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BROWNE,SARA : Occasional Coarse Language

The fresh-faced, energetic, funky – and until now unknown - Sara Browne, stars in the low budget Australian comedy, Occasional Coarse Language, and is now having to take a media course and get used to talking to journalists – like PAUL FISCHER.

Sara Browne has plenty to smile about. A former drama and uni student with lofty ambitions, her decision to check out a publicly advertised audition for a new flick by a group of unknown filmmakers really paid off. Now she's getting more attention than she ever expected from her energetic debut movie role, playing of confused post-adolescent Min, in Brad Hayward's first feature, Occasional Course Language. "I'm trying to get used to all of this", she says with typical effusiveness, 'this' referring to the round of media appointments for interviews about the film and her starring role.

"a bit of an adventure.."

But summing her experience thus far, she describes it all "as a bit of an adventure, that's for sure."

The 'adventure' all began well before she spotted the ad that would change her life. Not trained professionally, Browne grew up in Lismore, on the south coast of NSW, and is a confirmed "country girl minus the farm animals." Not the most likely environment to nurture a career as a would-be actress, Browne "blames" her high school drama teacher, "for giving me some sort of inspiration in the performing arts." Of course, many high school kids go through that phase without pursuing it professionally, but not Browne. "I don't remember ever making an actual decision, saying to myself: Yes I'm going to pursue this path; it was just something I'd always been drawn to and always enjoyed. Also, I guess I couldn't think of anything else I wanted to do."

Her parents, who of course knew nothing about this artistic world of hers, remained supportive "but are surprised that I'm doing all these interviews and having my photo taken." After deciding to pursue drama, she left Lismore for the only slightly larger Wollongong, and majored in Drama at Wollongong University. "I then went to Sydney and sort of had plans to get an agent and have a go at the whole professional thing, but then I realised I wanted to take some more time first. It was the first time living in the city, I guess," That proved a daunting experience. "When you don't grow up in a city, it's all based on what you hear, and maybe the occasional visit for school excursions. But it was scary. There's the whole thing of trying to get a job, work out where you're going to live, dealing with public transport and how you're going to support yourself."

"working with kids in a children's theatre"

Brown did manage to support herself in a variety of ways - from waitressing to working as a fairy, which proved no mean feat, but she ended up knowing how to tap into that fairy role, she adds. "I think you can find the fairy within, once you put on a spangly frock, a pair of wings, glitter on the face and start skulking around with a bunch of five-year olds." And yes, she could relate. "I'm nothing if not versatile, so of course I could relate to the fairy", she says emphatically.

On a fairy wing and a prayer, Browne became more earthbound as a drama teacher "working with kids in a children's theatre company, which I talked my way into." Then came the ad in the Sydney Morning Herald for a movie audition. Not that she took it seriously at the beginning. "I think you need a healthy dose of scepticism when you go to these things, but in the end, you think: Well, I've got nothing to lose and hopefully might gain a little insight. The audition process is very valuable, so unless it's very dodgy and you know nothing about it, it's always worth turning up."

"I had an immediate connection with the dialogue"

Fortunately for her, she did turn up and won the lead role of Min, a young girl whose day is tested after discovering her boyfriend had cheated on her with her flatmate and then to top it all off, she loses her job. Occasional Course Language is a comic look at the trials and tribulations of growing up in urban Sydney, dealing with friendship, self-esteem and the pangs of love. It wasn't a difficult character for Browne to relate to. "I think I had an immediate connection with the dialogue and the way she spoke. I could also relate to her pessimism, because, after all, things sometimes do let you down." The actress hopes that audiences "will laugh and appreciate its humour. But the thing is, a lot of the humour comes out of laughing at someone else's mishaps and dilemmas, which is tragic if it's happening to you, but it can be funny if it's happened to someone else. What's funny, is that you can relate to it, and so hopefully people will laugh with, but not necessarily at what Min goes through."

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The script of Occasional Coarse Language made the short list of various Australian funding schemes but missed out every time, leaving writer/producer/director Brad Hayward and fellow producer Trish Piper little choice if they wanted to make it: just do it. With a cast hired off the streets through a small classified ad in the paper, and a crew whose only experienced member was editor Simon Martin (Children of the Revolution), the film was made for under A$35,000, with salaries deferred. Hayward and Piper "flogged off everything we owned to pay the essentials," which included money for food.

By December 1997, they had a rough cut on Super 16, which they showed this writer and as many distributors as would come. "Just about everybody came, and the reaction was terrific," says Hayward, "but Village Roadshow put their hands up the highest and were the most enthusiastic."

A test screening with a real audience was then arranged, which, reports Hayward, "went off brilliantly, they went over the top, screaming and laughing. So we signed a three picture deal."

The film is urban, young and contemporary: like most city girls her age, Min Rogers (Sara Browne) has had her ups and downs – but at 22 she feels things are finally starting to go her way – and then the phone rings. Suddenly, she’s out of a job, out of a boyfriend and out on the street. But Jaz (Astrid Grant) will know what to do, as always. And David (Nick Bishop) seems like a nice guy to live with (wrong!); He plays ‘pass the blonde’. Of course, there is Stanley (Michael Walker) but Jaz said it was over between them. Promises are made, loyalties tested and friendships stretched.
Andrew L. Urban


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