14 August 2023

While following her dream to work in LA in the early 1990s, alumna Anna Vincent realised that to further her career, she would need to return to study. A degree in journalism honed her skills and helped pave the way to an international career in film production.

Anna on location in the Flinders Ranges for the feature film Chasing Wonders in 2014
Anna on location in the Flinders Ranges for the feature film Chasing Wonders in 2014

Anna Vincent

Independent Film Producer
Bachelor of Arts (Journalism)

As soon as she had the chance, then 20-something Anna Vincent (nee Densley) headed to Los Angeles with aspirations of becoming a director. Despite being in the heart of the film industry and assisting names such as Jeff Goldblum on his Oscar-nominated short film Little Surprises, Anna sensed a ceiling to her career progression.

“People who progress in Hollywood’s studio system usually have at least one degree, possibly two, and often a specialist qualification as well. And so, I thought I really needed to take a couple of steps back to be able to leap forward if I wanted to pursue that kind of work.”

“A BA in journalism was a good fit for me, and if my film career industry didn't work, I had a qualification that wasn't as general as arts or communication, because writing is probably my strength. I felt that it was something that I could do well at and study concurrently while pursuing my film career.

Anna on the red carpet at the Sundance Film Festival 2019 in Utah for I Am Mother
Anna on the red carpet at the Sundance Film Festival 2019 in Utah for I Am Mother

“However, I didn't ever step out of the entertainment industry. While at UniSA, I started networking through the South Australian Film Corp (SAFC) and then came up through a group of emerging filmmakers. We were all in our late 20s, early 30s, and those people are my colleagues to date. I have kept Adelaide as my base but have continued to relocate overseas for whichever opportunity presents itself. And then I'm like a homing pigeon – I come back to South Australia.”

Straight out of high school, Anna secured an advertising traineeship through TAFE, leading to a placement at Channel Nine. There she worked firstly in sales and then production, “But my passion was always for film, and I was itching to get out into the world as I was initially pursuing work as a film director.”

Anna’s aspirations took her to LA, where she was able to secure freelance work “doing everything from photography to working on films in various crew roles, and growing a network. Everything I did was creative – photography, writing, directing short films and plays.”

At 28, Anna came back to Adelaide to study. “I applied for journalism from Los Angeles and knew I had to pack up and come home. It was an adjustment, but I knew it would give me options. It was important to me, because I felt my CV was missing a qualification.”

Anna’s sub-major was scriptwriting which she feels contributed to her skillset for pursuing a career as a film producer. “So much of what we do is writing. Whether we're writing synopses that go out to the market to attract financing, or we're writing funding submissions, or we're pitching projects at festivals, it's all about the written word and how you're communicating what your project is, how you're identifying the audience, what the hook is.

“In hindsight, I think I probably had everything it took anyway, but even so, when I graduated I felt more confident. I proved to myself that I could get through a degree, which was an important milestone in our family.”

With the degree under her belt, Anna then felt she wanted to focus her film career "more in business". A friend suggested that her background, wide-ranging interests and international contacts were well-suited to producing, which she has done ever since.

Anna with Bonnie McBride at the American Film Market, Los Angeles in November 2022
Anna and fellow UniSA alum Bonnie McBride at the
American Film Market, Los Angeles in November 2022

Anna grew up on a farm and sees parallels between farming and her role as a film producer. “We are absolutely producers, primary producers. The thinking isn't that different; you're trying to decide which enterprise you will put your research and development funds into. What's going to give you the best chance of finanical returns? What journey is going to be most enjoyable for you? What are some of the factors you can't control that could get in the way of the success of that project?”

In 2013 Anna established SLA FIlms. “Our job is to identify content that we feel excited about and think will have value in the market. It could be a newspaper article, a script that's already written or a book that we decided to option. And then we set up a plan of how we're going to get that into production, which usually involves some development of the script, attaching cast, going out to the market for possible pre-sales...We work to raise the budget so we can get the film made.

“The reality of producing is that each project is a start-up. It's its own little company, and you may have five ideas you’re working on concurrently.” The key is to give each project due diligence and know when to cut your losses. “We get so attached to the projects, and it’s difficult to walk away. But the harsh reality is we try to minimise exposure to investing too much time and money into an idea that’s not going to come to fruition.”

Proximity to the international markets and financiers is another challenge, meaning Anna travels frequently – from Cannes to the United States and the eastern states of Australia – to partner with colleagues and secure funding. Working with support from organisations such as Ausfilm, an Australian government-industry partnership, Screen Australia and the SAFC, Anna finds Adelaide makes a handy base. The Adelaide Studios at Glenside are a hub of creative talent and present opportunities for cross-pollination. Anna’s most recent project Speedway came about after a spontaneous conversation between producer Bonnie McBride (Anna’s frequent collaborator), and filmmaker Luke Rynderman when they met in the communal kitchen.

Away from the glamour of the red carpet, it all seems like nerve-wracking, hard work. So, what’s the attraction?

“One of the exciting things about working as a producer is the inspirational, highly acclaimed talent we get to work with, both locally and internationally”, says Anna. While based in London throughout 2022, one of the projects Anna worked on was Golda with Helen Mirren in the lead role. “It was absolutely thrilling, a very large-scale project. I was an executive producer, and being on set every day and watching her work felt like such a beautiful payoff for doing all the hard yards.”

Anna’s film credits include Golda with Helen Mirren, The Miracle Club with Maggie Smith, Laura Linney and Kathy Bates, and Australian of the Year, Taryn Brumfitt’s breakout success Embrace.

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