis of key emotional scenes, moments or spectral traces when the unspoken desires of the protagonist, Lore, surface and take form, when subtext becomes text and nothing is ever the same again. Using film analyst Paul Gulino's argument that most narrative films consist of eight major sequences, each between eight and fifteen minutes, I will break the film into eight sequences and then identify one key emotional scene in each sequence. I will then analyse the eight key scenes and discuss the development of Lore's shadow or unspoken narrative of desire. Some of these key scenes re-imagine or extend narrative moments from the book, but most are new, created by the screenwriters in order to make visible the invisible transformation of character and to heighten themes introduced in the first story in the book and brought to a resolution in the third.
This article examines a discovery-driven process to script development as opposed to a formula-driven one. It is an investigation into the uncertain nature of the creative process in general, and the all-pervasive quest for certainty in film development in particular. Development strategies that value a discovery-driven process are few and far between, as are strategies to explore the gaps, or elisions, within a screenplay where subtext thrives, yet these are transformative spaces that invite an active and creative response. In this article I engage in practice-based research as a writer/ director and as a teacher, and investigate two particular areas of film development. The first is early-stage script development where ideas are still struggling to find form; the second is latter-stage script development where a screenplay is refined in order to create spaces where others might respond imaginatively. I advocate risk taking, and the use of unconventional models, in order to create new spaces for students to explore their creativity, and I examine the `unknown and the `uncertain as active spaces, both for a screenwriter developing new work and for those who engage creatively with a screenplay as it transforms into a film. I argue that gaps or spaces within a screenplay offer opportunities for directors, actors, key creative crew and eventually an audience to actively participate, and that a development process that values the unknown offers the screenwriter a gateway to adventure and innovation. Screenwriting textbooks rarely enter the unknown and uncertain spaces of creativity yet, as many artists (albeit working in less-expensive mediums) seem to know instinctively, it is within the interplay of the known and the unknown, of passion and reason, and of logic and intuition that creativity lies.
Nash, M.F. 2015, 'The Silent Work of Australian Women Scenario Writers' in Selbo, J. & Nelmes, J. (eds), Women Screenwriters: an international guide, Palgrave Macmillan, UK.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Women Screenwriters is a study of more than 300 female writers from 60 nations, from the first film scenarios produced in 1896 to the present day. An overview is given of the history and background of women screenwriters in each nation and the challenges they faced. Individual entries illuminate the work of many of the most influential women writers. The scope and range of the book is far beyond any existing coverage of the subject. The volume is divided into six sections by continent: Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, North America and South America, and includes detailed coverage of female screenwriters from the United States, United Kingdom, France and Australia as well as nations such as Malta, Romania, South Africa, Russia and Switzerland. The volume is a rich resource and investigates the rarely discussed tradition of female screenwriting across the globe.
An investigation into a discovery-driven approach to screenplay development and into the creative process.
Nash, M.F. 2013, 'Lottie Lyell: the silent work of an Australian Film Pioneer', Women and the Silent Screen VII: Performance and the Emotions international conference, The University of Melbourne, VCA & MCM.
Lottie Lyell was a much-loved silent movie star in the early days of cinema in Australia. She was also an accomplished filmmaker. Quietly working alongside Australian film legend, Raymond Longford, her considerable influence and contribution to the 28 feature films they made together was well known in film circles, yet often went unnoticed by the public, and un-credited on screen. However, in 1916 Lyell began receiving co writing credits and before her untimely death from tuberculosis, aged 36, she was receiving sole screenwriting, co directing and editing credits. Lyell was the leading player in most of the films. She did her own stunts and was an accomplished horsewoman. She grew up in the era of the suffragettes and many of the films she and Longford made together had spirited young women as central characters. Lyell and Longford were partners on and off screen, but never married and many of the films are about young women who step outside of convention and consequently suffer at the hands of men or the law. In 1919 Longford and Lyell achieved local and international success with `The Sentimental Bloke based on the C.J. Dennis poem of the same name. Shot on the streets ofSydney it depicted working class life with a naturalistic performance style that gave emotional depth and a documentary quality. Lyell, who played the lovable Doreen, was a trained stage actress but she clearly understood the demands of the new medium. In this paper I will argue that the knowledge she brought as both an actor, and a film editor, informed her skills as a screenwriter and a director, and what has been described as Longfords growing understanding of film language can arguably be attributed to the silent work of a woman whose growing understanding of the cinema increasingly informed the photoplays she was a major contributor to.
Nash, M.F. 2013, 'Signs of the Shadow: Lore as case study on adaptation and shadow narrative', Screenwriting in a Global and Digital World 6th Screenwriting Research Network International Conference, Madison Wisconsin, USA.
Lore (Cate Shortland 2012) is an adaptation of the second story in Rachel Seifferts book, The Darkroom about three Germans affected by the Second World War. It was adapted for the screen by British screenwriter Robin Mukherjee and Australian director and screenwriter Cate Shortland. The story begins at the end of the war as the Nazi regime is crumbling. It follows, Lore, the 14 year-old daughter of Nazi parents who must take her four younger siblings on a long and confronting journey across war-torn Germany to their grandmothers house in Hamburg. This paper will follow on from my work on the hidden places within a screenplay where both subtext and shadow narrative live. It will chart the process of looking for signs of the shadow in the film, spectral traces of Lores repressed desires that might be driving her shadow narrative. Most feature-length narrative films contain 6 8 major sequences each containing at least one key emotional scene. Within these key scenes often subtext becomes text, the unspoken is spoken, or revealed, and the story twists in a new direction. In identifying eight key scenes where the shadow was present, and then comparing these scenes with the book, like invisible ink the fingerprints of the screenwriters who were responsible for this bold adaptation suddenly appeared. Drawing on psychoanalytic theory to investigate the repressed aspects of desire and the transformation of character, this paper will explore the eight key scenes and how they contribute to the development of Lores shadow narrative. It will also explore these scenes as adaptation, for in the main they have been created by the writers. At times they reimagine and extend narrative moments from the book, but the majority are new scenes created by the writers in order to drive the film narrative and make present the unspoken.
Nash, M.F. 2015, 'The Silences', Sydney Australia.
I grew up in a house of secrets. I didnt know my father was mentally ill until I was ten years old and my sister told me. I also didnt know that my mother had suffered a long and debilitating depression until I started researching this film. My mother always said she was never depressed. She filled the silences in the house with exaggerated stories often mixed with cruel observation. Perhaps her constant talking masked her desperation and loneliness, but she had an acid tongue at times that could undermine and silence others. I wondered what might happen if I made a film about the silences? Could I unfold the story from a different point of view and, in so doing, learn something new that might also speak to others? I had survived my family and my parents were both dead, but I needed time to develop my ideas in a safe environment. I was nervous about approaching the film funding bodies with their commercial demands and began to explore different approaches. In 2012 I was the Filmmaker in Residence at Zürich University of the Arts. I had written an article about a discovery-driven approach to film development as opposed to a market-driven one and decided to try and put my own theories into practice. Could I find a new way to tell the story if I fell headlong into the silences, if I forgot the neat screenwriting structural templates and stepped into the unknown? I returned with a rough cut and have continued to develop the project with support from UTS. The film is a continuation of my research into the creative process and also into the gaps and spaces within narratives and history. It is made up of clips from my previous films, family photographs and new material I have been filming since 2008.
A memoir about growing up on a hop research station in Ringwood in the 1950s
Nash, M.F. 2006, 'Call Me Mum'.
Director/Script Editor When Kate decides to reunite her Torres Strait Islander foster son with his birth mother, dangerous family and racial tensions surface.
Call Me Mum, is a digital feature film made up of theatrical, interlinked monologues. Based on the white writers experience of fostering a boy from the Torres Strait Islands, the writing spanned twenty years but the screenplay unfolded in `real time so it couldnt be located in a particular period. The representation of Indigenous Australians by white filmmakers is a contentious space. Being white, and directing, presented me with the problem of how to create an appropriate mise en scène (this includes visual style and performances) that best served this complex narrative. Call Me Mum screened on SBS twice; at national and international film festivals; was nominated for four AFI acting awards; the Indigenous actress won one and the film co-won a Production Design award. Contribution To solve the time frame problem I developed a heightened and distinctive mise en scène where the temporal collapse embodied within the script could exist. As well as cultural research in the Torres Strait I worked with an Indigenous drama coach on set. With almost no possibility of cutting away, each monologue had to work in itself. Some were long and emotionally challenging for the two untrained Torres Strait Islander actors. I developed innovative rehearsal and shooting techniques in order to create safe spaces where they might shine. Significance The creation a unique `world where different time-frames could co-exist, thus locating the story at a pivotal stage in the history of race relations in Australia, rather than a literal moment in time.
Nash, M.F. 1997, 'WORK Pt 1-4', Film Australia.
Writer/Director. Three short documentaries about economic rationalism and the changing nature of work.
Nash, M.F. 1995, 'CULTURAL PATTERNS', Film Australia.
Writer/Director Tells the story of a successful Aboriginal design consultancy business. Part of an international series called new Horizons - stories of economoc change.
Nash, M.F. 1994, 'VACANT POSSESSION', Wintertime Films.
Writer/Director. A story of two families - one white, one Aboriginal - both living in the shadow of the past. A story of conflict and the complexities of reconciliation.
Nash, M.F. 1993, 'POSITIVE WOMEN', Dept Health Housing & Community Services.
Prod/Director/Writer A video for HIV positive women and their support workers (restricted access).
Nash, M.F. 1989, 'SHADOW PANIC', As If Productions.
Producer/Director/Writer A short experimental drama about internal and external states of emergency, about personal and collective shadows, about resistance and spirit.
Nash, M.F. 1986, 'SPEAKING OUT', As If Productions.
Producer/Director/Writer A dramatised documentary about young girls in care and at risk.
Nash, M.F. 1984, 'TENO', Film Australia.
Producer/Director/Writer A short documentary about work related repetitive strain injury.
Nash, M.F., McMarchy, M., Oliver, M. & Thornley, J. 1983, 'FOR LOVE OR MONEY', Ronin Films.
Archival compilation documentary about the history of women and work in Australia
Nash, M.F., Smith, V., Shaffer, E., Foster, D. & Brady, W. 1982, 'BREAD AND DRIPPING', As If Productions.
A short documentary about women in the 1930's Depression.
Nash, M.F. & Laurie, R. 1976, 'WE AIM TO PLEASE', As If Productions.
A short experimental film about female sexuality.
This screening was to over 300 Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders in the context of a cultural celebration. CALL ME MUM 2005 Director and Script Editor. 76min drama Writer: Kathleen Mary Fallon, Producer Michael McMahon, Big and Little Films. Awards: 2007 AFI Awards: Best Supporting Actress Television Drama (Vicki Saylor), Outstanding Achievement in Screen Craft Television (Production Design) Short-listed NSW Premier's Literary Awards, Nominated AWGIE Awards (telemovie) AFI Award Nominations: Best Actress Television Drama (Catherine McClements) Best Supporting Actress Television Drama (Lynette Curran) Screenings: 2009 European Association of Studies of Australia 10th Biennial Conference Palma Spain, Seen and Heard film festival, Sydney 2008 Sydney Writers Festival Bangarra Theatre and The Edge Katoomba; IAPL - Global Arts Local Knowledge Conference, Melbourne; Reconciliation week, Department of Victorian Communities ACMI; NIDA 2007 Cinema des Antipodes, Saint Tropez, FRANCE, Ordinary Lives - Narratives of Disability University of South Australia; NAIDOC screening Australian Embassy Paris, ADELAIDE Film Festival, Festival International de Films de Femmes du CRETEIL (in competition International Long Feature and Grain du Cinepharge,) ANZJA Conference Sydney, 2006 Sydney Film Festival, WINNIPEG International Film Festival, THE FEMALE EYE Toronto (Nominated Best Feature and Best in Show), YOUNG AT HEART Randwick Ritz, GENRES OF HISTORY Conference ANU, TOWNSVILLE CULTURAL CENTRE. Broadcast: SBS May 6th and Dec 9th 2007
Nash, M.F., 'Call Me Mum', Creative Collaborations x 4, Zurich, Switzerland.
'Filmmaker in Residence' at Zürich University of the Arts, Margot Nash, presents her film: 'Call Me Mum' a highly stylised series of interlinked monologues, where five characters unravel a complex tale of mothering, race relations and family in Australia. `Call Me Mum' is based on the true story of writer, Kathleen Fallon, who initially developed the story as a stage play and then decided to turn it into a series of monologues for television. It is an unusual and culturally sensitive narrative, which took 20 years to develop. Nash worked as director as well as the final script editor. She will discuss the process of negotiating the difficult boundaries between fiction and non-fiction and of creating a heightened and distinctive mise en scène where the 20 year temporal collapse embodied within the script could exist. Call me Mum screened twice on SBS and was selected to screen at the Sydney Film Festival as well as the Film des Femmes festival Creteil, France.
Nash, M.F., 'Call Me Mum - 76 minute film', Sydney Writers' Festival, Sydney Writers' Festival - The Edge Cinema Katoomba, The Edge Cinema Katoomba.
The online program can be viewed at http://www.swf.org.au/component/option,com_2008/task,view_all/Itemid,14… The hard copy of the program was printed in the Sydney morning herald and distributed free a few weeks before the festival. I do not have the exact date.
Nash, M.F., 'For Love Or Money', Creative Collaborations x 1, Zurich, Switzerland.
Filmmaker in Residence at Zurich University of the Arts, Margot Nash, presents 'For Love Or Money'. A feature length compilation documentary about the history of women's work in Australia. Made collaboratively over a five year period and using clips from over 250 Australian films. `For Love Or Money' examines women's work in the paid work force as well as their unpaid work in the home. It tells the story of women's struggle for equal pay as well as their undervalued 'work of loving' in the home. Margot Nash was co-filmmaker and editor and describes this film as a life-changing collaborative experience that taught her about Australian history, film language and women's history. 'For Love Or Money' has screened at numerous international festivals including Berlin and Toronto. In 1985 it was awarded a Gold Citation: United Nations Peace Prize. It is still in active distribution in Australia.
Nash, M.F., 'For Love Or Money', International Women's Day Centenary screening, Parkes.
Exhibition and discussion of FOR LOVE OR MONEY a feature length compilation documentary film about the history of womens' work in Australia. (1983) 109 min 16mm A film by Megan McMurchy, Margot Oliver, Margot Nash and Jeni Thornley
Nash, M.F., 'Shadow Panic', Creative Collaborations x 3, Zurich, Switzerland.
Filmmaker in Residence at Zurich University of the Arts, Margot Nash, presents her film 'Shadow Panic' - Three women, strangers to each other, yet their lives are inextricably linked. 'Shadow Panic' is a 26min experimental drama about internal and external states of emergency, about personal and collective shadows, about resistance and spirit. Nash will discuss the creative development process this film went though, making reference to her article Unknown Spaces and Uncertainty in Film Development. She will also show clips from her first film 'We Aim To Please' made collaboratively with performer Robin Laurie who also plays a major role in `Shadow Panic'. `Shadow Panic' has screened widely receiving a number of awards both internationally and in Australia. 'We Aim To Please' is represented in `Moving Worlds: a permanent exhibition about the history of the moving image in Australia at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI).
Nash, M.F., 'Vacant Possession', Creative Collaborations x 2, Zurich, Switzerland.
Filmmaker in Residence at Zurich University of the Arts, Margot Nash, presents 'Vacant Possession' a feature length drama. Following her mother's death, Tessa returns to her childhood home, a house haunted by emotional secrets. But how to return home after all those years away and what's home after all? A house a place, a family? Vacant Possession is a story of two families, one white, one Aboriginal, both living in the shadow of the past. Developed in consultation with an Aboriginal advisor and based partly on the filmmaker's personal story, Nash received Best Directing and Best Original Screenplay nominations in the AFI (Australian Film Institute) Awards as well as an MFA from the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales for her research on this project. She will discuss the process of cultural consultation with the local Aboriginal community as well as her creative development process with the actors and key creative crew. Vacant Possession has screened at festivals including Sydney, Chicago and Asia Pacific and in 1985 won a Speciale Mention du Jury at the Films De Femmes festival in Créteil
Nash, M.F., 'We Aim To Please', A Dinner Party: setting the table: Time Capsule Film Program, Westspace, Melbourne Victoria.
Time Capsule Film program curated by Virginia Fraser A program of short films made in Australia and the United States between 1969 and 1976 during a historical moment when sexism, `sexual liberation and feminism collided and feminism got the upper hand. Plus one or two earlier films pointing in that direction. From nave, playful and aesthetically blunt to politically and aesthetically subtle and astute, the films in this program focus on two of the preoccupations of seventies feminism the gendered body, and aspirations to different, better lives. The films variously include time lapse animation, home movie footage, surrealism, a silent film that sparked a riot in a cinema, a film that Bunuel and Bergman seem to have borrowed from, several prize winners and plenty of humour. The US films were first shown in Australia at the 1975 International Womens Film Festival and, along with most of the Australian films in the program, were held in the Independent Womens Film Collection of the now defunct Sydney Film-makers Co-op which opened its distribution department in 1974 and closed in 1986.
Nash, M.F. & Laurie, R., 'We Aim To Please', Australian Perspectives, Australian Perspectives - ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image), ACMI Theatre Federation Square, Melbourne.
WE AIM TO PLEASE 1976 Co filmmaker, editor Awards: Jury Prize: L'Homme Regarde L'Homme Film Festival Paris. Festivals and Events: 2009 Moving Worlds, permanent exhibition ACMI Australian Centre for The Moving Image 2008 ACMI New and Archival queer shorts, 2005 Resistance: a screen history of Australian counter cultural movements ACMI Melbourne; 1999 The Wild and Wonderful 70's Chauvel SYDNEY; 1996 Valladolid SPAIN, Filmoteca MADRID; 1994 BARCELONA, ADELAIDE; 1990 INSIGHT Women's Film Festival-Canada; 1989 OTHER PLEASURES Modern Image Makers Melbourne; 1987 SPOLETO FRINGE Melb; 1982 Gay Film Festival LONDON; 1981 1st International Feminist Film and Video Conference AMSTERDAM; 1979 Bergama Festival of Third Theatre ITALY, Women's Arts Festival NEW ZEALAND; 1978 L'Homme Regarde L'Homme Paris, La Rochelle Avant Garde Film Festival PARIS, World Congress of Sociology FINLAND; 1977 Melbourne Filmmakers Co-op.