The Dressmaker learning resource

The Dressmaker: Development Stage

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Films often start with the spark of an idea, an intriguing topic, or a commission. Key creative roles in the Development Stage generally include: producer, director and/or writer. They capture ideas and inspiration and explore styles and technologies.  

Sue Maslin connected with author Rosalie Ham and director Jocelyn Moorhouse during the Development Stage. (Clip from The Dressmaker: Behind the Seams. Film Art Media 2015)

Producer Sue Maslin

After watching the extract from The Dressmaker: Behind the Seams:

  • identify why Sue Maslin felt connected to the story.
  • describe the key ideas from the novel that were to be explored in the film.
  • What steps did Sue Maslin need to take after reading the novel?
  • How and why was the director, Jocelyn Moorhouse, involved in the Development Stage of the film?
  • In Sue Maslin’s original marketing plan for the film, written in 2008 when she secured the rights to the book from the author Rosalie Ham, she wrote: “Audiences won't know whether to laugh or to cry, and it will appeal to a female-skewed audience, but it should be enjoyed by women and men alike.” Describe some of the ways that engaging the target audience has been considered through the Development Stage of The Dressmaker.

Director Jocelyn Moorhouse

 The novel is heightened reality, definitely stylized – I took that as my permission and made it even more so.

Moorhouse's inspiration included making "the setting more fantasy-like, a fable with just a little bit of magical realism” and was inspired by film styles such as film noir, spaghetti westerns, and the directors Sergio Leone and David Lynch.

  • Watch video essays on film styles such as film noir, spaghetti westerns, and the directors Sergio Leone and David Lynch. List similarities and differences with The Dressmaker. In what ways are these styles similarly "stylized” and “fantasy-like”?

Development Stage activities

  • Research the making of your favourite film or TV show, what was the writer, director and/or producer inspired by? Describe some steps they took in the Development Stage.
  • Jocelyn Moorhouse has said, "I'm a major movie fan — I don't just make movies, I love movies. I watch them all the time." In what ways does this attitude enable her to make successful films? What movies and television shows do you watch? Detail stylistic elements that inspire you.
  • Choose a song that you love at the moment and complete the Development Stage of the Media Production Process for a music video. 
    • Brainstorm main themes and ideas from the song. Create a mind map or use a site such as
    • Consider your major stylistic influences (film and television styles, directors, genres) and make an inspiration board (such as a mood board).
    • Choose your key creative team – producer and director. What role would you take any why? Who would take the other role?
    • Who is the audience for your music video? How might you engage them? How might the choices you have made above further engage them? Could you make any adjustments to your stylistic decisions or key creative team?