The Flower Hunter

LOGLINE

Based on the extraordinary true story of Australian wildflower artist, naturalist and explorer, Ellis Rowan (1848-1922) - a woman ahead of her time, a passionate artist and trailblazer. After inheriting her late husband’s debt, Ellis turns to her passion for wildflower painting to make ends meet.  This puts her in conflict with her mother and the expectations of Society at large. Initial attempts to gain recognition for her work are vehemently opposed by the entrenched fine-art establishment. Against all odds, her formidable talent and tenacity sees her gain fame and fortune during a lifelong journey marked by adventure, an enduring devotion to wildflowers – and an unresolved estrangement from her only child, Eric.


Quarter finalist 2017 Nicholl Fellowships, quarter finalist 2017 American Zoetrope Screenplay Competition, finalist in current 2018 Women's Film & Script Showcase.

SYNOPSIS

Her passion for wildflower painting took Ellis Rowan from the obscurity of a New Zealand army captain’s wife to a private audience with Queen Victoria, the plush art galleries of New York’s Fifth Avenue and a presidential presentation at the White House.


An insatiable thirst for adventure led Ellis into dangerous places such as the unexplored jungles of Papua New Guinea seeking out the fabled birds of Paradise and the politically unstable countries of Central America in search of exotic wildflowers. She faced a myriad of perils to hunt down her colourful prizes, including hanging over a 600 foot waterfall in a makeshift harness, nearly drowning in a flooded river, narrowly avoiding being eaten by a crocodile, riding the cow-catcher at the front of a runaway train  and almost being blown to pieces in Cuba 

during a bloody revolution. 


An attractive and flamboyant extrovert, Ellis knew how to harness the power of politics and public relations for her own advantage. She shamelessly manipulated and exploited politicians and newspaper reporters alike, and her captivating story-telling 

made her the darling of the Press.

 

When Ellis came to the attention of the powerful Victorian Artists’ Society, they denigrated her watercolours describing them as ‘botanical illustrations’. At the great Australian Bicentennial Exposition in Melbourne in 1888, Ellis won the prestigious Fine Art gold medal, beating out a host of professional artists. Incensed, the Society began a bitter campaign to deny Ellis recognition for her work and the members became her intractable enemies. In spite of this hostility at home, she steadfastly followed an often perilous path that saw her 

gain fame and fortune overseas.


But her obsessive commitment to wildflower painting did not come without a price. Her flower hunting expeditions meant long

separations from her son Eric. This led to a bitter estrangement - with tragic consequences.


The Flower Hunter is set between 1874 and 1902, but it is still a modern story, about one woman’s fearless determination to become financially independent, to face the struggles between the power of ambition and the pull of motherly instincts, to doggedly pursue her dream 

through to its final triumph.

North Queensland,  Ellis rides the cow-catcher on the Kuranda steam train "for a better view"

Coverage on The Flower Hunter

On the screenplay

'The balance between career and motherhood has been well-documented on film, but what makes this script unique is that, instead of painting the issue as black-and-white, it delves into the complexity of it from the female perspective.’ 


‘The writer does showcase a knack for crafting an immersive period setting, and building complicated female characters.’


'This is as cinematic a narrative as I can recall reading 

in quite some time.'


‘The depth and clarity of emotion in this screenplay is definitely 

its strongest quality.’ 

  

The writer manages to craft dialogue that feels specific to the era of the story, while still being accessible to a modern audience, a virtue that is essential for any period piece.’


‘This was lovely. It “blossomed” with many stunning visuals and interesting set pieces.’

On the Protagonist, Ellis Rowan

 A ‘strong and emotionally compelling real-life female lead.'


‘Ellis is remarkable: adventurous, brilliant, visionary, and of course immensely talented and determined in a variety of worlds that actively attempt to hinder all those qualities in her, and 

with malaria to boot.’


I think you’ve chosen a fascinating woman to base your story around. You establish her from the outset as a strong-willed, well-educated female. I really got a sense that I knew this woman, for all of her strengths and weaknesses, by the end of your script, and that can be a very hard thing to do in a screenplay, particularly 

in a historical context.’

The malaria-induced dreamscapes

Ellis's bouts with malaria are often accompanied by vivid dreams, reverting to childhood where she saw herself as a Wildflower Princess, ruling over a wild kingdom guarded by wildflower fairies and goblins.

Ellis as the Wildflower Princess

Her Guardians of Wild Nature