When Ziva happens upon an invitation to a Tea Party for Sad People, she is drawn into a surreal Purgatory where sadness is sought for all the wrong reasons. Tears are a source of pride, no matter how minor the trigger, and status is about how sad your story is.
The mysterious Joy fetishises sorrow, and eschews all solids. The amiable Lavender isn’t particularly sad that’s why she carries an onion in her hankie. Jill is the alpha of the pack, policing the etiquette of sadness.
How will the ladies react to Ziva’s sob story?
Cathy Friend’s original screenplay zinged with Lewis Carroll madness, depicting a tea party with four memorable characters: Ziva, Joy, Lavender and Jill. Building a film around these four, and their distinctive features, was the driving force behind so many choices.
The structure of the current film emerged from the auditions: a collision between Ziva’s sincerity and Jill’s dominance plays. Lavender – desperate to fit in and Joy – hungry for true sadness – sway in the balance. The Party’s miserable charade would crumble on hearing Ziva’s story, collapsing into laughter.
Direction, Adaptation and Production // Michael McLennan
Director of Photography // Rasmus Callmer
Production Design // Emily Kemp
Assistant Director // Holly Fraser
Makeup // Elizabeth Lewis
Music // Luna Pan & Sandrine Rudaz
Editors // Viktor Jonsson & Michael McLennan
Production Crew // Bree Spaccavento, Amy Lawler & Jacqueline Walsh
Sound Recordists // Jacob Hafner Keelan & Cliff McBride
Sound Mix // John Hresc
Violin // Jordan Ann Martone
Grade // Brad Crawford
Script Editor // Cat Sole
Titles / VFX / EPK // Reuben Tirkey
Executive Producer // Mark Seton
The Tea Party For Sad People was written by Cathy Friend for the graduating performance students of Excelsia College. Excelsia recruits a team of emerging filmmakers to make short films around their performance students, with on-set support by production students.
Michael McLennan came on board as a producer and director of the project, screen testing the actresses, identifying crew and locations, and re-working the script. The film was shot in late September 2019 over two days in the Grand Dining Room of Sydney’s Castlereagh Boutique Hotel, with a day of pickups in October. Shooting days tended towards large coverage blocks, with the actors freely interacting for up to seven minutes each setup. The film was shot on Panasonic GH5 and the Sony A7SII using Cooke lenses, equipment secured with the support of Camera Hire and Sydney Film School.
The editors tag-teamed with the editing of the film between Sweden and Australia. Composers Luna Pan and Sandrine Rudaz created the film’s distinctive musical palette, united by a recurring solo violin part, with Luna providing the film’s waltz for violin, marimba and flute; and Sandrine interpolating Mozart and Boccherini with style. The original script by Cathy Friend was presented as a short play as part of Short’n’Sweet In March 2020 in Sydney, with Julia Pennisi and Tihanna Vulcik reprising their roles.
Based on ‘The Tea Party for Sad People’ by Cathy Friend, the film is directed, adapted and produced by Michael McLennan.
An Excelsia College Production
in Association with Wavelength Films