Flickerfest win gets Marisa closer to reel success

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Filmmaker Marisa Martin and her writer mum Geraldine Martin… “We usually sit and we chat and mum goes off and writes it.” Photo: Holly Treadaway

COMING out from under the desk, filmmaker Marisa Martin’s recent win at Flickerfest Short Film Festival brings her closer to her dream of producing feature-length films.

Her background in multi-media productions means she’s an expert in making sure computer graphics are “doing what they’re meant to”, and Marisa’s spent a lot of time under Harriet Dunkley’s desk in the Canberra-based political thriller, “Secret City”.

Now, the 39-year-old Queanbeyan resident is being recognised for her own work after winning Best Australian Animation for the 17-minute, short film “Della Mortika: Carousel of Shame”.

“This is my first really important win [because] it’s an important festival in the short-film circuit,” she says.

For it she teamed up with her mum Geraldine Martin, who wrote the script, which was inspired by a past family cat Charlotte.

The film, which isn’t actually about a cat but three sisters who search for their parents in a “steampunk” world, took about seven years for the mother-daughter team to make.

Set inside a pop-up book in Melbourne in 1888, script writer Geraldine, 67, of Bungendore, says it’s about innovation and inventions.  

“We want girls to feel inspired,” she says.

Marisa says all three sisters are inventors in their own right.

“Beatrix is the more emotional one and is more connected to people, whereas Zarah likes complex and crazy machines,” she says.

And Abigail, Geraldine says, is thoughtful and highly intelligent.

“She’s into encryptions and codes,” she says.

“Della Mortika: Carousel of Shame” characters, from left, Abigail, Beatrix and Zarah… three sisters who search for their parents in a “steampunk” world.

Marisa, who wishes she was an Abigail but thinks she’s probably a Beatrix, says the sisters follow their interests and create things that are helpful to the world.

“They tinker and tinker until their inventions are right,” she says.

After seven years of knowing the characters, which includes writing two novels about them, a TV series and the short film, Geraldine says she loves them for all their strengths and weaknesses but has a special soft spot for Zarah.

When it came to working together, Marisa and Geraldine says they loved it.

“We don’t argue, there’s nothing to argue about,” Geraldine says.

“We have common goals and similar ideals,” Marisa says.

“I’m not a words person, I’m a pictures person – mum’s the writer.

“We usually sit and we chat and mum goes off and writes it.”

But the post-production wasn’t as smooth sailing as their relationship and Marisa confesses it was intense.

“Paper puppets are much harder to work with than clay ones,” she says.

On top of that, the filming had to be fitted around paid work. In the beginning Marisa and Geraldine were granted development funding by ArtsACT to develop the film.

“We did the bulk of it in 2010 and 2011,” Marisa says.

“We recorded the voices and then after we had to shoot in sporadic chunks. There was a year where we didn’t touch it at all.”

When the Della Morte sisters finally hit the screen at the festival it was such a big achievement for Geraldine and Marisa.

Even though the filmmaking is over, the three sisters will continue to live on as Geraldine writes their adventures in a third novel.

As for Marisa, she’ll be working with her Sydney-based sister on a horror film.

“Della Mortika: Carousel of Shame” will screen at the Canberra leg of Flickerfest, Palace Electric Cinema, Thursday, April 4.  

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Danielle Nohra
Danielle Nohra is a "CityNews" staff journalist.

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