Muriel’s Wedding was my first job – I was 24 and I was terrified of being fired the whole time. Jocelyn produced the film and her husband P.J. Hogan was the director. I was inspired by their amazing creative partnership. While P.J. was running around like a madman, Jocelyn was unflappable. She was the calm in the storm – a safe harbour. I remember hoping that one day I would have a creative marriage like theirs, where the conversations weren’t just about putting the bins out. That’s why I married an artist! But, of course, we still have to talk about if the bins have gone out. My admiration for P.J. and Jocelyn is not only for their extraordinarily supportive relationship and their critical storytelling, but also for their compassionate way of life. From the outside, it could look like they carry an unfair burden [two of their four children have autism], but they don’t view that as a burden. They have endless love for their family. I’ve always seen Jocelyn as this extremely evolved human.
I watched the 2015 Melbourne Cup at the Melbourne Art Institute and I remember the excitement in the race caller’s voice when Michelle Payne made her move at the 300-metre mark. It was then that I realised we were witnessing history in the making. Watching Michelle cross the finish line – as the first woman to win the Cup – was an amazing moment. She had me at the finish line, but when she told her doubters to “get stuffed” at the press conference, I was in love. I thought, “This is Australia’s great sports story.”
I waited for 45 minutes in a line of fan-girls to meet Michelle at a photo call in Sydney. I said, “I’m Rachel Griffiths and I want to make your story.” I told her I wanted to make a PG feminist sports film that will make everyone cry. I wanted to celebrate everything that is good about her family – she has 10 siblings, her brother Stevie has Down syndrome and her mum died in a car crash when Michelle was six months old. The challenges she’s overcome are unbelievable. The more I hung out with Michelle while making Ride Like a Girl, the more I felt the responsibility to enshrine her legendary status. She’s such a good and hardworking person. I wanted to capture her courage. Women are often afraid of failing; we’re very hard on ourselves. But Michelle [gets] back on the horse every time she falls.
Jill is a film editor and a pioneer in a male-dominated industry. I first worked with her on Muriel’s Wedding and have done other projects with her over the years. As an editor, Jill’s bullshit meter is exquisite. She finds the most meaningful and authentic human moments and puts them within the ride for the audience. Jill singularly has the best taste in the business that I rate and that’s why I wanted her to work on Ride Like a Girl. To make the film, we had a female lead, female writer, two female producers, a female editor [Jill] and director [me]. We really embraced female storytelling, which was especially fitting for Michelle’s story.
Ride Like a Girl hits cinemas on September 26.
This article originally appeared in the October issue of marie claire