The Filmmaker

Mark has been in the film industry for over twenty-five years, immersing
himself into all aspects of filmmaking. His unique style and creativity has set
him apart from most filmmakers in Australia. 

The Filmmaker

Mark Fitzpatrick
Writer/ Director ‘Descendance’

Graduating from the prestigious Sydney Acting School in 1986 Mark went on to perform in over forty plays in Australia and has written/directed several theatrical productions. He also appeared in many Australian television shows, mini-series and films, working alongside some great talents including Cate Blanchette, Heath Ledger and Jackie Chan.

In 1992 Mark took a script-writing course at the University Of Technology Sydney, which unearthed his edgy, hard-hitting style.

In 1999 Mark did what no other person in Australia has done. He went behind the bars of a maximum-security prison to direct a half hour short film with Australia’s most notorious juvenile prisoners cast in the roles.

Mark has since sharpened his skills, writing up to eighteen feature film scripts in the past twenty years. One of his scripts ‘The Nothing Men’ received three Australian Film Commission grants, going into production in 2008. This same script attracted offers from top Hollywood producers: Mark declined those offers so he could direct the film himself.

Always adventurous Mark took the opportunity to pioneer the new technology RED camera, he was the first in Australia and only the second in the world behind Steven Soderbergh.

Mark was invited to Hollywood to screen the film and received a standing ovation. ‘The Nothing Men’ caught the attention of David Valdes’, Producer of three Oscar winning films, who raved about Mark’s talent not only as a writer but also a wonderful director.

David set up a meeting with his good friend David Ladd and Mark to talk about Mark’s next project Descendance. After reading the script David Ladd immediately came on as Producer. Mark has since honed the script in readiness for production.

Another of Mark’s scripts ‘Frank’s Mother’ has been picked up by another producer and is currently in development.

Why I'm doing this Film

I have been working with Indigenous kids for over sixteen years now and feel a deep connection with Australian Indigenous people. I guess it all began when my grandfather Leo travelled to Darwin in the late 1950’s to become a shearer. He befriended a local Aboriginal man Robert Tudawali who became the first Indigenous film star in this country, staring in the film Jedda. Their friendship was so strong that when Robert died my grandfather wrote a story about him.

My grandfather used to tell of his deep love of Australian Aborigines; he was a harsh defender of them and an admirer of their wonderful culture. It seems kind of mystical now, how he would single me out, of all his grandchildren to tell me stories about Aborigines, I remember being fascinated by Pemulwuy, The Rainbow Warrior.

I have been a screenwriter now for twenty years, I’ve written eighteen screenplays, five stage plays and half a book. I’ve also been an actor for twenty-five years, a stage director, and a film director. But I can’t help believing that I was put on this Earth specifically to make Descendance.

I unexpectedly bumped into a childhood friend, Jose Calarco, whom I hadn’t seen for over 25 years. I thought it was such a coincidence for this to happen, as I was only thinking of him the day before. I was soon to believe it was no coincidence, but my destiny.

Jose told me he had become a Flamenco musician but had recently taken over the management of Descendance Indigenous dance group. I told him I had become an actor, director and writer. I was fascinated by Descendance so he invited me to a performance the next night. 

I was mesmerised by the raw energy that filled the room, the dancing drew me into their culture deeper than ever, the painted ochre, the roaring didgeridoo, the cracking clap-sticks, I was riveted.

I found out that Jose had long been thinking how wonderful it would be to make a movie about the group. He told me of their struggles and tragedies, in particular Goomblar (Kurung in the film) whose own story alone is simply incredible, far more powerful than any film I have seen.

So began the most blissful period of my life. I listened to story after story about how they formed as a group, and the hardship that preceded it all, and how their Elder leader Aunty Imelda Willis had tragically died from cancer, and how she had this wonderful dream for her kids (the Group) to show their culture to the world, and how Jose became their manager, and the amazing story of Goomblar and his sister, his emotional search for her after spending years in an orphanage together. I had so much material; I just had to choose the spine of my story. After two drafts of the script something fantastic happened… Descendance won the World Cultural Dance Competition in Seoul, South Korea.

I had to start all over again because this feat is now major in the story, considering Imelda’s dream coming true. The next draft brought about something special, and it’s the reason why I was meant to do this film.

Goomblar told me of his grandfather’s influence in his life. I started researching dreamtime; it was something my own grandfather told me about. Magic began to happen as I was writing the next few drafts. I was writing scenes that were wonderful, however didn’t fit in the story. Then I’d write another draft and found the scenes were meant for this draft, and so on. Some scenes made no sense, but now that the script is finished it makes complete sense. As Goomblar’s grandfather was influential in his life, I’m sure my grandfather was influential in helping me write this story, as was Imelda, I often felt her presence.

I believe we are all put on this Earth for a reason. And as we go through life, people and events lead us closer to our destiny, our meaning. We call these events coincidences or serendipity but I believe it is meant to be. My Grandfather singling me out, my years working with Indigenous kids, acting in two Aboriginal films, travelling to Aboriginal missions just to learn more, then reuniting with my old mate Jose, and finally writing this story. This was and always has been my destiny.

What I hope to achieve

We hope to achieve a cinematic masterpiece. We would like to realise the full potential of this film in every aspect of filmmaking, everything from the wonderful cinematic sweeping views to the incredible dancing and music, to be swept away by the raw emotion of the piece, and to show in all its honesty a powerful hero’s journey.

We would also like to show as much of Australian Indigenous culture as possible, to have this film reach out to as many people in the world as we can, to build an awareness of how one’s culture can serve you when following your dreams.

This film is 13+ so we would like all Indigenous kids around the world who feel they are a victim of their own culture in this ever advancing world, those who feel a sense of hopelessness that they have little options in life. We want this film to transcend a message of hope and excitement. We would like to show those kids that by having pride in who they are, by learning their culture and dream of great achievements that their culture can help guide them, show them courage and confidence with much to achieve and much to be proud of.

It is our desire to travel this film to remote areas of Australia, to reach out to kids on Missions and show them what they themselves can achieve if they follow their dreams. We want to show them the achievements of Descendance, to inspire them to want to achieve similar goals, to show to these kids what their own culture has done for Descendance, and how they too can achieve wonderful things.

We feel this film will show how adversities can be overcome by trusting your path in life. We have a tremendous belief that this film will translate in any language and any culture: we certainly believe the raw power of this story will strike a chord in all those who watch it. This is what we hope to achieve.

Simply Breathtaking

To depict such a powerfully emotional story of human spirit that takes place from the Central Desert of Australia, with magnificent sweeping views, incorporating our most iconic landscapes, and with Descendance’s journey through these parts, with incredible dancing never seen before, and the colour of ceremony and traditions is a filmmaker’s dream… and then there’s the dreamtime.

We go to Sydney with it’s own historic landmarks, and where Kurung’s journey to find his beloved sister begins, and where the then hapless Descendance group reside. It’s also where the big city provides the backdrop for all its misgivings, as we travel through crack houses, alleyways, slums and the melting pot of Redfern, which eventually hails the rebirth of Descendance.

There are some wonderfully cinematic scenes in between like the bleak and dank orphanage where Kurung and his sister Dell spend ten years together.  Then to the confinements of prison cells where Kurung writes his ‘sorry letters’ to Dell, and where he’s tortured by her mistreatment, also where he is reunited with the one kindly priest from the orphanage, Father O’Malley who is to become significant in his life, and who instigates Kurung’s quest to go in search of Dell.

The visions Kurung receives from his deceased Grandfather startle us with its suddenness and potency. The visions lead Kurung to Jose, the Flamenco musician and dancer who is to become integral within the story, and a hero for Descendance. It also provides some of the most colourful fusion dancing ever seen. The fusion of Flamenco and Indigenous dance has never been experienced on screen before, ending with the most triumphantly spectacular concert, and for the highest dignitary.

A powerful story… The hero’s journey… A fish out of water… From heartbreak to triumph… A love story… An Inspirational true story… Descendance has all these magical qualities within one of the most colourful and cinematic stories ever seen on the big screen. Descendance will have you mesmerized by the dancing, gyrating with the music, taken along with the adventure, lifted by the human spirit and the emotion of the story and leave you crying with joy. Descendance is simply breathtaking.