With Looking for Grace and The Daughter both film festival darlings, Odessa Young is suddenly finding herself in the spotlight. She looks back on the creation of her two first features and how entwined the experiences were. By Caris Bizzaca.
Odessa Young felt like she had hit the jackpot.
It was 2014 and the then 15-year-old Australian actor had just read the scripts for two films – Looking for Grace and The Daughter. What she found within the pages was a surprise.
“It’s really rare to read well-thought out, complex and interesting teenage characters that aren’t just plot devices for bigger storylines,” Young says. “When I read both these roles at the same time I felt like I’d hit the jackpot.”
Even more so, when she auditioned for the parts and landed not just one of the roles, but both. The intertwined journey continued further, with Looking for Grace filming in Western Australia during September 2014, and The Daughter shooting straight after.
“I actually went from my last day on-set for Looking for Grace and caught the red-eye flight from Perth back to Sydney to be on set the next day for The Daughter,” she says.
“They were my first two feature films – it just felt normal to me, like that’s how it should be.”
What was different, was not just the stark contrasts in location, from outback desert WA to rural NSW, but also the directing.
Looking for Grace, which is out now, is written and directed by Sue Brooks and stars Young as the title character, who goes missing, forcing her parents (played by Radha Mitchell and Richard Roxburgh) to hire a private investigator to help.
Meanwhile The Daughter, about a man who returns to his hometown and tries to right the wrongs of the past, was adapted for the screen from Henrik Ibsen’s play The Wild Duck and helmed by Simon Stone.
Both are about buried family secrets, yet the stories and the way they are told (and made) are vastly different.
“Sue’s quite observant in the way she works and directs,” Young says. “She’ll kind of sit back and watch you perform – she’s very much about the actors bringing their own interpretations.
“Simon is open to that too of course, but he also had such a strong vision for all the characters and how the film was going to be before we even started filming.”
Ahead of shooting Looking for Grace, Young spent a day with Brooks, Mitchell and Roxburgh to generate an authentic feeling of family between the actors. “Sue facilitated drama games, which helped build up the subconscious relationship between Radha, Richard and I,” she says.
Beyond this, Young says there wasn’t a huge amount of research she could do.
“She’s just a normal kind of teenager really… a very instinctual person, who’s intuitive and headstrong and all about the emotion,” she says.
“Simon and Sue are both amazing writers who have really interesting insights into teenage emotions and personalities – of that common shared teenage process, which pretty much everyone goes through at some stage in their life,” she says.
“I hadn’t read a character so in-depth that was actually only 15 years old. It was really beautiful.”
Looking for Grace is in select cinemas now. The Daughter will have its theatrical debut in Australia on 17 March 2016, with advanced sneak sessions on 11-13 March (NSW/QLD/WA) and 11-14 March (VIC/SA/TAS/ACT).