The eagerly anticipated film adaptation of the comic-drama novel by RMIT alumnus Rosalie Ham has received rave reviews by critics.
The Dressmaker has scored 12 nominations at the 5th Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards and will be vying for the coveted Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards (AACTA) title of Best Film Presented by Presto against Mad Max: Fury Road and Paper Planes.
Other nominations include Best Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design and Best Lead Actress, to name a few.
The novel Rosalie Ham penned 14 years ago as part of her RMIT coursework and is now a major film directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse, features Hollywood heavyweights Kate Winslet, Liam Hemsworth, Hugo Weaving and Judy Davis.
“Actresses of the calibre of Kate Winslet and Judy Davis just affirm for me that the story I wrote is a story that deserves to be told and told well,” Ham said.
Set in the 1950s, The Dressmaker revolves around a glamorous woman, Tilly – played by Winslet –who returns to her small town in rural Australia after years refining her craft in Paris.
With her sewing machine and haute couture style, Tilly transforms the women of the town.
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Ham began writing The Dressmaker in 1996 as part of her Advanced Diploma of Arts, Professional Writing and Editing (now Associate Degree in Professional Writing and Editing) at RMIT.
“The course taught me how to approach writing short stories and novels, and how to read well.”
Ham went on to study a Master of Arts (Creative Writing) (now the Master of Writing and Publishing) in 2007 and said her postgraduate studies at RMIT enabled her to objectively look at feedback.
“Just because the advice you’re getting is coming from an adviser doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good, and if it doesn’t progress the plot, delete it,” she said.
Ham’s Masters differed to her time enrolled in the Associate Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing as they were far more intense.
“The analysis moved from critiquing a few thousand words to discussion on the psychological progress, interior development, psychic distance and the entire idea behind the book.
“I loved doing the Masters because when I was asked ‘what is your novel about’, I answered and then was asked, ‘so what are you saying about that?’
That last question is the key to a good novel as far as I’m concerned,” Ham said.
In the journey from novel to screen, Ham has been assisted throughout the process by The Dressmaker’s producer, renowned Australian film industry figure and School of Media and Communication Adjunct Professor Sue Maslin, a long-time friend.
Maslin, who also teaches media, said the most important skill for media and communication graduates these days was to have a cross-platform understanding of how media works.
Graduates, says Maslin, need to be able to shift ideas across those platforms – such as cinema, television, games, online and e-books.
“RMIT is much more responsive to real world media than a lot of the traditional film schools, who tend to still work on old models.”
Ham and Maslin together with the film’s director Jocelyn Moorhouse will discuss the acclaimed film in a 90 minute seminar at RMIT’s City campus.
The Dressmaker is in cinemas now.
Story: Brenton Shaunessy and Wendy Little