Hardship and Humour, with Director Luci Schroder

Making films, in particular short films, is a notoriously hard slog.

But Luci Schroder’s got a few rules she sticks by to keep the endgame in sight: “Be specific, work your butt off and try not to eat too many chocolate cakes instead of working.” And she’s speaking from experience, having dedicated four years of her life to SLAPPER; a raw, unflinching account of Australian life that’s earned her high-profile film festival screenings, awards and even attention from director Sean Baker of Tangerine and The Florida Project fame.

But SLAPPER wasn’t my first foray into Luci’s work, which I realised as I began to dig deeper into her impressive and unique back catalogue of films. No, the Melbourne based film director and writer had me watching large groups of girls making out with inanimate objects long before that, in Australian band Alpine’s music video for “Hands”. Like a kinky, modern version of Picnic at Hanging Rock, it was weirdly erotic and amusing. Luci’s vision saw ladies in pastel writhing their way across a marble mansion, making out with watermelons, their own hands and handheld axes in a surrealist interpretation of female masturbation. It was the first piece of work that Luci was personally chuffed with, and probably the last piece of work she’d ever have cast members licking walls and pieces of paper for during auditions.

Flawlessly made, slightly unnerving and graded with a distinctive muted colour palette, “Hands” had all the hallmarks of a Luci Schroder film. Yet it was so far removed from the stark and brutal reality of a teenage girl trying to hustle $50 for the morning after pill in working-class SLAPPER, it was hard to comprehend that both films had originated from the same cinematic mind. But coming from a varied background of fine art, textiles design and philosophy, it’s not so surprising when Luci mentions she doesn’t like to linger on any one subject for too long when it comes to her filmmaking.

A still from ‘Hands’ by Alpine

“I tend to find any one world boring after a while, so I collect ideas and cycle through things quickly,” she says, adding that her current list of influences stretches as far as “nature, music, people and psychiatry, followed by literature and art”. Instead of being defined by a particular genre or subject matter, Luci prefers to imprint her movies with a style that’s characterised by “memorable characters and performances, the story structure and a camera craft which isn’t particularly noticeable, but is working its butt off”.

A still from ‘Georgia’ by Vance Joy

Whether she’s shifting between the absurd or the rough edges of reality, Luci manages to blend both humour and hardship into her storytelling. With SLAPPER being her first undertaking to gain international attention, Luci shows all the signs of being one of our next big claims in the film industry. And while she had a fun few months doing the film festival circuit showing SLAPPER off—where else are you going to find yourself drinking vodka with Russians on a ship till the wee hours and conducting business meetings with Tobey Maguire over some bad karaoke?—she’s ready to slow things down and keep chipping away at the script for her first ever feature film.

The only thing she’ll let slip is that “it’s about a woman with a problem”, but wherever Luci takes her next project, she’ll be judging its merit on those “tingly feelings” she sometimes gets when she knows she’s creating a script worth pursuing. And if her past work is anything to go by, it’ll have a plot twist that’ll pull the rug out from underneath you in its final moments—she’s just not up to that part just yet. “I want to find the ending and feel like it’s got a payoff worth waiting for. My fear is to have a lacklustre ending.”

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