Beamafilm sits down with Australian film producer Michaela Perske to talk about her eye-opening documentary about football’s sex culture, “Footy Chicks”, and her latest documentary projects.
“Footy Chicks” was first released in 2006, but the culture of casual sex around soccer and other sports is still very much in evidence. What inspired you to make this film?
There was a story that broke about the Canterbury Bulldogs and an incident that happened involving the team and allegations of rape. At the time it broke open the culture of group sex in men’s sport and then more stories started appearing. I was working in radio at the time and covered the story and was the process of putting together a radio feature about female groupies when I was introduced to Rebecca Barry who was interested in making a film around the same topic. We teamed up and immersed ourselves in the world for a long period and the result was Footy Chicks.
What were the reactions of the athletes and the “footy chicks” you approached towards the film? Was there resistance to the idea, or were responses largely positive?
There were some people who didn’t want to be involved and some people who thought we might show them in a bad light or make judgements about them. It was harder to get the blokes to talk openly about it. The response was positive and I think it also paved the way for some broader discussions around team bonding and the treatment of women to happen.
“Footy Chicks” provides a very balanced look at the sex culture in AFL and rugby league, both its light and dark sides. How did you achieve that balance?
We felt it was important to not make any judgements and strike a balance between the two sides of the story.
Do you have a stand-out behind-the-scenes story from the making of the film?
We got a makeover by some of the cheerleaders we followed and it was one of the most bizarre experiences of my life.
Your latest documentary, “88”, is about the March for Justice, Freedom and Hope on the 26th of January 1988. It’s such an important story to tell. What were the biggest challenges of this project?
To be really honest “88” was one of the easiest films I have even made. It was the fastest film – one year from the idea to delivery – the hardest thing was having to choose who we would interview as there were so many great stories!
Are you working on any projects at the moment that you’re excited about?
We are at the tail end of a documentary we have been shooting on and off for almost a year where we follow two Aboriginal girls who have taken up body building with the dream of competing at the Olympia’s in November – it’s been a roller coaster and it’s going to be a fantastic film (it’s for ABC) and we have a just finished a short film Dream Baby as part of the Hot Shots initiative with Screen Australia that makes me cry every time I watch it – it’s written and directed by Lucy Gaffy who is an extraordinary talent! There are also a number of other things in the pipeline but I don’t want to jinx anything!
What is the last film you saw that changed the way you see the world?
Bombay Beach – it is one of the boldest and most fantastic documentaries I have ever seen.
If you had unlimited resources, what is the film you’d love to make?
The true story about Pitcairn Island.
You can watch “Footy Chicks” on beamafilm here.
If you love Michaela’s work, be sure to follow her production company Pursekey Productions on Facebook here.
Still from “88”. Credit: Peter Solness