“Find your tribe—your trusted collaborators—and hang on to them for dear life.” An interview with Corrie Chen, Director and Screenwriter of SBS On Demand’s Homecoming Queens

Homecoming Queens is a comedy-drama based on the real-life experiences of its writers and creators, Michelle Law and Chloë Reeson. It follows two, twenty-something best friends who reinvent themselves after chronic illnesses overturn their expectations of life and youth, changing their friendship, their future and… their pubic hair.” On the day of its release, we (Anna + Emma) were lucky enough to be invited along to a screening of the series in its entirety, and we’d recommend you watch it all in one sitting too.

To give our readers a little more insight into the show and its creation, we chatted with Director and Screenwriter, Corrie Chen, who revealed some of the highs, lows, and alter-egos behind this important and impactful series.

Image by Tammy Law

Hot Chicks with Big Brains: Please can you tell us a bit about who you are and what you do?

Corrie Chen: I am a director and screenwriter, working mostly in television.

HCwBB: How did you get started as a screenwriter and director?

CC: I spent a couple of years at VCA and made a couple of short films. After film school, I spent a few years working as a notetaker in TV writer’s rooms as well as director’s attachments, alongside working on my own scripts and made more short films. It was incredibly hard getting my first job, but once that happened—on ABC ME’s Mustangs FC—I’ve been very lucky to have worked non stop since then.

HCwBB: What’s something you wish more people understood about working within your industry?

CC: That it takes a LOT of sacrifice and hard work. I often don’t leave the house for days at a time because I have so much work to do.

I think there’s a perception from those starting out that if you’re talented enough, you deserve success and opportunities. That’s not quite true.

People need to be prepared to make sacrifices with personal relationships, friendships, financial situations, especially as you’re starting out.

HCwBB: Can you tell us what it’s been like working on Homecoming Queens?

CC: One of the most exciting, stressful, fun, and emotionally intense projects I’ve been involved in. Michelle got me involved in the project when it was just a sketch idea—nothing had been written—so it became something I felt very close to and emotionally involved in.

The stress came from the pressures of having a low budget but still enormously high expectations for the quality of the show.

I’m incredibly proud of the final product and of everyone’s hard work.

Image by Tammy Law

HCwBB: What’s been your favourite part of working on the series?

CC: Working with my amazing cast, and being a part of Michelle’s first on screen performance. This show is nothing without performance, and the core cast—Michelle Law, Liv Hewson, George Zhao, and Taylor Ferguson—absolutely elevated their characters and brought so much nuance to moments that caught even me by surprise. Also a shout out to my casting director, Gemma Brown, at McGregor Casting—she had an enormous job of having to cast a lot of supporting characters who all had to be able to act and take direction well, with a lot of budget limitations.

HCwBB: What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced while working on the series?

CC: In our last week of shoot, we were hit by the might of Brisbane’s infamous thunderstorms. We were shooting the beach episode and the whole day was rained out, so we lost a day’s worth of shooting. On a low budget shoot like this it just blows the entire budget out of the water, and I was left with the pieces of trying to figure how to finish the show. It was one of the most stressed and anxious [times] I’ve ever felt in my life.

HCwBB: Any particularly memorable and/or funny moments from set?

CC: To be honest… All I remember is stress! The one thing I do remember is that Michelle and I were both SO stressed and anxious, our coping mechanism was to start speaking as our alter egos in an attempt to make each other laugh. Hers was an international student named Winnie, and mine was a brothel madam named Connie—we both loathed each other’s respective characters. Needless to say it was completely not-PC and speaks to the heightened frame of mind we were in.

HCwBB: Can you give some advice to those aspiring to work in your field?

CC: This is a relationship business, and you will only get traction if people want to work with you again.

Be humble, and recognise that everything is made through collaboration. Find your tribe—your trusted collaborators—and hang on to them for dear life. It’s really hard to find people who have the same values and sensibility as you, and that’s something I learnt over time.

Oh, also, invest in good shoes—your feet will ALWAYS be cold on set.

Image by Tammy Law

HCwBB: Who are some of the women who inspire you most and why?

CC: Constance Wu, Ava Duvernay, Shonda Rhimes—they are not afraid to speak their minds and use their work to back each other. Especially for Asian women—we really have to fight to be noticed and heard, because the unconscious bias is that Asian women should be quiet and docile. I find that there’s often a lot of lip service being paid to “diversity” on screen, but it’s just talk, and that includes white women. I’m inspired by these women of colour where “diversity” isn’t just something they put on when it’s convenient to the conversation. It’s in our skin, our gender, our hair, our sexuality—our everyday lived reality.

HCwBB: What’s next for you?

CC: I’m currently in the midst of co-writing on a couple of feature films and TV shows, including two new projects with Michelle Law. I’m back on set in June directing an ABC show.

Binge-watch Homecoming Queens on SBS On Demand!


Responses by Corrie Chen

Images by Tammy Law used with permission from SBS 

Intro, Questions, and Edits by Emma Kate Lewis

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