Homespun showcase of rural life

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Bob GarnantCountryman
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Homespun actor James Martin and Homespun producer and actor Bec Bignall, with their daughter Evie Martin, 7 months.
Camera IconHomespun actor James Martin and Homespun producer and actor Bec Bignall, with their daughter Evie Martin, 7 months. Credit: Countryman

Homespun creator, producer and actor Bec Bignell’s heart was filled with pride when she debuted her film at its home in Kojonup earlier this month.

Ms Bignell — who grew up on a Kojonup farm — created the seven-part, 12-15-minute episode miniseries to showcase regional WA and the people in it.

The miniseries and its companion feature-length film, which was shown in Kojonup on November 5, were filmed in the Great Southern in 2019.

Among the proud red carpet crowd were the web series’ actors, many of whom have lived and worked in and around Kojonup, Broomehill and Tambellup, where filming took place.

“This production is everyone’s regional story,” Ms Bignell said.

“My friends and family and you as a community have been so supportive of the local talent.”

Homespun’s creation stemmed from Ms Bignell’s desire to bolster the amount of regional talent shown on screens.

Working in the media since she graduated from Curtin University in 2008, she said she understood the reality of having a heart in the bush. She knew there was not a lot of accurate scripted fictional material about regional areas, and even less that had been created by people from the regions.

Homespun tells the story of two female friends making a variety show in a farm shed, showcasing plenty of local actors.

Shearers, farmers, shed hands and local residents swapped handpieces and headers for acting.

“I wanted to inspire regional people to see themselves more naturally on screen,” Ms Bignell said.

All seven episodes were stitched together for the 85-minute Kojonup premiere. More than 300 people — locals and visitors — gathered at the town’s community Kodja Place, for the showing.

Bignell said young local talent Kyan Lucev, 5, was someone to watch out for.

“So often, regional actors are far removed from who they actually are because their stories are scripted by city people,” she said.

“My aim was to encourage a change in narrative for these people to see themselves in a more authentic and truthful way.”

Broomehill’s Brendon Boyle was one of several shearers brought in to take on a role.

“Walking the red carpet with my family, who all had bit parts, was a once in a lifetime dream,” he said.

Ms Bignell said she took a risk in creating Homespun, but her drive to showcase the talent in the bush was too strong to ignore.

“I didn’t look at a traditional script that is easy to validate with the death or romance of hero characters,” she said. “Instead, I wanted to showcase an abundance of ... people in the bush, with lots of characters for the audience to connect with.”

Bignell said she was also keen to advocate to have more regional stories shown on the big screen.

“We don’t want city people to go into regional communities and exploit the landscape, but to work with these regional people on the land, upskilling them and helping them to build capacity to discover new pathways,” she said.

She said the response from audiences had been overwhelmingly positive, with plenty of laughter on the way.

“They have been beautiful responses like you get in a theatre, or in a group setting like at Kojonup,” she said.

“Homespun was designed for people to reflect and think about certain elements that hopefully will be thought provoking. I hope there are little gems and moments in there that bring them a great sense of feeling and makes them think.”

I hope people enjoy the difference in it, the highly artistic elements like the animation and the fun and depth of the characters.

“I hope there are little gems and moments in there that bring them a great sense of feeling and makes them think.”

The Kojonup event was the fourth time the film had been shown publicly, after debuting at Cinefest Oz in Busselton, Albany and Bunbury earlier this year. It was recently selected for the well-known Lift Off Festivals in Sydney, Amsterdam and Los Angeles.

Ms Bignell is now working with a distributor with the hope of releasing the film more widely next year.

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