A few weeks ago I attended the St Kilda Film festival and more specifically, the premiere of a short film called How the Light Gets In, directed by Siobhan Costigan. It was a wonderful moment as the film, which started out as a small student project, flickered on to the big screen, with a grace and sensitivity that foretells Siobhan’s future success as a filmmaker.

The film is about a mother and a painter: me. It’s about how family and my work as a painter weave together. Naomi and Marlow were very excited to be a part of the film and astounded me with their co-operation (if only we could conduct a school morning with the same success) and Tim’s patience proved, once again, to be boundless. It feels a little strange to say that we might be the subject of a film. Being part of this process has certainly been a very enriching experience, taking me (in the gentlest way possible) worlds away from my comfort zone. I spoke to Siobhan of thoughts and feelings that I have not expressed in conversation before and suddenly there they are – on the screen.

If the film reveals parts of myself that have remained hidden until now, it is largely due to Siobhan’s astute questions, patient listening, gentle coaxing and genuine compassion. There were a few times in our interview together that I noticed tears in her eyes and while I don’t like to make anyone cry – I appreciate her empathy. These unique qualities together with Siobhan’s creative vision and stamina (does she sleep or eat?) will serve her well as a documentary filmmaker and I am certain that we will see and hear many more stories through her eyes.

The film title, How the Light Gets In, was taken from a Leonard Cohen song that I had scribbled on my studio wall. I had heard it some time before we filmed and was so moved by the beautiful lyrics, I wrote them down. I will include the first two stanzas here.


The birds they sang at the break of day

Start again I heard them say
Don't dwell on what has passed away
or what is yet to be.
Ah the wars: they will be fought again
The holy dove: she will be caught again
bought and sold and bought again
the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

I had the easiest role in this whole process and it has been inspiring to see some very talented people at work. Michael Steel is the cinematographer: patient and thorough and committed to a beautiful aesthetic. Danielle Boesenberg and David Bardwell worked on editing and post-production respectively, and while I understand less of this part of production, I do understand their talent is exceptional.

How the Light Gets In was nominated in the category of Best Documentary at the festival and is dedicated to the memory of my first daughter, Eva Serena, who would have been 10 this year.

I hope the film will be available to watch in full, online, at some point – if so I will post here. 

Until then here is a link to the trailer
and the Facebook page. Siobhan has posted a selection of my paintings there too