Steven Ball
Marie Craven
Solrun Hoaas
Daryl Dellora

Melbourne independent filmmakers

Leo Berkeley
Giorgio Mangiamele
Michael Buckley
Moira Joseph

Tom Cowan

Orange Love Story


2004, 83 mins, video, drama
Directed by Tom Cowan
Produced by Tom Cowan and Murray Inglis
Written by Adam Bowen and Tom Cowan

A tale of a town called Orange and the people who live there. A story too, of longing and courage, which unveils some of the different faces of love. A teenage daughter, a single mother, a caring brother, a romantic girl, an abusive father, a young rebel, a dreamy farmhand and a tough farmer - their stories connect, affecting each other and the challenges they face in their rural lives. All brave love and loss, together weaving a story - a country love story - in a place called Orange.

"One of the year's best films" - Adrian Martin, The Age.

Selected for Melbourne International Film Festival, 2004.


Wearing its heart and intentions very much on its sleeve, this raw and utterly unique new Australian film is a labour of love for cinematographer and director Tom Cowan.

In the NSW town of Orange, Cowan held open 'auditions' for local people to tell stories of love - their own experiences, rumours they had heard. From that basis, Cowan, and writer Adam Bowen, fashioned a series of rough stories, from which the actors would improvise during filming. The non-professional actors played versions of themselves, achieving a level of realism that is testament to Cowan's vision. Unpolished and often clumsy - just like real life - Orange Love Story is peppered with moments of such poignancy that it makes you draw breath at its frank depiction of love.

"For all its experimental nature, Orange Love Story is gripping in its drama and profoundly moving in its effect. Stripped of the 'artificial' highs and lows of the conventional romantic film. Cowan's 'local emotion picture' is quietly hopeful. The film's idiosyncratic ambience (the very human awkwardness of the central performances) is ultimately very seductive. 'I'm very interested in trying to photograph that moment of truth people have,' Cowan says." - Inside Film

Orange blossoms as a city with real character
by Garry Maddox, Sydney Morning Herald, October 18, 2003
Grass roots talent . . . Ellen Rossi, 17, stars in Orange Love Story, a film written around the romantic experiences of the city's locals. Photo: Jon Reid

Studying for her Higher School Certificate in town, Ellen Rossi has been excited about the big night all week. So has Trevor Dawe while fixing water pipes on an outlying farm.

Around Orange, others are waiting to see how they scrub up at the local cinema tomorrow night. And how the city, population 38,000, has been captured by the veteran film-maker Tom Cowan, best known for shooting the IMAX films Antarctica and Africa's Elephant Kingdom and directing Journey Among Women in the 1970s.

For an under-the-radar feature film called Orange Love Story, Cowan has mined the district for talent and stories. He calls his effort to get real people and their stories on screen an "emotion picture".

"I've wanted to do this for 20 years. Develop a story from a group rather than trying to fit them into a script that's already been perfected through many drafts and approved by all sorts of people like sales agents and bureaucrats."

Two years ago Cowan chose Orange because a film-maker friend, Michael Caulfield, lives there and he was impressed by its energetic theatre and musical community.

The device used to audition locals who wanted to be involved - getting them to tell real-life love stories - turned into the film after shaping by Cowan and fellow scriptwriter Adam Bowen. With dramaturg Nico Lathouris, who worked on Blue Murder and Wildside, Cowan used workshops to turn locals with limited theatre experience into actors.

One of the five interweaving strands in Orange Love Story is about a strong willed 15-year-old, played by Rossi, 17, who elopes with a 23-year-old mobile phone salesman. Another centres on a dreamy farmer's son, played by Dawe, with a secret infatuation.

"The acting is the main value of the film - the depth of the characters," Cowan says. "The love stories are all about people trying to express how they feel and wanting to be appreciated in return. And Nico was fantastic at getting people to confront their deepest desires."

Rossi, who had only acted in school plays and musicals, found it challenging. "It wasn't a style that I was used to - it was based on a lot of improvisation."

She now hopes to study acting while becoming a karate instructor. "Ultimately I'd love to make a martial arts movie."

After the film premieres at the Australia Cinema, Cowan plans to roadshow it through the west of the state before taking it to Sydney.

He thinks the locals are intrigued and tickled that someone has made a film about the city. "We've achieved something together," he says.

Garry Maddox, October 2003

Back to Tom Cowan profile



Melbourne independent filmmakers is compiled by Bill Mousoulis