Australian Story: April 29

ABC meets a 2012 Farmer Wants a Wife 'winner' who has turned her talents to writing and starring in a feature film.

Australian Story meets a 2012 Farmer Wants a Wife ‘winner’ and Mrs Australia winner who has turned her talents to writing and starring in a feature film Just a Farmer, alongside Joel Jackson, Robert Taylor, Damian Walshe-Howling and Susan Prior.

The film directed by Simon Lyndon just earned a shout-out from Hugh Jackman on Instagram.

Leila McDougall, who has also appeared on Today Extra.

Off the page, Leila McDougall’s life reads like a blockbuster, full of obstacles, adversity, triumph, loss and love.

The young farmer from Victoria has overcome dyslexia, beaten cancer, won Mrs Australia and Farmer Wants a Wife, and started a charity event to get farmers talking about mental health.

Determined to draw attention to the issues her community faces, Leila struck a cunning plan, bluffing her way into acting school as the first step in making her own feature film about life on the land.

“I just made up a resume saying I’d done all these courses and sent it in and somehow they passed it and let me in,” Leila says.

Leila’s husband was right behind her. Together the couple stumped up $500,000 to help produce the film.

“When someone does die by suicide, we don’t talk about it, like it’s still a taboo subject,” Sean McDougall says.

Leila ended up starring in the film, which was directed by Chopper actor Simon Lyndon, who has also battled his own demons.

“One of the reasons why I connected so much with this film is because I had been having some pretty severe personal mental health struggles of my own,” the first-time director says.

The film Just a Farmer premiered earlier this year and received a shout-out from acting royalty Hugh Jackman.

It’s a remarkable achievement from someone with no background in film.

“The odds of someone who is not an actor or a writer getting a feature film off the ground are 1 in 7 trillion,” acting coach, Damian Walshe-Howling says.

8pm Monday on ABC.

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