Exclusive: Director’s Cut – Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo ABC Mini-Series

| 15 April , 2011 | 6 Replies

Shitika Anand

It was the time when women were ambitious and they danced around in a freedom bubble. They had a unique voice in the society. They had impeccable style. They even had ridiculously voluminous hair. It was 1972, when one strong-minded and passionate Sydney girl decided to change the way women were seen in society.

She gave birth to a revolutionary publication that gave women power in their workplace and in the bedrooms.

She was Ita Buttrose, the editor of Australia\’s first-ever CLEO magazine. Along with Kerry Packer, Ita created a magazine that gave women a fresh, bold and naughty insight into what it\’s really like to be a woman in the ‘70s.

Today, we\’re getting an insight into how it all started in ABC1\’s brand new series, Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo. This two-part TV mini-series stars 2011\’s Gold Logie nominee, Asher Keddie in the lead and Rob Carlton portraying Packer\’s character.

When acclaimed director, Daina Reid, was told about the series idea, she knew this story had to be narrated to the audience.

“It was a revelation and I said, we must do it. It was really important for us to tell a story about Australia\’s development and time. Politically, ideologically and fashion wise, it just had to be done,” says Reid.

Ironically, Reid is not a glossy magazine reader, but when she flicked through the first issue of CLEO (for research purpose), she was “blown away by the political content and intelligence of the magazine”.

“Ita now says, back then was real journalism, women’s journalism. At that time, there was a big political change. Things changed after the war in the ’50s and that\’s what the magazine reflected.”

The first issue of CLEO in 1972 redefined freedom and presented an emancipated woman to the country. Reid says this magazine was a comfort pillow for Australian housewives.

“Women could love their bodies, be active sexually, they could move forward in society, have a career and have a children too. It was a big party of events,” says the director.

Reid says the content in today\’s magazines has moved away from politics and is more fashion forward.

“Some people say it’s frivolous but if you look back at the history books, fashion is what you look at. You see what people are wearing. But whether or not it\’s serving the society, I don\’t know.”

The director of this real story had lots more to say about the cast, filming, fashion and of course, working with Asher Keddie and we have an exclusive interview with her:

Shitika: What were the challenges you faced in making a series that\’s based on events from three decades ago?

Daina: Depicting real people is quite confronting and you have real obligation to get them right, pay them respect and also create a good drama so people keep watching. But actors work towards characters regardless of the era. I worked very closely with the production designer to give the actors a world in which they were to move.

Shitika: How different was Australia in the 1970s, filming wise?

Daina: We spoke differently and that was a challenge for the actors. All newsreaders sounded more British. Then subtle changes like the way women held themselves. The actors rehearsed in a way that indicated a different time.

Shitika: How was it working with Asher Keddie?

Daina: Invaluable. Brilliant. Amazing. Incredible. She is a highly intelligent and intuitive woman, who understands the text and the whole piece in the way the director has to. It\’s rewarding for a director to work with an actor who brings life to a script.

Shitika: From a director\’s perspective, what did Asher have to do to step into Ita\’s shoes?

Daina: Asher has an innate elegance and poise which worked really well because Ita is the same. She has played real-life people before, so she knows the game. But we were dealing with a very famous lead here. Ita\’s voice and speech is very different, so Asher adopted that. She worked physically to create Ita\’s look. She did a detailed work on the script and then used her instincts to create the character.

Shitika: How was it having Ita on the sets?

Daina: Ita worked with the writer for a very long time and was heavily involved with that, but I think she let everyone have their space once we started shooting. She was there on day one, but that’s it. It is pretty tough to play a real person who is alive and have them there on set.

Shitika: The sets of Paper Giants was obviously heavily female oriented. Was that ever an issue?

Daina: I am a mother of two and work every day as a director. It wouldn\’t have happened if it weren\’t for the women we\’re portraying in this series. Ita Buttrose was back at work after six weeks of giving birth to her child. She edited a magazine and revolutionised what it’s like for a woman to multitask. It was liberating and exhilarating to be surrounded by such powerful and respectful women.

Shitika: Tell me about the fashion in the show.

Daina: Fashion was as important to us as the characters. One of the most exciting things about the production was having all the vintage stuff. Our costume designer, Nina Edwards, flew around the country to find the best and we just said, ‘Go for it’. Most of the clothes were made out of polyester and the cast was melting in them on set, but it looked great. You\’ll see!
The actors also got a sense of nostalgia, as they were moving around the set in beautiful vintage cars from the ‘70s. It was so glamourous.

Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo, Part 1 screens this Sunday, April 17 at 8.30pm on ABC1. And you can watch Part 2 on Monday, April 18 at 8.30pm.

If you missed Sassi’s post on the first look and preview of the series. Check it out here.

I wouldn’t miss it for the world.


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Comments (6)

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  1. Felicia says:

    Hi there

    There were a number of Leona dresses on the show. The wonderful striped dress was available over summer as an over the shoulder maxi (divine, I have it!) and also one of the silver silk skirts the Anna character wore is now available online as a wrap dress. Too divine!!

  2. Sassi Sam says:

    Hi Sharon,
    I spoke to the Costume Designer and she said the dress came from Leona Edmiston’s vintage shop in Melbourne, and they purchased it last October.

  3. Sharon says:

    Just watched paper giants and want to know where the multi coloured striped dress Ita was wearing came from and if it is possible to buy one. Any ideas!!!


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