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Is creativity a product of nature or nurture? Or is it both? As part of our Relative States series, we’re presenting a pair who might just have some answers to these questions. The pair in question are a father and daughter from a particularly creative Australian family – the Schepisis.
Fred Schepisi is an acclaimed director, producer and screenwriter. His long list of film credits includes The Devil’s Playground, Roxanne, Evil Angels and The Eye of the Storm.
Alexandra Schepisi is a director, writer and actor who has worked in theatre, film and television. She has written, directed and produced two short films and has recently been approached to direct her first feature film. She has appeared on stage at Melbourne Theatre Company and has starred in several well-loved, high-rating Australian television series including The Secret Life of Us. Alexandra has also appeared in films directed by her father, notably in The Eye of the Storm in 2011.
In conversation with Melbourne broadcaster Alicia Sometimes, Fred and Alexandra will discuss their creative influences and process. They’ll discuss where their interests differ and converge, and what they have learned – as writers, thinkers and human beings – from each other.
Alicia Sometimes is an Australian writer and broadcaster. She has performed her spoken word and poetry at many venues, festivals and events around the world. Her poems have been in Best Australian Science Writing, Best Australian Poems, Overland, Southerly, Meanjin, the Age, ABC TV's Sunday Arts and more. She is a co-host of the Outer Sanctum podcast (ABC podcasts and radio).
Alexandra Schepisi has worked in Australian film, TV and theatre since 1994, graduating from the Victorian College of the Arts in 1997. Her film credits include The Boys Are Back (dir. Scott Hicks) and Matching Jack (dir. Nadia Tass).
In 2011 she was nominated for an AACTA Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Eye of the Storm, and won the Film Critics Circle of Australia award in the same category. This film was the first time she worked with her father, director Fred Schepisi – that is, if you don’t count playing the role of the axe murdered baby in The Count of Jimmy Blacksmith. Her next appearance will be in Garth Davis’s feature Lion, starring Dev Patel.
Alexandra has appeared extensively in TV over the years, including favourites such as The Secret Life of Us, MDA, Underbelly and the ABC TV miniseries Devil’s Dust. She has also appeared on stage in some of Melbourne and Adelaide’s best theatre companies, including Melbourne Theatre Company productions Ray’s Tempest, A Doll’s House and most recently Queen Lear – in which, if you looked closely, you may have seen her growing baby kicking inside her. (Or you may have thought Cordelia just looked a little porky.)
Fred Schepisi (born in Melbourne, 1939) began his career in advertising in 1954. He joined Cinesound Films as Victorian Manager in 1964. Two years later, and in partnership, he renamed Cinesound as The Film House – Australia’s foremost commercial/industrial documentary company.
In 1973, The Priest (one part of Libido) was Fred’s entry to theatrical filming, followed by The Devil's Playground (1975), The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1977), Barbarosa (1981), Iceman (1983), Plenty (1985), Roxanne (1987), Evil Angels (aka A Cry in the Dark, 1988), The Russia House (1990), Mr. Baseball (1992), Six Degrees of Separation (1993), IQ (1994), Fierce Creatures (co-directed; 1996), Last Orders (2001), It Runs in the Family (2002), Empire Falls (2005), The Eye of the Storm (2011) and Words & Pictures (2013).
In 2004 he received the Order of Australia for his service to the Australian film industry.
Perhaps because talent runs in families, perhaps because we learn by example, perhaps because opposites don’t always attract in romance – there are often two people from the same household pursuing the same profession.
Sometimes these relationships are destructive (think of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes); sometimes they’re complicated (the AFL’s Ablett family). Sometimes they even appear to be functional and mutually enriching (former ALP leader Kim Beazley was inspired by his father’s example to go into politics).
In our Relative States series, we’ll speak to high-profile pairs – some couples, some kin – about the intersection of their creative and professional worlds.