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"Owl Song" a heroic journey about an extraordinary woman making it, against all the odds. It wrestles with universal themes about the nature of success, the power of dreams, the quality of life and the responsibilities of friendship.

A story containing a triumphant ending with a bittersweet twist, the screenplay reveals three main stories, each with a clear narrative question. The present-tense story set in 1967 poses the question: can and should Peggy's friends save her if it means severely compromising her quality of life? The second narrative question is: will Peggy succeed in her career? (This story covers the period from 1937 to the 1967). The third story covers a similar period and asks: will Peggy establish a successful relationship that is tied so closely to smothering her success?


The question faced by the protagonists in the top story, Yehudi and Anais is a universally engaging one. They face a dilemma, namely, what would you do if your closest friend was dying; yet to save her could mean condemning her to a future of total dependence, incapacitation and loss of the very faculties that sustain her life as an artist? It is a question of conscience built around the compelling scenario of a life-threatening brain tumour.


Situated in a fascinating and definitive part of the twentieth-century, the issues in Peggy's life are as alive and relevant today as they were then. The milieu of a bohemian artistic world of Europe and America in the 1940-60's is totally absorbing as was the struggle for independence, artistic freedom and the definition of an artistic identity beyond national borders.


In the tradition of "La Vie en Rose", "Hilary and Jackie" and "Shine" the screenplay reads as an inspirational and powerful dramatisation of an extraordinary artist's life. While the soundtrack and visuals will emphasise this intensity, this is a character-driven story with a heart-wrenching countdown toward Peggy's possible demise.

110 mins COL 35mm



Kevin Lucas more...


Kevin Lucas and John Wregg


Aanya Whitehead, Avril MacRory, Sue Milliken


:: synopsis

The most celebrated woman composer of her time is dying. When she slips into a coma her closest friends, Yehudi Menuhin and Anais Nin, are divided about what to do.

Owl Song is the true story of Peggy Glanville-Hicks, a precocious young antipoedian who defies the conservative social conventions of the early 20th century by daring to follow her dream of becoming a great composer. A brilliant, witty, pipe-smoking, dynamic woman and musical pioneer who forged a formidable career in Europe and North America in the mid-twentieth century; amongst her many achievements Peggy was the first woman to be commissioned to write an opera in the USA. Married to the emotionally complex, elegant and talented English composer Stanley Bate, their close-knit group of friends included world-famous impresario Yehudi Menuhin and literary intrigue Anais Nin.

Tragically in 1967 at the height of her career, Peggy is struck down blind, diagnosed with a brain tumour and given five days to live. But the doctors won't operate because the risky and costly procedure had an extremely limited chance to save her life, and would by all accounts leave her permanently incapacitated. Being abroad, her close-knit group of friends are left with the responsibility to decide what is best for her. Is it more humane to let her die, or should they do whatever they can to save her life, even if she may not fully recover her faculties?

Eventually the doctors operate...

With the powerful idea that life can triumph over death because the gift of imagination is irrepressible, Owl Song is a bittersweet tale with an emotionally rich and dramatic storyline that weaves together themes of ambition, love, loss, friendship, music and sex into a compelling narrative about an inspirational woman who at the height of her career was heralded as the most important female composer in the world.

Executive Producers

Michael O'Sullivan, Kevin Lucas

Original Executive Producer

AVT Shankardass

Director of Photography

Kim Batterham ACS

(The Widower, One Night The Moon, Australian Cinematographer of the Year)

Production Designer

Michael Howells

(Nanny McPhee, Bright Young Things, An Ideal Husband)

Costume Designer

Sandy Powell

(The Aviator, Gangs of New York, Shakespeare in Love)


John Scott AEG

(Sexy Beast, Little Fish, Basic Instinct 2)

Musical Director

Richard Mills OAM

(Musical Director/Conductor Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Pre-eminent Conductor and Programmer of the work of Peggy Glanville-Hicks)

Conductor - Opera

Simone Young

(Musical Director Hamburg Opera, Guest Conductor Royal Opera Covent Garden)


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Sound Designer

Craig Carter

(Rabbit Proof Fence, The Quiet American, Beyond Thunderdome)

Script Editor

Paul Thompson

Assoc Professor and Head of Film Acting and Directing NYU (U.S.A)

Casting Directors

Dan Hubbard, John Hubbard (U.K)

Casting Director Australia

Ann Robinson, Mullinars Casting

Additional Casting

Sarah Trevis (U.K) , Jerry Wolff (U.S.A)

Script Consultants

Judith Weston, Linda Aronson, Lesley Megahey

Completion Guarantors

Film Finances Ltd

Developed with the Assistance of Film Victoria, the South Australian Film Corporation and Screen Australia through the AFC GDI scheme.

(C) 2009 MusicArtsDance films Pty Ltd (Australia)