This week, I joined fourteen other emerging filmmakers for an intense week of workshops with screenwriter Clea Frost, producer Kath Shelper, facilitators Catherine Alvarez and Gary Paramanathan from AFTRS and members from Film Victoria and Screen Australia.
We were able to reflect on our own projects, why we want to tell the stories we want to tell, and drill down to what Kath describes as the "nugget" of our screen project ideas - a project's reason for being - in order to guide our decision-making all the way through the production cycle. The workshops also directed focus on our next steps as emerging filmmakers, and how to proceed from here on in. We were given the opportunity to introduce ourselves to industry guests on the final day.
What I have realised this week is that two previously separate worlds are beginning to collide. The community and commercial sectors of the arts. Community arts have always accommodated a smaller part of society that is more political, more progressive and the marginalised voices of society. The commercial sector/industry, particularly in film and television because its business-orientated nature, tends towards a comparably more conservative mainstream culture. As the non- white/cisgendered/able-bodied side of the Australian population is growing and increasingly speaking out - the commercial sector is now finding that it must transform and listen to the voices from community arts to stay relevant and accurately reflect its people.
It was uplifting and inspiring to meet so many other talented filmmakers and theatremakers from diverse backgrounds and realise that we all share the similar experience of being under-represented or inaccurately represented within the mainstream cultural narrative. Many of us have also worked in community arts. A few times we found our project-specific discussions turned into group discussions about the limited support for the emerging sector of the film industry as well as the problematic representation of race, sexuality and disability on screen. There was frustration as we questioned the possibilities of instigating change and creating a sustainable career when 1) existing structures are highly competitive and favour the privileged 2) our friends with disabilities are often in need of a higher level of support that is not available 3) established screen practitioners and decision-makers are yet to grasp the pervasiveness and depth of erasure in Australian storytelling.
I am so grateful that this Talent Camp program has been a platform to bring these issues to the fore and make a step towards addressing our desperate need for inclusion in the screen industry, rethinking the stories we tell and the cultural authenticity behind them. We cannot tell someone else's story with the depth and nuance that their lived experience brings.
I believe our industry has the power to influence and shape the way Australians see each other, creating a ripple effect that reaches far beyond simple entertainment and arts culture. We still have a steep incline to climb, but it's encouraging to now be able to share the journey with new friends and allies.