Olga Markovic’s drama/comedy series has just received funding through Screen Australia! Olga found out about the Screen Australia funding opportunities via our Hot Desk West initiative and we were so delighted when she got in touch to share the good news with us.
Congratulations on receiving development funding for All For Eve! Can you tell us a little about your drama/comedy series?
Thank you so much. Sure. All for Eve is a story about a 39-year-old mother and aspiring artist named Grace who has to start over when her husband dies and leaves her in a surprising financial mess. I will be playing Grace and I am hoping my toddler will play Eve, but I have been told that might not be a good idea, so we’ll see.
What inspired the story?
Going back to work as a lawyer five months after my daughter was born was one of the hardest experiences for me, and I had help and support from my husband and mum. I couldn’t imagine how single mothers managed, so I wanted to celebrate their stories because I don’t feel that side of things is adequately shown on TV. There’s definitely a shift with shows like The Letdown, but I think mothers want to see more of their stories on screen.
Also, as an actress and a first generation Australian from Western Sydney, I found that I was always getting called out for auditions where I had an accent or for stereotypical “ethnic” roles, a lot of the time translating something to the “normal” Australian lead. Growing up I thought the multicultural population of my school was normal for the rest of Australia, so I never thought we were considered different. Then I noticed the TV shows didn’t show people from our different backgrounds and couldn’t understand why. I have a deep desire to create rich and juicy roles for myself and provide the same opportunities for others in Western Sydney, and this series allows me explore a lead role that I may not have otherwise been cast in. It’s just the story of another Australian woman. We are definitely starting to see a change, but there is so much more to go if we are to adequately reflect our population. I also think the stories need to come from us.
I am incredibly inspired by creatives and boss women like Issa Rae and Mindy Kaling who are also from diverse backgrounds paving their own way by creating shows for themselves allowing them to tell stories through their unique voice.
So how did you go from being a lawyer to working in the entertainment industry?
I have always been interested in both academics as well as acting. When I was in year 10, my class partner and I came first in drama for clowning and represented the school with our act at the Convention Centre, while also ranking first place in legal studies. I sucked at chemistry though. While completing my law degree I was with an extra’s agency doing commercials and taking acting classes because I loved it. My first professional acting role came about in 2008 when Tony Ayres cast me to play opposite Claudia Karvan in the TV movie Saved, after he completed an Australia-wide search for someone to play the part. I caught the producing bug in 2013 when I was fortunate enough to see my friends Monica Zanetti and Rosie Lourde (Starting from Now) make the film Skin Deep, which screened at the Austin Film Festival. Producing seemed like such a natural fit to blend my creative and legal/business side. Being a Barrister also has its creative advantages, because the job Grace has to take is as a Barrister’s assistant. It allows me to draw from my personal experience to write this world authentically.
What has the process been like going from concept to receiving development funding? Have there been challenges?
It’s been such an amazing learning experience. The idea was running around in my mind for a few months. I had a strong idea of the story’s world and the characters, but I didn’t really know which way to take the plot and at what point to start Grace’s journey. The funding application actually helped me clarify and answer some questions for myself that I probably wouldn’t have if I had not gone through that process. Once I decided to start, things just flowed from there. I would say my main challenge has been trying to fit everything in, I’m still working full-time as a lawyer in my own firm, as well as going to acting class and auditions, taking care of a toddler, spending time with my family and friends, going to the gym, and now running a production company (Ava Studios).
How was Hot Desk West helpful in your journey to applying for development funding?
I think I can safely say that I would not have applied for the funding if I did not meet Alyce and Lee from Screen Australia at my Hot Desk session. I didn’t realise Screen Australia introduced the Generate Funding which opened up funding to emerging creatives. They encouraged me to apply and provided support. My experience with Screen Australia has been highly positive and I would encourage others to start a conversation with them. I also listened to their podcast, which provided so much insight. Thanks also to Barry Gamba from ICE for always keeping me in the loop with such opportunities.
What have you learned from this process?
I have really learned that the process of getting a project from an idea to what you see on the screen is a collaboration and cannot be done without the equal passion, work, skill, and dedication of others. Bringing the right people together is important, people who are creative and talented with views that are different to yours. I learned how a writer’s room worked and was so fortunate to be surrounded by gifted female writers. Everyone is going to see your characters a little differently to you and that’s OK. I learned to listen, and when to take on the advice and when not to. It’s a balance between honouring your voice and story from your perspective and listening to others
The process forced me to take the business side of things just as seriously as the creative side. I set up a production company and learned to manage the accounting, contracts, all the fees involved and how to contact the writers and other people I needed. It was a great opportunity to really learn how to integrate the business and the creative side.
You had some wonderful writers in your writers room, can you tell us a little about that.
I was so lucky to have some talented and inspiring women from different backgrounds in my writers room. We were led by Justine Flynn (The Unlisted, Netflix US) and her leadership, guidance and natural mentoring style helped drive the narrative and again, forced me to see my story in a new light. The room also included Tamara Asmar (On the Ropes), Moncia Zanetti (AWGIE nominee, Skin Deep, Sisters), Nisrine Amine (award-winning Apricot, a fellow Western Sydney actress and writer), and Amanda Doueihi (former New York lawyer and a Western Sydney emerging writer). Having all these different perspectives and talented writers in the room made it such a collaborative and fun experience.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
I would have started earlier. I would have not been so fixated with the thought of “how do I make a whole series” and just taken one step at a time. You don’t have to know everything, you just have to start. People will come along to help guide you at the right point. The next step will then become the natural next step for the project and that will lead you to the end result. Just put one foot in front of the other and focus on the small steps.
What advice would you give to other people who are working towards development funding?
A strong story is of course very important, but I also think showing yourself and your passion for the story is equally important. Show them why you want to tell this particular story and why you’re the best person to do so. Other advice (not necessarily for funding specifically), is to find a tribe and work together towards your goals. I met weekly with my friends who started the Parramatta Writers Group (Nisrine Amine and Amanda Doueihi) on Monday nights after work. My mum would take my toddler to sleep at her place so I could attend the sessions. We were each other’s cheerleaders and with each of us living busy lives, we at least had these few hours to sit down and write with no distractions. Saying you have no time is an excuse. We made our writing a priority. Writing for even 30 minutes a week is better than not writing at all. The time will pass anyway and if you’ve written consistently each week, one day you will look up and have your whole script written. We also spoke about big goals and dreams and set up strategies to get where we wanted to be. Holding each accountable helped us to stay on the path.
What are the next steps for you and All for Eve?
The series is in the development stage. I am working with a wonderful script editor, Holly Lyons (Home & Away), to finalise the script and provide the deliverables to Screen Australia. The next step is to raise production funds and film the first season. As for me, I will be filming a role next month playing opposite Marta Dussledorp (Janet King) and Sophie Hawkshaw (Love Child) in Monica Zanetti’s feature film Ellie & Abbie. This is a beautiful story which I produced the play version of in 2017 starring Geraldine Viswanathan (Blockers, Miracle Workers) so I am super excited to have a role in the film version.
How can we keep up to date with news about the series? You can check out our social media pages to find out what’s happening next. I also love hearing from other creatives looking to collaborate or support each other, so feel free to send me a message.
Words by Olga Markovic
Photo courtesy of Olga Markovic/AVA Studios