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Writer-Director Chrys Phillips Gets Candid About Upcoming Film and Being a Female Director

Some people get success overnight, others toil their way towards it. For Chrys Phillips, the journey was almost a decade long. The Australian-American filmmaker is perhaps best known for writing the Amazon Prime series “Counter Play”. But she has written and directed over 1000 hours of footage over her career.

Now, the filmmaker has returned to Australia to create something of her own. She is making her feature film directorial debut with “Madison and the Happiness Jar”. With her daughter and partner Mikaela Phillips, Chrys is working towards becoming one of the most prominent creators to come out of Australia.
Before the release of her film, Chrys Phillips sat down with Art Insider and talked about her latest project and being a woman in the industry.

Q. I noticed the story you crafted mixes Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants with To all the Boys I’ve loved, How did the inspiration for that come about?

A. Three years ago I met with a leading production company in Los Angeles and I wrote this script to showcase a female lead with life choices seen from her narrative perspective and also added a little magic with a happiness jar. This innocent jar filled with notes assists her to find her destiny as it comes to light. I wrote this for them to produce it and they loved it, however Covid was starting and filming was not going to happen. 

Q. Madison and the Happiness Jar is your feature film directorial debut. Have you always wanted to transition from TV to Film? 

A. I like this question as it platforms me to say, that I absolutely love telling stories and directing them to bring the scripts, the actors and the vision to life on screen, wether it is for tv or film, as it’s totally a passion of mine. 

Q. What do you hope people take away from it?

A. I dearly hope people take away the underlying message that, a humble gesture of writing anything down everyday that you’re  happy about no matter how horrible  your day is. From a delicious latte to meeting friends to watching the rain with your  pet or achieving a goal, to find that everyday there’s something to stop and be happy amongst the crazy hard days. Therefore inspiring that person or someone else who reads these humble notes. 

Q. Shooting during Covid in Australia, how was that?

A. It had some pit falls and restrictions that inferred on production and storyline. We could not do every scene as many places were off limits and we couldn’t have the large crowds we needed for various scenes however, I’m proud of everyone who dived in as a team to create this movie, as we did a fabulous job in creating the scenic town of Westmont and adapting the story to still tell its tale of a Happiness Jar that changes Madison’s world forever.

Q. Do you plan on directing perhaps another feature?

A. I just completed directing my second feature film. It’s an adult drama called The Rise of Billy Jones and yes, I want to ardently continue directing features. 
Q. For the second consecutive year, the percentages of women directing top grossing films increased, reaching recent historic highs. Women represented 16% of directors working on the 100 highest-grossing films in 2020, an increase of 12% from 2019. What does that mean to you as female director? 
A. I must say this is wonderful for sure but I also must say it only reaches a few women. I think that if we’re pulling percentages to show women in directing top films, then we still have a long way to go, for this shouldn’t even be a topic anymore. It should be normal to just have women directing as much as men. 

Q. What tips do you have for aspiring female writers / directors?

A. The biggest advice is, don’t allow the lack of availability or opportunities stop you from something you want. If you cannot get the leg up in the industry you need, as there’s not many open doors, then please go confidently forward creating the opportunity. Do not stop polishing your skills, write always! Direct for small features or web-series as that’s great too for the experience and to develop your skills to a level that makes people notice your talent. Just do it, as you can! 
Q. If you could work with anyone, who would it be?
A. Wow! How long is this list hmm… actors I’d like to direct on-screen would be British/Irish actor Aiden Turner and Meryl Streep, Nicholas Cage and Hemsworth. On production, I’d have to say Spielberg.

Q. How have movies impacted your life?

A. Gosh… I grew up with no parent figures and moved around much, but when I turned on the TV or went to the cinema, those fictional characters made me dream and believe I could live that story or even create those stories. I’m a true movie buff and movies were my escape from a tumultuous childhood.
“Madison and the Happiness Jar” releases globally on June 30 across all major streaming platforms like Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Roku Channel, and SKY Q (Australia). You can follow Chrys Phillips on Instagram or visit her website.