Murrumbateman’s Derina McLaughlin received a Gold Award at the International Independent Film Awards for her screenplay ‘Prince of the Wild Horses’ last Tuesday.

The screenplay of her award-winning novel ‘The Brumby of Summerhill Park’ is based in Yass and Murrumbateman, and on life around horses.

Despite spending most of her career in the Public Service, Derina has long held a passion for creative writing. She was inspired to combine this passion with her love of horses after a trip to Canada in 2012.

“I actually trained in scriptwriting at the University of Canberra when I was younger and had a career in the Public Service but I kept writing and ended up winning an award in Canada in 2012, had some of my work produced on stage at the Toronto Film Festival there.”

“I met a woman there who said ‘you should be writing horsie books’, because we both bred horses at the time.”

“I went home and thought I’d give it a go,” she said.

As she wrote the book, Derina could see its potential as a film and to a mainstream Australian audience. She also hoped there would be enough horse knowledge spread throughout to be attractive to “horse people”.

“From the book, I felt when I wrote it that it would be ideal for television in Australia and that it would really sell easily overseas.”

“I wanted to write the books and the scripts so that even kids that have horses would enjoy it, and give it a sort of fairly complex level of horse knowledge so that even horse people and kids that have ponies would enjoy it,” she said.

‘The Brumby of Summerhill Park’ is the first instalment of the series. The second one is complete and with publishers already.

“The publishers took it on as a series, so they registered it with the British Library as a series and then told me ‘we feel it’s a series’ and I’d already drafted two more books so Covid’s been really good because I’ve finished the second one during lockdown.”

The novel is regional and focuses on the history of and life in Murrumbateman and Yass. This element to the story makes it so interesting that it appealed to an international audience in the way that it did.

“It’s a way of kids finding out about the local Murrumbateman and Yass history, without actually reading any history books. Instead it’s a fast paced adventure with kids and their ponies.”

“I just really wanted to create a series where either pony kids or city kids could just escape into this world and the world is the world of Yass and Murrumbateman. Going to country shows, and doing stuff with your ponies, and fighting with your brother and sister. All the things that go on in families.”

“It really is regional, but I’m just so delighted it has appealed to people internationally,” she said.

The International Independent Film Awards is an American competition run by the International Screenwriters Association. This means Derina has now won awards in Canada, Italy, the United Kingdom, France and the United States of America.

Max O’Driscoll