/News 02.04.24


Kelli Cross is a Nyoongar/Malgana/Wadjela woman from the Fremantle/Walyalup area of Perth/Boorloo.

Since writing and directing her first short film The Turtle through SBS and the then Australian Film Commission (now Screen Australia)’s ‘Bit of Black Business Initiative’ in 2007, Kelli has balanced filmmaking with raising a family.

Writing and directing Western Australian shorts and documentaries, including the acclaimed short One Fine Day, led to a director’s attachment with Rachel Perkins on 2015 feature film Jasper Jones and subsequent directing gigs on four-part documentary series Nyoongar Footy Magic and comedy web series Aussie Rangers for ABC iview.

On the set of Aussie Rangers (Photo by Jean-Paul Horré)

In 2020 Kelli served as one of the series directors on season two of ABC serial drama series The Heights. With 30-episode seasons filmed entirely in Perth, the series proved to be an incredible career opportunity for WA First Nations filmmaking talent, including directors Kelli and Jub Clerc (Sweet As), writer Dot West and editor Kim West.

The Heights was such a significant project for myself as I grew up in a block of flats exactly like that one in the show, and knew that I could bring something just as authentic and true to this particular world.” Kelli notes. 

Kelli on set of The Turtle with Eric Murray

In 2022, Kelli was named as the recipient for SBS’s Emerging Writers’ Incubator, a nationwide initiative designed to support the development of historically under-represented screenwriting talent in the Australian screen sector. 

Through the initiative she has joined award-winning production company Easy Tiger Productions (The Twelve, Colin From Accounts, Scrublands), relocating temporarily to NSW. Kelli’s time with Easy Tiger has proved invaluable.

“I have been privileged enough to have both observed and participated in a few writers’ rooms and it truly has been both fascinating and informative in so many ways,” says Kelli. “For me, being able to speak up on First Nations characters and storylines has been the best part, as I feel I have been able to share insights with these writers that they never would have considered or known about.”

Kelli on set of Aussie Rangers

Kelli is drawn to projects that resonate with her on a personal level – both as a filmmaker and as a viewer. She’s just finished watching the latest instalment of True Detective, which impressed her with how much it conveyed the clash of cultures in a small town. “It very much spoke to my need of being a conduit between two worlds and the drama and conflict that is found in between,” she explains.

Kelli is using her time in Australia’s east with Easy Tiger wisely, writing and developing series. But the west continues to beckon her back, with her favourite place in WA being Leighton Beach in North Fremantle: “It’s the place I dream of when I am far away from home.” 

Finally, Kelli has some sound advice for emerging First Nations filmmakers:

“’Don’t be shame, be game!’ Australia and the world need MORE of our stories in order for the misconceptions about us as a people have changed for the better. I feel that I am an example of what one can achieve if you keep persevering no matter what life throws at you. I have been a high-school dropout three times, a performing arts school dropout twice and a university dropout twice – but I have always had a burning ambition to be a storyteller in some way, somehow, and I finally found my place as a writer and director. So yeah, never give up if it’s truly your calling.”