Three months ago, we published a beautiful story by writer Rachael Turk, about a heartbreaking decision to give away a family pet because of a new baby with a severe allergy. It’s now being made in to a short film starring Claudia Karvan – yes, really.
We spoke to Turk about the real-life events behind the article, and the efforts to create a film.
“For about ten years it was just [son] Kiko, me and his beloved cat,” Turk explains.
“About five years ago I met my now husband and a couple of years ago we had a new baby, Archie. That was enough change for a teenager to be dealing with, amongst everything else that teenagers deal with.”
“But then it quickly became apparent that our baby was suffering with difficulties in breathing. He ended up in intensive care twice and was in hospital on a two-weekly basis for a number of months. It took a long time to find out what was actually going on. It turned out he had an allergy to egg and also a lot of food intolerances but all of these things were being exacerbated by the fact that he was in fact allergic to cats. So that is what inspired the Essential Kids story initially,” she says.
As a mother, Turk was put in the unenviable position of an awful dilemma, having to break the heart of her eldest in order to save her youngest. For Kiko, as a boy becoming a man, he was forced to get rid of his best friend for all of those years, for the sake of what Turk refers to “in Kiko’s mind what would have seemed this new brat of a brother” who came on the scene.
She admits that it is a “very simple domestic story in a lot of ways” but with big themes behind it like loyalty, rivalry and ultimately sacrifice.
Such ideas were not lost on director Danielle Boesenberg, who read the story on Essential Kids and contacted Turk immediately.
“I'd been waiting 7 years, since my last film, for a story that touched me like this. It was beautifully observed and heartfelt and I felt sure it’d make a great short film script”, she said.
The film, called Scratch, is in short format, but a longer short, planned for about 18 minutes.
With a script developed by Boesenberg’s partner Sam Miekle (the couple have a daughter with allergies), the hunt was on to cast the film.
Claudia Karvan was the team’s first choice to play the role of the mother, Holly, and she has now signed on to the project. “I think she is Australia’s best actress to be honest,” says Turk. “And the themes of her work, when you look at everything from Gillian Armstrong’s High Tide when she was a teenager right through her TV work The Secret Life of Us, Love My Way and Spirited, is family; often blended family.”
Karvan was busy on the set of new Puberty Blues when sent the script, but read it and texted straight back, saying “let’s make this work.”
Karvan cites the “surprising and complicated” nature of the story as the reason she was compelled to do the project.
"I want to be involved in this film because it is so moving. Its drama comes from a heartbreaking dilemma striking the core of a modern family. It's a surprising and complicated dilemma that threatens even the most subtle or unwanted alliances within family."
Acknowledging the calibre of talent that has come on board in the creative department – the cinematographer, designer and stills photographer - Turk says that “most of these people are working for free so it is not something they are doing for profit. They are just recognising that it touched their hearts and they believe that it is a story that should be told."
With little government funding available for short films, the production team are now looking to secure funding to get the project off the ground. While they have a lot of in-kind support, $25,000 cash is required of which they have raised $5,000. The team have launched an appeal on crowd-funding platform Pozible and Turk is hoping that ‘the power of the people’ will kick in – donations can be made from $10.
“It is up to the people now to decide which projects they want to support and actually see on screen in festivals around the world - even for the cost of a couple of coffees” says Turk.
As for the real stars of the story, all are well. Howie the cat has been re-homed a kilometre away from Kiko, who is waiting until Howie is attached to his new owners before paying a visit.
Baby Archie is thriving, with no hospital stays for over six months. While it can take six months for ‘cat dander’ to leave a house, markable improvement was seen within three months of Howie leaving, and Archie is also able to eat a wider range of food.
Sadly, the family won’t be welcoming a new kitten any time soon.
“Cat allergy, unfortunately is for life so as much as we are cat lovers we won’t be able to have a cat again,” Turk explains. “My husband is very keen for a dog but let’s just get over this first!”
Visit Pozible to see more about Scratch, including pitch documents and a video: http://pozible.com/scratch