As bets start being placed on which of the finalists will win Emmy Awards this year, one of last year's winners, the acclaimed theatre director Gale Edwards, has signed up to direct her first feature, The Dressmaker.

Set in the in 1950s, The Dressmaker is about a woman who has to deal with the hypocrisy of a small country town after she returns to Australia after 20 years of working as a haute couture designer in Paris. Producer Emma Cooper optioned the book of the same name about a year ago and has been working on the script with its first-time author Rosalie Ham.

Edwards recently relocated home to Australia from London and is joining the pair for the second draft, which has just received development funding from the New South Wales Film and Television Office.

Emma Cooper left a public relations consultancy to join the film industry about 18 months ago, adapting her skills to unit publicity on Rabbit-Proof Fence, The Quiet American, Ned Kelly and now, director John Dahl's The Great Raid, the Miramax picture that started shooting this month in Queensland.

"The biggest thing I've learned is how important it is to get the script right," says Cooper, who works under the Mirabella Productions banner.