Nuturing regional filmmaking: WA

Pip Christmass

Malcolm Hubert, Onslow Making Movies Roadshow

Malcolm Hubert, Onslow Making Movies Roadshow

Now in its second year, the Making Movies Roadshow is a touring unit of Western Australia’s Film and Television Institute (FTI), spending an intensive 5 days in 10 separate regional locations each year, teaching participants how to script, film and edit a short movie. Although the FTI has been in operation for 30 years, and one-off visits to regional areas have been organised in the past, this is the first structured regional filmmaking program of its type in WA.

In 2003, Local Government and Regional Development Minister Tom Stephens provided the FTI with a Regional Initiatives Scheme grant that, combined with further funding from ScreenWest, allowed the Roadshow to go ahead. So far, the unit has visited remote communities as far north as Kununurra, as far east as Kalgoorlie, and as far south as Esperance, but program coordinator Janine Boreland says they intend to visit new locations each year.

The Roadshow calls for expressions of interest from local shires and regional arts organisations throughout the state, but is selective about the applications it accepts. “Because the program is subsidised, we want to give it to people who have no access to filmmaking training or screen culture,” says Boreland, “so that’s a pretty strong basis for it going to low socio-economic areas that are geographically isolated, and where there are stories to tell. There’s a huge emphasis not just on training, but getting those regional stories into other parts of regional WA and into metropolitan screening programs.”

The Roadshow’s aims are twofold: to provide people living in remote areas with basic filmmaking skills, but also to provide participants with a sense of personal achievement and self-esteem. Seventy per cent of Roadshow participants are Indigenous. “Even though it’s primarily a training program, it definitely has a community development aspect to it,” Boreland notes. “We’re often working with people who have low literacy levels, and working with something that is highly visual has a very strong impact. The workshops give people a chance to tell their stories and be creative in a really short space of time.”

Boreland goes on the road with a crew of 3: tutor Mike Parish and 2 technicians. Workshop participants learn how to write scripts, use a digital camera, edit in i-Movie and create their own soundtracks. The end result is a 1-5 minute short film. Works produced so far have ranged from community documentaries and dramas to stop-motion animation pieces and music videos. At the conclusion of each 5 day workshop, the Roadshow crew holds a community screening of finished works. The feedback Boreland gets from community members after the screenings is invariably positive: “Often we go to places that are so culturally different—remote Aboriginal communities in particular—and it’s a really nice way for the people in the community to see movies that their children or friends have made that feature their place, that feature their landscape. They really seem to value it—they find it really empowering to see that anyone, in that really brief amount of time, can come out the other end and say they’ve been able to make a short film.”

Two things have become imprinted in Boreland’s mind during her time with the Roadshow. At each screening, the interconnectedness of family and community in regional WA hits home. Particularly in north-west WA, she says, “everybody seems to know everybody else…it’s quite exciting when you’re travelling these films around the regions and seeing these networks of community and family groups that know each other.”

Secondly, program participants are rarely fearful of the technology to which they are exposed, despite often never having come into contact with a digital camera or sound equipment before. “We mostly work with Indigenous people and young people, and they’re not fearful of the technology at all,” says Boreland. “They jump right in there, and they have total respect for the equipment. More often than not, people are quite comfortable using the equipment and just go for it.”

Participants in the Roadshow can make films on a subject of their choice, but Boreland says people naturally want to tell stories about their particular cultures and communities, and animated Dreamtime stories were a central feature of this year’s output. Sometimes these animated stories are as simple as chalk drawings moving on a blackboard, or a tale played out with plasticine figures.

One of Boreland’s favourite films this year was a brief personal narrative by an inmate of Roeburn regional prison. The film contains views from inside the prison, with a simple voice-over warning viewers against a life of crime.

In the Kimberley’s Kadjina community, schoolchildren were given the opportunity to produce their own Footy Show, interspersed with hilarious animated ‘footage’ of regional football games. The panel of 3 commentators were slightly stiff in front of the cameras, but clearly enjoyed themselves.

Although Boreland had already travelled extensively throughout regional WA as a holiday-maker, her time working with the Making Movies Roadshow has connected her to the state’s regional communities in a way she had never experienced in her previous travels. “You can drive through a place and not really get to know it. You really have no idea of what goes on behind the scenes unless you happen to know someone or have friends living in a regional area. When you’ve only got 5 days in a place, by the end of the first day you’ve really bonded with people. There’s some really unique people out there that maybe you wouldn’t otherwise get to meet.”

For more information on the Making Movies Roadshow, go to: www.fti.asn.au

RealTime issue #64 Dec-Jan 2004 pg. 20-

© Pip Christmass; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 December 2004
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