Born in Taree, New South Wales, Wayne Blair is a mutihyphenate – writer, actor, producer and TV, film and theatre director. You may recognise him from television series like Black Comedy, Redfern Now and Mystery Road, but it was his feature film debut, The Sapphires, that brought him local and international recognition and acclaim.
The highest grossing Australian film of 2012 at the local box office and winner of eleven AACTA awards including Best Director and Best Film, The Sapphires is the true story of four young Aboriginal women recruited by an Irish musician in 1968 to sing Soul classics to the US troops in war-torn Vietnam.
“When I read this script I feel the energy and emotion pulsing in my veins,” said Blair. “It possesses all the qualities of ordinary people achieving amazing things in extraordinary circumstances.”
Following the success of The Sapphires, Blair directed two US productions – the thriller Septembers of Shiraz (2015) and a TV movie remake of Dirty Dancing (2017) – before returning home to helm episodes of Offspring, Love Child and Cleverman.
His most recent feature film, the Aussie rom-com Top End Wedding, reunited him with Sapphires star Miranda Tapsell, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Josh Tyler.
“The best thing about the script was that it was different,” says Blair. “It was a unique romantic comedy set in the Northern Territory. And I thought, if I was going to do this once, I’d do a type of film like Top End Wedding.”
He adds that while it was challenging for the production to shoot in remote locations, filming on traditional lands across the NT makes the film both unique and authentic.
“We shot in Adelaide, then Darwin, Kakadu, back to Darwin, the Tiwi Islands and then back to Darwin again. That’s a challenging schedule for any film. We had to be incredibly organised. The producers did a great job communicating with the Traditional Owners. We did it the right way and were welcomed as a result, which was so beautiful for the film. It really couldn’t have been made anywhere else other than the Northern Territory – that was at the core of Miranda and Josh’s mission statement.
“With the story, I enjoyed all the comical elements. But what really stayed with me was this young person’s journey to find out who she was and to eventually go home to her community. To have some sense of identity that wasn’t there with her in those initial years of her life. That’s what drew me to the story.”