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‘Butterfly Tree’ Director Priscilla Cameron Talks Making Her Feature Debut

Australian filmmaker Priscilla Cameron has been cutting her teeth on shorts, but she always had the goal of bringing feature-length stories to life. That aspiration has become a reality with “The Butterfly Tree,” which follows a boy, his father and the woman they both fall in love with, a former burlesque dancer who opens a flower shop in their town. “The Butterfly Tree,” which saw its worldwide premiere at the 2017 Melbourne Film Festival, will screen at Toronto Intl. Film Festival on Sept. 11 at the Scotiabank Theatre in its North American bow.

The film has been in the making for over a decade. How did it finally come together?
We were supported for script development through Screen Australia back here. Then the script won the Australian Writers Guild Unproduced Screenplay Award, and then as a director, I was selected to go to Binger [Directors Lab], which is in Amsterdam, and then from that point we started doing the markets. All of the financing is Australian.

Where did the idea for the film come from?
The idea came to me when I was going through a hard time in a relationship. I had a vision of a young boy sitting on these stone steps outside of an old world-y building and he was waiting for this beautiful woman who he thought was his goddess to return to this building and she never returned. It started with that.

Why did you choose to write the story about a young boy?
Part of me thinks that maybe in my essence, my soul is actually male. It might sound a bit weird, but I grew up on a cattle station in Australia and was surrounded by a lot of men and I was always a tomboy, so … I relate very well to men. I don’t specifically choose “Oh, this character definitely has to be female or definitely has to be male,” it just sort of develops out of what feels organically right for the story.

How did you bring a European sensibility to the film?
What I tend to see in Australia a lot was that we would make films that had a very dry and dusty feel. I thought that Australia has so many other beautiful landscapes to offer. I sort of felt that the films that I referenced created vibrancy and lushness and those color palettes that really kind of make you sit up and pay attention.

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