As we close out 2020, the hardest year for many people around the world in recent memory, I wanted to review some highlights, to keep myself accountable for next year and to remind myself that I made this year the best that I could. And in Björn Lindqvist's words, this year sure 'Requires Review'!
Hopefully it may highlight for some of you that even amongst trying times it’s important to pivot, roll your sleeves up and be agile to the changes happening around you. That might involve doing something a bit different than you usually would, it might involve staying put for a bit longer than you're comfortable, it might involve adjusting to circumstances outside your control...But trying to keep track to what matters to you, your passions and your own potential best life...
I set out to make 'The World's Best Film', I envisioned screening the film in a cinema and hearing from people about how it inspired them. Part of this quest I set myself 6 years ago involved trying to be the best filmmaker that I could be. And also living my best life.
It’s been an emotionally turbulent year for me and nearly every single person in the creative industries, it’s also been difficult watching my family and friends overseas become ill with COVID.
But getting back on track to my attempt at continuing to live my best life...In 2020 many people said no to me, many organisations rejected my work, many told me it would be impossible to release a film in a pandemic, many people told me to give up, wait 6 months, wait 12 months.
I didn’t wait. I fell down, I dusted myself off, I got back up and I pressed forwards. Without further ado, the 'Requiring for Review' of 2020!
I started the year with the goal of building my profile and focusing more acutely on my career as a filmmaker. I took some photos at Barry Otto’s exhibition at Belle Epoque Antiques which ended up being featured in Vogue and a bunch of filmmaking publications like Film Ink. This was wonderful to see my work in these publications. I was stoked to also highlight my buddy Leigh Capel's amazing gallery too.
I also photographed a bunch of independent artists and worked on a few awesome music videos with Canberra band ‘Witchskull’ with my brother Jeremy before the first lockdown and another music video after the lockdown with Aussie hip hop artist ‘Madame Wu’.
But the bushfires kept raging on and on. Friends of mine had been shoved out of their homes...The sky was red.
I photographed a series of events to raise money for the bushfires called 'Poems for Paws' organised by Brendan Cowell and Lilly Stewart. I was thrilled to photograph some of Australia's best and brightest figures; Andrew Denton, Brendan Cowell, Susan Prior, Matt O'Kine, Christiaan Van Vuuren, Sarah Blasko, Ryan Johnson, Merrick Watts, Rachael Coopes, Toby Schmitz, Silvia Colloca, Tim Freedman, Tim Minchin, Reg Mombassa, Char Best, Lilly Stewart, Leigh Sales, Ewen Leslie, Chris Taylor and many more. These photographs and stories from the nights are accessible on my instagram here. The event raised a bunch of money to aid the Koalas injured during the crisis.
While photographing the event I received an email that I was accepted into a filmmaking accelerator run by one of my filmmaking heroes, Werner Herzog! The filmmaker responsible for films like 'Fitzcarraldo', 'Land of Silence and Darkness', 'Stroszek' and 'Grizzly Man'. We were to travel to the Colombian jungle along with 49 other filmmakers from around the world to make a self sufficient film in two weeks under Herzog's mentorship. Unfortunately COVID reared it’s ugly head and the experience was indefinitely postponed.
But as things pivot and change, it turned into an online video diary project where each month I made a video letter addressed to a pen pal in South America, guided by the spirit and voice of Werner Herzog. I learnt a lot about myself and my filmmaking practice and through the experience developed my own structure for making poetic and personal films. I am writing about what I've learned as part of my PhD thesis. Fingers crossed I can screen the results at a festival next year.
Through the lockdown I reflected on my work and the bizarre fact that I could not possibly travel the world and make a film like 'The World's Best Film' in the world we found ourselves in...
I wanted to continue to sharpen my craft and allow things to be rough and imperfect. Between May – December I made a short film every month, with limited/no cast or crew and screened it at local filmmaking communities Kino Sydney and Filmonik Melbourne as a means of continuing the spirit of experimentation and staying inquisitive. One of these films is below, my own take on Star Wars. I was trying to make a spin on something people already know and love. Featuring music by David Bruggemann and the contributions of some other special folks.
In the same spirit, I entered a 48 hour film competition at Sydney Underground Film Festival and took home the ‘3rd Jury Prize’ for my short stop motion film ‘The Big Sweet’. Like many people, I used the lockdown to reflect on my creative roots, I used to be obsessed with making weird and wonderful puppet films. You can check out the film below. As an aside, my dear pal Cara pointed out that after making 'The World's Best Film' I was unintentionally remaking some of the world's best films in animated candy form...There are more films planned in the Sugar universe!
I directed several video campaigns for some amazing organisations like ‘The Haymarket Foundation’, ‘Catholic Care’ and others. The videos explored how these organisations try and alleviate homelessness in Sydney and help women who have been doing it tough, especially this year.
I also am always happy to pass on knowledge I gain firsthand by teaching. I was thrilled to teach at a wide range of film schools, NIDA, Sydney Film School, Sydney Actor’s School, Randwick TAFE. I also ran my first semester of tutorials at the University of Newcastle in smart phone filmmaking. Some screen captures of my work with the NIDA students are below, I was thrilled to work with directors Clara Voda and Robert Klenner and a range of amazing sound recordists in the style of some of my favourite filmmakers, like John Cassavetes and Ingmar Bergman.
I was lucky enough to be invited to screen ‘The World’s Best Film’ at Melbourne Documentary Film Festival and Revelation Perth International Film Festival in the middle of the year. By popular demand the film’s release in Melbourne was extended and we exhausted our allocated ticket sales.
The film also screened at a bunch of festivals online, like ‘Sofia Biting Docs’ in Bulgaria, ‘Garden Route International Film Festival’ in South Africa, ‘London International Motion Picture Awards’ in the UK and ‘Austria International Film Festival’ in Austria and the ‘Amsterdam World Film Festival’ in the Netherlands and some others too!
We were nominated for an audience choice award at Melbourne Documentary Film Festival and we won a ‘Special International Filmmaker Award’ at Newsfest in Las Vegas. The trailer to our film was nominated for ‘Best Trailer’ at the New Media Film Festival in Hollywood. We won ‘Best Feature Documentary’ at the Central States Indie Fan Film Fest in the USA Spring 2020 and have been nominated for an award at the ‘ARFF Film Festival’ in Berlin.
I spoke on various radio stations about the film like 2SERFM, 3CR, Peter Krausz Movie Metropolis, RTRFM in Perth, Greg King’s ‘Movies at Dusk’ and ABC Newcastle with Kia Handley. I did a stack of podcasts with places like The Curb, The Movie Boards, Write Time Marketing, Hav’n a Gab. I even spoke on a panel about 'Making Documentaries' at Revelation online which you can watch here:
Come December I was lucky enough to fly to Perth to attend the first ever cinema screening of the film! The border opened for just a few short weeks and I flew in, just in time. We even made the West Australian tabloids!
When I set out to make this film in 2014, after recovering from life saving surgery, I never dreamed that I would be at this point now. Living, breathing and following my passions, trying to do the same as the people I would meet making my film. I faced numerous rejections, numerous mental hurdles and hardships but I made it through.
I think it’s important for all of us to recognise that even if this year was not what we visualised in 2019, we got to the end of it, for better or worse. Onwards and upwards for an even better 2021! Special thanks to the amazing folks at Revelation Film Festival for making my cinema screening dream a reality this year <3
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