Australian disability-lead filmmaking organisation Bus Stop Films is readying its first narrative feature Baby Cat and is aiming for a mid-2024 production start.
Bus Stop was founded in 2009 by Australian filmmaker Genevieve Clay-Smith and producer Eleanor Winkler, now based in Los Angeles. Its chief executive is Sydney-based Tracey Corbin-Matchett.
Feel-good comedy drama Baby Cat will be written and directed by Clay-Smith (making her feature debut) and star Olivia Hargroder, who has appeared in several shorts. Hargroder will play a young woman with Down syndrome who must prove she can live independently after the death of her mother or risk her grandmother selling the family house and moving her into a group home.
Corbin-Matchett expects one-third of Baby Cat’s cast and crew to be people with disabilities and aims to be a model for ethical and appropriate approaches to working with disabled people in feature film production.
The film has received A$500,000 in funding from the government’s Department of Social Services, with the budget expected to be around A$5m.
Development money has come from Screen Australia, the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, Sydney University, WeirAnderson Films and other private investors.
“The beauty of Bus Stop is it’s a not-for-profit and private investors and donors will want to support this ground-breaking project that will delight audiences and enact great social change. We are very excited to continue to move the needle towards inclusive filmmaking,” said Corbin-Matchett.
In recent years Bus Stop has pioneered 40-week accessible film studies programmes, overseen the production of dozens of shorts, and consulted with many companies on inclusion.
Its first feature documentary This Is Going To Be Big, made with Truce Films, won the audience award at the Melbourne International Film Festival in August and also screened at the BFI London film Festival.
In March representatives from the company are heading to Los Angeles to connect with global filmmakers interested in inclusive best practice.
“Hollywood is the home of filmmaking and you’ve got to go there to influence change,” said Corbin-Matchett. ”We recognise that many US projects come to Australia, and we want to talk to them before they land.”
She said she expects the Academy’s new representation and inclusion standards to increase international interest in their work.
Bus Stop’s primary focus is disability, but it has also worked with at-risk youth and refugees. Sudanese actor Mandela Mathia plays a key role in Baby Cat and is also executive producer alongside Bus Stop ambassador and emerging director Nathan Basha, Deanne Weir from the Storyd Group and Corbin-Matchett.