Meet the Filmmaker: Gracie Otto

In a special “life after film school” themed ‘session, SFS was lucky to play host to graduate Gracie Otto for this week’s ‘Meet the Filmmaker’. As a director, editor and actress –among other things (she’s also pretty good at indoor soccer) – Otto is one of Sydney Film School’s most successful graduates and was keen to share her work and experience with the students.

For the last three years, Otto could easily be considered a strong contender for “busiest person on earth” as she’s sprinted from one corner of the globe to another to put together her first feature documentary “The Last Impresario”. The documentary chronicles the life and work of esteemed theatre and film producer, Michael White (The Rocky Horror Show, Monty Python).

The film is produced by Nicole O’Donohue who has also been teaching a producing course at our school.

Labeled “the most famous man you’ve never heard of”, White’s tributes in the film have come from some of the biggest names in the biz, including (but not restricted to) Naomi Watts, Kate Moss, Yoko Ono and John Cleese.

Otto confessed that, upon meeting White in Cannes a few years ago, he struck her as ‘this very sophisticated old man who was, in the early hours of the morning, still holding court at the party’.  Having spent a little time with him, however, she was astonished at all the people he knew. This, she says, is what intrigued her enough to look closer and eventually, tell his story.
last-impresario-002

Above: A young Michael White

It hasn’t been an easy road for Otto. She has spent almost every dollar earned travelling the world for interviews (at one point visiting numerous countries in the space of a few days).  It’s not been all bad, though, with dinners with the who’s who of the film world, including spending the day at Jack Nicholson’s home (only for him to later decline an interview).

Otto claims that she never envisioned herself as a documentary filmmaker and it’s to her great credit that any one of these setbacks would surely be enough to dishearten the most intrepid of documentary filmmakers. Students also got to enjoy an entertaining “blooper reel” which highlighted some of the more humorous difficulties Otto had to take in her stride.

As stressful as the process undoubtedly was, Otto sounded as though she’s enjoyed the ride. There wasn’t the slightest hint of intimidation at the names she’s interviewed and it’s difficult to imagine that her enthusiasm for the film has ever dropped. It’s a great example for graduates to be setting: this is the sort of temperament that gets films over the line.

We were also fortunate enough to take a look at some of Otto’s work as a student, including a film she made in high school, “Kill Blondes” (starring another SFS graduate, Maya Newell), and her thesis film, “Tango Trois”.

Otto was also Sydney Film School’s first Advanced Diploma student. The film she made that year, “La Meme Nuit”, is a wonderfully choreographed dance of infidelity and is a great example of how a student’s work at SFS can provide a solid platform on which to build a career.

As always, there were good pieces of advice for our students as well. Otto says it’s easy to get caught up promoting a finished film – her advice is to move on to the next project as quickly as possible. She also had words of advice on the importance of networking. It’s important, she says, to “make friends” rather than contacts.

The common thread along this semester’s ‘Meet the Filmmaker’ lineup has been how approachable and down-to-earth each guest has been. That’s an important lesson in itself. It felt only right that we finish off the ‘Meet the Filmmaker’ semester with a filmmaker and graduate who embodies so much of the Sydney Film School ethos and exemplifies exactly how the traits borne of that ethos can drive a project over the line.
Congratulations to Gracie and the team for receiving post production investment from Screen Australia!

You can follow Gracie Otto at www.ralffilms.com, and keep up with ‘The Last Impresario’s progress at www.thelastimpresario.com. Also, make sure you check out Gracie’s SFS films on the Sydney Film School website. ‘La Meme Nuit’: http://www.sydneyfilmschool.com/films/film-database.aspx?film=10547 and ‘Tango Trois’: http://www.sydneyfilmschool.com/films/film-database.aspx?film=10730   

Twitter: @gracieotto @lastimpresario

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