Making Muriel not so terrible for Perth documentary director Nel Minchin


Nel Minchin and Rachel Griffiths.
Nel Minchin and Rachel Griffiths.

PERTH’S Nel Minchin more than proved her directing talent when making her debut documentary Matilda and Me.

The documentary was about her brother Tim’s production Matilda the Musical opening in Australia.

Her success led to Global Creatures producer Carmen Pavlovic sharing the company’s list of new works with Sydney-based Minchin, where one stood out from all the rest and she had the subject of her second documentary – the stage adaptation of Muriel’s Wedding, which opened in Sydney on Saturday.

“We were in there from the first day of auditions, so during the whole process this time which has been brilliant,” Minchin said.

“It’s great seeing something come together completely and Global Creatures and Sydney Theatre Company were fantastic at giving us access.

“Then we were really lucky because Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttall were the composers and quite open to us being there, so we got in on their process as well with them writing their songs, chucking them out and rewriting them.”

Minchin said documentary Making Muriel was as much a look at director PJ Hogan’s 1994 Australian film as a behind-the-scenes on the musical, also adapted by Hogan with director Simon Phillips and costume/set designer Gabriela Tylesova.

“We talked to Toni Collette and Rachel Griffiths about their experiences because it was really their break-out film, as well as PJ Hogan who subsequently went to Hollywood and made My Best Friend’s Wedding and Peter Pan off the back of it,” the mother of one, with a second arriving in April, said.

“The way PJ wrote and Toni acted the character of Muriel means she’s complicated, flawed and succumbs to the pressure of thinking that maybe marrying someone and looking beautiful is the answer to feeling s***. It’s a beautiful film, I absolutely love it and what they’ve done with the stage show is really gorgeous as well.”

The UWA and WAAPA graduate said Collette left pretty big shoes to fill when it came to casting Muriel, who has to sing and dance as well.

But the most important aspect for Minchin to focus on while filming Making Muriel was a constant awareness of creating a portrait of someone with truth and understanding.

“You need to know why they’re on board doing an interview like this and respect what they do and don’t want to talk about,” she said.

“I think it’s really helped when you’ve done it about your own family first.”

Minchin’s last day of filming was on opening night, where she was given three days for final edit before delivering to the ABC.

Making Muriel will air on ABC and ABC iview at 7.40pm on Sunday, November 26.