16th ÉCU – The European Independent Film Festival
9th, 10th, 11th April 2021
Isabel Peppard & Josie Hess
A lonely house-wife’s plan to end it all takes an unexpected turn when her last hurrah begins a radical journey of sexual exploration and personal re-invention.
Hello Isabel & Josie this time offered you any creative inspiration or opportunities?
Josie: It’s been a double edge sword, while the extended lockdown in Victoria certainly gave me more free time its also hard to be creative when you are overwhelmed with stress about the global pandemic. Thank being said, I did manage to co-write a new screenplay called Lenore.
Isabel: It has been an extremely tough time and has been hard to balance creative work with being overwhelmed by the enormity of what is happening on a global scale. I was able to use the time and some co-vid relief funding to learn new skills in the Virtual Reality realm and develop a short stop-motion Virtual Reality project. I also wrote a treatment for a gothic surrealist horror feature so I feel like I at least got something out of the lockdown.
Congratulations on having Morgana selected for the 16th ÉCU Film Festival in Paris, what does it mean to you to be part of such an amazing lineup of films?
Josie: It's a wonderful full circle moment for me, I attended the ÉCU back in 2015, it was one of the first ‘non porn’ festivals to screen any of my work which was a great honour. Its also of course wonderful to screen amongst so many other amazing independent films. Now more than ever it is important to support independent creators.
Isabel: We are thrilled to be screening in Paris at a festival that celebrates independent voices in film. Our film is very much an indie labour of love so we know first hand how important it is to provide these spaces to filmmakers.
Can you tell me a little bit about Morgana, how did this film come about?
Josie: I had been in film school, and was trying to make a doc about female pleasure where a bunch of uni students make a porno. My school’s ethics board was like, nah, pass on that idea. But then I started researching porn in Australia and ended up finding one of my lecturers just happened to be legendary feminist pornographer Anna Brownfield. I emailed her and started working as a production assistant, which is how I met Morgana. Around the same time I had been doing some creative work with Isabel who had kindly let me help out on a couple of her projects. The more we learnt about Morgana the more we became convinced that it would make a great doc. The fact that just a few years before she had been a housewife living in a regional town.
Isabel: Josie and Morgana had been looking for a director for the documentation of Morgana’s 50th Birthday experience which was to be suspended in a giant bondage installation in the form of a Phoenix. As me and Josie had already been working together they approached me to direct. I didn’t know anything about Morgana at that point and almost nothing about feminist porn. When I found out that only 2 years before she had been a housewife in rural Australia I was really interested in her personal journey. After discussing it between us me and Josie decided to approach her to pitch the idea of making a documentary about her life. Initially it was just going to be a short film that culminated in the Phoenix installation but as the story changed and evolved we realised we had a feature on our hands!
"I would also say the length of the project and just the endurance it takes to stay with one project or one story for 5-6 years with no financial support."
What was it about Morgana and her story that really connected with you both as filmmakers?
Josie: Definitely her message about there never being an age limit or timeframe on when you need to do certain things, so its ok to explore your sexuality later in life. She’s also really funny, which I enjoy, she makes a lot of puns.
Isabel: I found her a unique and engaging character with a lot of different layers so I was constantly fascinated by her and trying to unravel her motivations. I also thought what she was doing was extremely radical, a 50+ woman publicly owning her body and sexuality, not hiding away in the background. It was punk and felt like a real fuck you to the social expectations imposed on older women. I was also constantly inspired by her creativity and her ideas which were bombastic, colourful and unselfconscious. Morgana’s personal creative style definitely fed into our film and how we handled the telling of her story.
As documentary filmmakers how important is it to remain flexible on your film projects?
Josie: I honestly don’t know how you couldn’t be flexible and make a documentary? Life is too full of unknowns not to go with the flow.
Isabel: I think as a documentarian and a filmmaker in general you have to remain flexible because the flaws and the unexpected surprises are where the magic happens.
What where the biggest challenges you faced brining this film to life?
Josie: Probably budget, we put a lot of our own money in and had to stretch every dollar as far as we could to make the film work. Luckily between Isabel's amazing animation skills and my porn and social media work we had enough skills between us to make it work.
Isabel: Absolutely the lack of budget, that was really tough. I would also say the length of the project and just the endurance it takes to stay with one project or one story for 5-6 years with no financial support. It really was a test of our will and staying power. I think ultimately we both had so much belief in the story and the character as well as excitement around our collaboration that we were able to stick with it.
How best would you describe Morgana?
Josie: Well the person Morgana self identifies as a bogan with a heart of gold, but i’d call her a rebel. And the film Morgana, let's go adventurous and colourful.
Isabel: Creative, passionate, excitable with an incredible screen presence. Like a great actor she just has a face that comes alive on camera, you just want to watch her.
Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?
Josie: I originally wanted to be a historian, but after doing my undergrad degree I realised I didn’t want to study other peoples stories I wanted to tell them myself.
Isabel: I originally trained as a special effects and creature artist but soon found that I was interested in using my diverse skills in animation, monster making and miniature sets to tell my own stories. I think I am driven by the desire to understand my own experiences as a women in the world by decoding them using mythological and symbolic frameworks.
What would you say has been the most valuable lesson you have taken away from making Morgana?
Josie: Don’t have a really big meal of curry right before you are supposed to film and also don’t let age be a limit on your self exploration.
Isabel: I learnt so much about storytelling and documentary making on the film but also just about the power of determination and resilience. It was an extremely hard road but I feel that it has paid off in being able to share this amazing story with the world.
Is there any worthwhile advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?
Josie: Backup your hard drives!
Isabel: Find your people, those in the industry that you genuinely connect with and build and treasure that network. Stick with it, it is a long game!
Do you think filmmakers should continue to push the boundaries of the films and stories they want to tell?
Josie: Of course, pretty sure that is the role of art in general, push boundaries, tell new stories, try to keep us from sliding into regressive ideologies.
Isabel: Absolutely, otherwise what is the point?
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Morgana?
Josie: That ageism in society can get fucked, and that pleasure and sexuality aren’t inherently immoral or wrong.
Isabel: That it is never too late to change and evolve as a human being! To discover your sexuality, to start something new, to make a film! Fuck ageism, just do the thing! It’s never too late!