Maya Newell

SFS supports the right for Maya Newell’s, ‘Gayby Baby’ to be shown in NSW schools.

Sydney Film School graduate, Maya Newell’s film Gayby Baby has been the subject of a media storm over the past two days after the New South Wales Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli banned public schools from showing the film during school hours. The move came after Burwood Girls High School had planned to show the film which depicts children of same-sex parents to the school during two periods on Wear It Purple Day this coming Friday.

According to Mr. Piccoli, the decision was made based on a view that the showing of the film would disrupt the school’s planned lessons and that no film should be shown within school hours that does not comply with the school’s learning curriculum. A statewide ban has been issued on showing the film in public schools during school hours, but it has been reinforced that it is able to be screened outside class hours and that this ban is not a result of the content of Gayby Baby. However, a great number of people who have seen the film will argue that the minister is indeed missing the point of the documentary and that people should watch and understand before they condemn it.

Speaking on RN Drive on ABC Radio yesterday evening with Patricia Karvelas, our 2006 graduate was quick to point out that she believes that the film fits within the curriculum. Sydney Film School supports her view. We see the screening of the film sitting clearly in the curriculum of Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE), which encourages being inclusive of all students and valuing diversity.  As this is something Australian schools strive to achieve and do indeed include as part of their curriculum, it would seem Gayby Baby is not out of place within school hours.

Maya’s documentary has received an enormous amount of praise from its screenings at HotDocs in Toronto, Sydney Film Festival and Melbourne International Film Festival for it’s unprecedented ability to give children of same sex parents a voice. Gayby Baby, which has received a PG rating and was included as part of the Family program at the Sydney Film Festival, allowed audiences to see the normalcy of family life for these children, but also does not cover up the hardships they endure in growing up as part of their domestic structure. The film has screened to sell out crowds at festivals who have been keen to acknowledge and understand the intent behind the film and to connect with the four children whose lives are documented. As a child of same-sex parents herself, Maya’s intention in making the film is a desire to build a more understanding society.

Sydney Film School supports Maya wholeheartedly and encourages those who are expressing an opinion to see the film before passing judgment on it. We believe that education is a powerful antidote to discrimination and that education against discrimination is most productive when achieved early. It is difficult to think of a better way of addressing this issue with school aged children, given the subjects of the film themselves are school aged.

We therefore encourage Mr Piccoli to reverse his decision and allow NSW children to gain greater insight and understanding of their peers who may be in different family structures.

Ben Ferris – Artistic Director, Sydney Film School

Gayby Baby has been nominated for Best Feature Length Documentary at this year’s AACTA Awards which will be held in December this year and will be opening in limited theatrical release in Australia on September 3.


A Q&A with Abu Shahed Emon, director of Jalal’s Story

An interview by Nicole Newton-Plater
Sydney emonFilm School alumni never fail to amaze with their incredible achievements in the film industry. 2009 graduate, Abu Shahed Emon is riding the wave of success with his feature film ‘Jalal’s Story’ which has been critically acclaimed during it’s festival run and theatrical release in Emon’s native country of Bangladesh. The film, which follows the life of a boy found in the river Nile, has been selected as the official entrant of Bangladesh to be considered for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Feature. ‘Jalal’s Story’ is also being featured in this year’s Sydney Film School Festival in the International Perspectives Program, which will be held on Tuesday December 15.

We thank Emon for taking the time to speak to us at Sydney Film School in anticipation of the screening of his incredible film, ‘Jalal’s Story’ at the Sydney Film School Festival later this month.

Q: Firstly, congratulations on ‘Jalal’s Story’ being the official entrant of Bangladesh for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars! How did you find out the news and how do you feel?

A: I was in Seoul, Korea at the time the official press conference was being held in Dhaka. I was in the class break and saw this in my Facebook news feed. As I am doing a MFA degree in Filmmaking in Korea I still consider myself a film student and ‘Jalal’s Story’ is like a big thesis project. I didn’t expect this much from this film, but now I feel blessed and thankful to the Oscar Committee of Bangladesh to chose this as the Bangladeshi Entry for the 88th Academy Award in the Foreign Film Category.

Q: Where did your interest in filmmaking initially come from?

A: It’s an interesting story really since I did my Bachelors in Psychology from Dhaka University. During my DU days, I got involved with the Dhaka University Film Society (DUFS) where my interest in films started. I always found myself thinking about films and from those thoughts came a desire to learn about filmmaking and the many aspects of film. I wrote a proposal for a semester-long exchange programme to the USA to study the “application of psychology in film”. I was awarded that and studied at the University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse, where I took courses on film only. That exacerbated the will to learn and I began looking for another opportunity. As luck would have it, I got an opportunity to work with Mr. Tareque Masud on the “Runway” movie project. His intensity and thoroughness transformed my ideas about every aspect of filmmaking. This influenced me immensely and pushed me towards applying for the Endeavour Scholarship in Australia. Luckily, I received it and went for my studies at Sydney Film School and RMIT. After the professional vocational training, I received another opportunity to do my Masters in Film Directing at the Korean National University of Arts in South Korea. So filmmaking and film school all led my final interest to choose it as a profession.

Jalal's-StoryQ: How did the idea for ‘Jalal’s Story’ come about?

A: It’s interesting actually as ‘Jalal Er Golpo’ or ‘Jalal’s Story’ did not start out as it is. It was first called ‘Jalal Er Pitagon’ or J’alal’s Fathers’, but halfway through making it I found myself reflecting on whether the story was on the fathers or on Jalal himself, and there I decided that the story belonged to Jalal. The inspiration came from when I was studying at Sydney Film School and my thesis film project ‘A Homemade Love Story’. Since I was a foreign student there, I observed and experienced how most foreign students go through a form of identity crisis when faced with the struggles in a completely unfamiliar setting, and after that realisation, I decided to write out a basic plot line that ultimately took shape as ‘Jalal Er Golpo’.

Q: How long was it from the story’s conception to when you were able to start production?

A: Well it took around five years from securing the finances to make it to the big screen. Two years only took for production planning, shooting and post-production.

Q: You’ve said in the past that it has been important for you to make films about Bangladesh that show a different side to it than the Bollywood side which is commonly seen in film. Was this a driving force behind the way you made the film?

A: I think Bangladeshi film doesn’t have a very unique identity yet like Iranian, Philippino, Bollywood or Hollywood films. Mostly the local makers import stories directly from the Tamil or Indian cinema, which is a big shame! I therefore, had the plan to tell the story in a Bangladeshi way. Secondly I tried to tell it in my way. So this is very important for me to keep making films which people can slowly recognise as Bangladeshi films in the future.
Q: For your debut feature you received funding from the Asian Cinema Fund. What advice would you give to up and coming filmmakers wishing to apply for funding for their film?

A: I think you need a good story, a strong pitching sense and working hard. For example, I never made it to the pitching session in Sydney Film School.  I think I really worked hard to understand the craft of treatment writing, pitching presentation style and synopsis writing due to my failure in Sydney Film School’s group projects. I will therefore advise up and coming filmmakers to take failure, identify your weakness, work hard and apply wherever you are eligible. Somewhere there will be someone who is passionate about your stories.

Q: Why did you choose Australia and Sydney Film School to come to and further your film education?

A: I got a scholarship by the Australian Government and that was the only option to me to fulfil the dream of going to a film school. Choosing Sydney Film School was easy. I think it came up in Google that year in 2008/09 as a top destination for film school in the world. So it was a chance encounter.

Q: How did what you learnt at Sydney Film School help you make both your acclaimed short ‘The Container’ and ‘Jalal’s Story’?

A: Well, Sydney Film School was my first time to experience the basic tips and tricks. Starting from Steinbeck to 16mm production, Sydney life, and one of my favourite mentors Leslie Oliver, this all slowly shaped up my ideas. At that point it was like clay in my idea shaping. I didn’t know which direction I should go or what to talk about, but slowly over the course of the 1 year Diploma I gained my confidence.  Therefore, the Sydney Film School experience and the continuous mentoring that I received has been a great influence in shaping up both the short and my debut feature.

Q: Would you encourage other people to study filmmaking abroad?

A: Of course. Travelling to another country, even learning cinema in an unfamiliar language could be a great brainstorming element in story making. I think my extensive travel in different places with cinema has given me the confidence as a filmmaker. It is still evolving and I think it will keep continuing.

Q: What have been the highlights of your journey with ‘Jalal’s Story’ so far?

A: ‘Jalal’s Story’ has run in the Bangladeshi theatre for ten weeks already. More screenings will follow again. It is representing Bangladesh for the ’88th Academy Award 2016  in the Foreign Language Category and also has participated in festivals including the 19th Busan International Film Festival, 45th International Film Festival of India, 7th Jaipur International Film Festival, 33rd Fajr International Film Festival, 6th Fiji International Film Festival, 19th AVANCA 2015 – International Film Festival, Indian Film Festival Melbourne 2015, 39th Montreal World Film Festival 2015, 64th International Film Festival Mannheim-Heidelberg 2015, Asian World Film Festival, Los Angeles 2015, Phnom Penh International Film Festival 2015, 8th Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival 2015, 10th Jogja-NETPAC Asian Film Festival 2015 and the 20th Kerala International Film Festival 2015.

Q: What is coming up next for you?

A: I plan on taking on my next project after finishing my studies in South Korea. After releasing ‘Jalal Er Golpo’, I have been writing my next two projects already. I will start production for which ever gets funded first. I can only disclose the titles at the moment, which are, ‘A Beneficiary of Death’ and ‘A Tale of a Policeman’. I hope the fans will like my work and support my films by understanding the theme I hope to put up to them in the future

Sydney Film School continues strong relations with international schools

by Nicole Newton-Plater
Sydney Film School’s Admissions and International Relations Manager, Dr John Buckmaster has just returned from a successful trip on behalf of the school to Europe. The aim of the trip was to build on and strengthen the school’s already existing relationships and establish new links with prestigious international schools, as well as to meet with Sydney Film School alumni who were living overseas and have the potential to become ambassadors for the school.

John began his trip on October 2 when he first flew from Sydney to Sweden and met with Glen Baghurst & Po Ingvarsson from Your Study Advisor. Together they visited towns including Gothenburg, Uddevalla,, Trollhattan, Falkenberg, Malmo, Helsingborg, Ystad, Karlstad, Norrkoping, Uppsala and Stockholm. He also attended the Lady Bug Film Festival while in Gothenburg. Leaving Sweden on October 18, he next travelled to Russia where he spent his time divided between Moscow and St. Petersburg before concluding his European trip in The Netherlands spending time in Enscede and Amsterdam. John visited numerous schools which Sydney Film School already has connections to and gave presentations. He also met with technical colleges in Sweden that the school had not yet established a relationship with. He caught up with several Sydney Film School alumni who are currently living and working in the film industry in their home countries.

IMG_2334John is a firm believer in the benefits of studying overseas and it is an ideal that is echoed throughout Sydney Film School students and alumni as international students are an integral part of the school. He stresses that studying overseas changes your perspective entirely and allows you to grow, but also is of great benefit to those domestic students who are working and learning with those from another country.

“We teach ultimately to work globally and film making is a global industry” he says. “It is important that local students work with international students so it teaches them how to engage with different culture”.

This trip to Europe has proved incredibly successful for the school with a number of international students expressing interest in coming to Australia and studying at Sydney Film School and several already submitting their applications for 2016. Sweden, Russia and The Netherlands are all countries steeped in exciting culture where exciting things are happening so it is an absolute thrill to see so many people from these countries excited about studying in Sydney and at our school.
John has now established the Ambassador Program for Sydney Film School. Ambassadors are alumni who are looking to stay in contact with the school and promote us in their home country with the goal to inspire prospective students to come to Sydney Film School. Alumni Valery Chichilanov is set to sign on as our first Ambassador in his hometown, Moscow.

If you are an alumni of Sydney Film School, currently living overseas and interested in becoming a Sydney Film School Ambassador, please contact John Buckmaster by email at

Olesya Mazur talks about coming from Russia to study at Sydney Film School

Studying in Olesya Mazuranother country is a daunting experience, but an extremely exciting one that is full of opportunity to learn and grow. Sydney Film School encourages and welcomes with open arms students from all around the world into their Diploma and Advanced Diploma programs. We currently have students attending the school from countries such as Brazil, Russia, India, France, Spain and Sweden who are all keen to learn about filmmaking in Australia in a practical sense.

Olesya Mazur is from Moscow, Russia and is currently studying Diploma of Screen and Media at Sydney Film School. After completing her study in TV and Film Production in her home country, she decided to further her studies overseas and chose our school based on it’s reputation for it’s successful practical component which is highly regarded in the industry.

We thank Olesya Mazur for taking time out of her busy Sydney Film School schedule to have a chat to us about her experience at the school and living in Sydney.

Interview and article by Nicole Newton-Plater

Firstly, where are you from in Russia and what did you study before coming to Sydney Film School?
Originally I’m from Moscow. Few years ago I graduated from a course in Management in TV and Film Production at Moscow State University. Also after graduation I worked for 2 years in TV production.

Was studying overseas at film school something you had always wanted to do? And why?
During my study at university I was thinking about going to study overseas, but at that moment getting working experience in the industry was my priority. After two years of working in TV production, I came back to the idea of studying overseas because I was always interested in the practise of international film production in order to meet different prospects in filmmaking and, of course, to improve my English. For me it was also important to compare my own experience to combine elements of my previous working experience and new knowledge in order to achieve better results.

Where did you first hear about Sydney Film School and how did you make the decision to come here?

I saw an ad on the website of the Australian embassy about a presentation of the school. I really liked the idea of practical orientation of the school and that I could meet closer with editing software, camera and lighting gear. I think that truly you could learn filmmaking only by actually making something, and not learning the theory, though it’s also important.

Do you find Sydney Film School accommodating for foreign students such as yourself?

Everyone is very supportive and always trying to help. It’s really nice that except me, there are a lot of other overseas student from all over the world like Brazil, India, France, Spain and Sweden. I think it’s a great opportunity to collaborate and network for the future.

What was the most challenging part about coming to a new country for film school?

For me it was just an exciting adventure. I was very excited, though a bit scared of breaking my normal routine. I had mostly irrational small fears. I remember that I was worried about random small things like where I will get my haircut. It’s stupid and irrational, but mostly I was just excited to start the program and to create a new life while doing what I really love…filmmaking.

And what was the best part?

Best part is to do what I love. The process of trying to find my voice as a filmmaker and the creation of my own projects.

What is something you feel you have learned about film that you perhaps wouldn’t have if you studied in Russia?

I guess it’s not about learning. It’s about the opportunity to create something of your own. I was working for TV production before and I was supporting developing and the creation of someone else’s idea. Here for the first time in my life I created my, completely mine project. It’s an amazing feeling to see how something that was just in your head, small and very general idea gets flesh and blood.

How have you found living in Sydney is different from your hometown?

It’s very laid back comparatively to Moscow, which never sleeps, and to find coffee after 5pm is challenging. You need to get into Sydney’s schedule. It’s more relaxed, though I liked it.

What do you plan to do after you complete your time at Sydney Film School?

Work, work, work and work. I want to find an internship or preferably paid job to get more experience. I’m looking forward participating in great and interesting projects and to see the world through the camera.

Ramy Daniel talks about recognition and his short film ‘Bassam’ which will screen at Antenna

Ramy DanielSydney Film School documentary student, Ramy Daniel is among the current and past students that will be proudly representing our school at this week’s Antenna Documentary Film Festival in Sydney. This year marks the fifth anniversary of the prestigious film festival, which showcases the best in Australian, and international documentary and we at Sydney Film School are once again proud to be one of the major sponsors of the event. This year’s festival will run from October 13-18 2015 and will feature 47 films from 21 countries around the world.

Ramy Daniel’s short film, Bassam is a glimpse into the life of a refugee artist who is struggling through life while sick with multiple conditions and trying to keep up his great artworks. The film will be shown at the festival with On the Bride’s Side on Sunday October 18 at Verona Cinema Paddington at 1pm.

We would like to thank Ramy Daniel for taking time out of his busy Sydney Film School schedule of study and film making to have a talk to us about his film, Bassam and what being part of the Antenna Documentary Film Festival means to him.

Interview and article by Nicole Newton-Plater

Q: How did you make the decision to make a film about Bassam Jabbar?
A: I saw him at a free hot dogs give away barbeque at a church in Liverpool. We started chatting and he told me about where he was from and life story. I was very attached to all the things he told me and have experienced a few things he had, but the majority of what he have went through and the way he kept pushing against what life threw at him inspired me and made me want to share his story to inspire others as well.
Q: What were some of the challenges associated with making a film about Bassam?
A: Asking for permissions. I had to shoot with the camera hidden and rock focus wide open just by guessing the distance.
Q: There is very little dialogue in BassamWas this an advantage or disadvantage for the film?
A: It was definitely an advantage because I wanted to fit as many things as possible within the seven minutes I had and didn’t want to overload viewers with information and subtitles as his English wasn’t good.
Q: How did Sydney Film School encourage you to make a documentary that is about the life of Bassam?
A: I learned a lot from my documentary teacher Alejandra Canales. She was the one to inspire me and motivate me when everything was going bad for me in my life at that time.
Q: What have you learnt from the making of Bassam that you will take into your next film?
A: After winning a few awards at the school festival and being selected for Antenna Film Festival, I stopped doubting myself as I always thought I’m not good enough. This made me learn that a little effort with a little dedication can be very rewarding and I now have more confidence that can make me put more hard work into my next project to share my stories on a grater scale of audience.
Q: What are you looking forward to most about your film being screened at Antenna?
A: A long list of things and right on top of it is my name perhaps being more recognisable and heard through the screen as that in itself is not just something I can put on my CV, but also might benefit me by giving me an opportunity to tell more stories in the future.
Q: What attracts you to documentary filmmaking?
A: I feel more natural more myself when I shoot something that’s not staged and a true story, in general I like hearing peoples stories and always wanted to share them with others and having recently discovered that I could do better at telling the story through out the screen then any other way it motivates me to make more and more docos.

For more information on the Antenna Documentary Film Festival or to purchase tickets, please see their Official Website.

Sydney Film School on the red carpet at the Armani Films of City Frames Premiere

An article written by Nicole Newton-PlaterIMG_4160

After it’s tremendously successful initiation in 2014, the Giorgio Armani Films of City Frames made it’s return for a second edition yesterday Monday October 12 2015 as part of the 59th BFI London Film Festival and Sydney Film School was among the four prestigious international film schools to participate in the program.

Giorgio Armani-Films of City Frames involves four renowned film schools from around the globe and requires them to each make a short film. Each film was to be inspired by real individuals in the school’s home country and the emotions of their everyday life. The link between all the shorts is the eyewear from Giorgio Armani’s Frames of Life collection, in which the characters in the film view their realities.

Sydney Film School is extremely proud to have been invited by Armani to take part in this year’s Films of City Frames. We were represented at the event yesterday in London by alumni Chris Joys and Martina Joison, who were on hand for the screening of their film and our contribution to Films of City Frames, Clarity. Clarity, which was written and directed by Joys, is a unique film made especially for Films of City Frames about a blind photographer and the painter who is inspired to see in a new way through her.

When we were initially invited to take part in the event, alumni Martina Joison was appointed tutor by Sydney Film School to help select the team that would put together the film. This team came to include Joys, Quais Waseeq, Raphael Palencia, Victoria Allen and Robin Kover. Graduates from past years who have had experience in advertising were also invited to provide guidance.

Clarity was screened yesterday along with the threIMG_4174e other short films from the Holden School (Turin), the Academia Internacional de Cinema (Sao Paulo) and the Seoul Institute of Arts (Seoul). Very special guests at the event were Dame Helen Mirren, journalist Tim Blanks and BFI Chief Executive Amanda Nevill. The films were all screened to wide appraisal and were followed by a panel discussion moderated by the event’s special guests with the film makers.

All of the films featured in Films of City Frames will be available for public viewing on in the coming days.

Sydney Film School would like to congratulate the makers of Clarity on their exceptional effort and we are very proud to have been part of this year’s Giorgio Armani- Films of City Frames.

Todd Millar talks about his Antenna Festival screening

Sydney Film School is extremely proud to once again be one of the major sponsors of this year’s Antenna Documentary Film Festival. The festival is now in it’s fifth year of celebrating the best in local and international non-fiction on screen and will run from October 13-18 this year at Chauvel and Verona Cinemas in Paddington and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney.

We are also extremely proud to have three filmmakers representing our school with their short films featured as part of the festival’s program. Sydney Film School graduate, Todd Millar will have his short film, Travelling Man shown at Antenna on October 15 at Verona Cinema. Travelling Man is a personal story of Millar’s which makes us question how much we really know our parents and getting to know them better from the things they leave behind.

We would like to thank Todd Millar for having a chat to us about her short documentary and about the upcoming Antenna Documentary Film Festival.

Interview and article by Nicole Newton-Plater

Q: How did you make the decision to make a short film about something which was so personal to you?
A:  The decision was sort of made for me. In the break between semester 1 and 2, I received a phone call from my mother. She told me she had found an old box of my fathers, and that if I wanted it she would send it to me here. Inside the box was all my fathers travel memorabilia, which I knew nothing about and there was a good start. I had a story I wanted to tell.
 Todd Millar 2
Q: You feature both yourself and your family in Travelling ManWas it challenging to direct yourself on film? 
A: It was difficult to direct myself. I didn’t really know what I was doing, I had an idea in my head about how I thought the film should look, but it didn’t really go to plan.

Q: How did your education at Sydney Film School help you in the making of the film?
A: I had a lot of help from my documentary teacher Alejandra Canales.

 Q: What have you learned from the making of Travelling Man that you will take into your next film?
A: To really go deep into the story, and not to hold back. I left out a few things that might have given the story more impact. Also to stick to my guns.

 Q: What are you looking forward to most about your film being screened at Antenna?
A: Having my little film watched by some of the best in the world.
Q: What attracts you to documentary film making?
A: I love all film genres, but documentary really appeals to me. Real life stories are too interesting not to tell.
For more information on the Antenna Documentary Film Festival or to purchase tickets, please see their Official Website.

An interview with Teresa Carante about her Antenna screening

The Antenna Documentary Film Festival will this year celebrate it’s fifth anniversary of celebrating the best in local and international non-fiction on screen. The festival will run from October 13-18 this year at Chauvel and Verona Cinemas in Paddington and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney.

Sydney Film School is extremely proud to be one of the major sponsors of this year’s event. We are also proud to have three of our students and alumni have their short films featured as part of the festival’s program. One of these current students is Teresa Carante, who’s film, I’m Coming Home will be featured with Thank You For Playing on Sunday October 18 at Verona Cinema. I’m Coming Home is a short documentary that looks at the crossover between the sinking of the South Korean ferry, MV Sewol in which many students lost their lives and Carante’s own personal story of her brother being lost in a drowning accident.

We would like to thank Teresa Carante for having a chat to us about her short documentary and about the upcoming Antenna Documentary Film Festival.

teresa caranteInterview and article by Nicole Newton-Plater

How did you make the decision to make such a personal short film? 

Originally I wanted to make a documentary about the impact of the sinking of MV Sewol in the Korean community. Unable to produce such an ambitious short documentary, I then decided to use my voice to bridge my family tragedy to the one of the many families who lost a child in the South Korean ferry accident. Following closely the news of the tragedy, I realized an old wound surfaced and I had to say how I felt.

What are some of the challenges associated with making a film based on your experiences as opposed to one which is removed?

The most challenging thing is probably to accept that your vulnerability, your weakness, will flow on a screen for many to see. This is especially if trying to reach the crushed hearts of families who lost a child, there cannot be hesitation in fully embracing the wounds.

I’m Coming Home features a beautifully shot underwater scene. What is the secret to filming underwater so neatly?

Underwater filming is extremely challenging and I have to admit, I was extremely lucky to be surrounded by a great team of experts. I was able to get on board a professional underwater photographer who brought his experience in dealing with models and actors in underwater performances. Moreover I cast an actress who was also a free diver, able to hold her breath underwater for 3 minutes. My Director of Photography was also extremely skilled in lighting the scene making it look nothing like a swimming pool. Regardless, it was challenging. Unexpected situations do happen and having a prepared crew able to assist and support you achieving your vision is priceless.

How did Sydney Film School encourage you to make a documentary that is autobiographical?

Sydney Film School prides itself in being of support to it’s students as members of their extended family, so it generally supports film based on family struggles and connections. Also, autobiographical stories bring a different and more intimate layer to the film, something that SFS has always being encouraging.

What have you learned from the making of I’m Coming Home that you will take into your next film?

I have definitely learned to trust my intuitions more regardless of what other people might say. It was a harsh start with I’m Coming Home, but in the end nothing compares with the joy of seeing people appreciating your work and feeling the message of the film. If you feel it in your bones there must be a reason, so let your imagination take over your mind and start writing!

What are you looking forward to most about your film being screened at Antenna?

I am extremely glad that my short documentary was selected by Antenna because more people will see it and remember the South Korea ferry accident that happened over a year ago. I wish for my film to reach a vast audience, a Korean audience, and I feel that thanks to Antenna my dream could come true.

What attracts you to documentary filmmaking?

People! People and their amazing, messy, unbelievable, depressing and wonderful stories are what attract me to documentary filmmaking.  Raising awareness about different life styles, broadening the viewer mind to something they thought they could never understand, creating windows for curious eyes to see through, what more rewarding feelings there can be out there?!

For more information on the Antenna Documentary Film Festival or to purchase tickets, please see their Official Website.

Victoria Cocks talks about the creation of Wastelander Panda

Fresh from her apvickypearance at this year’s Sydney Underground Film Festival, the students at Sydney Film School were recently treated to a Masterclass Workshop with the creator/ director of the hit cult web series Wastelander Panda, Victoria Cocks.

Wasterlander Panda started as a joke, then became a viral success and has gone on to become a television series released on VOD platforms, ABC and DVD. Before the series, Cocks worked on an incredible number of films on different sections of the crew which helped her prepare for the challenge of Wastelander Panda and understand her task of turning the idea into a success with the help of marketing and crowd funding along the way.

Sydney Film School is extremely thankful to Victoria Cocks for taking the time out of her busy schedule not only to talk to our students, but also to answer a few questions about her experience making Wastelander Panda and to pass on advice to those looking to follow in her footsteps.

Interview and article by Nicole Newton-Plater

Q: Firstly, can we just get a quick rundown on how you became interested in film and the film industry to begin with?

A: I saw Aliens when I was 8 and decided that if I couldn’t be a space marine for the rest of my life, I would make movies about other worlds for the rest of my life.

Q: Where did the idea for Wastelander Panda initially come from?
A: The inspiration for the project came from a mixture of video games and a joke. Fallout 3 is my favourite video game ever and at the time I was playing it, I was massively inspired to design and create my own world, full of as many characters and environments as possible. I started talking to co-creator Marcus McKenzie about it one day and he came up with the idea of the panda. Together we started writing about this panda walking around a post-apocalyptic world and it had this Escape from LA vibe, just kind of bad ass but cheesy and ridiculous. Yet the more we started working on it the more serious it got and the whole premise and genre of. What went onto become Wastelander Panda, become really dark in tone and drama. We went more down the path of The Road and Fallout in the end which was definitely the way to go.

Q:It’s been said that originally Wastlander Panda started as a joke. What was it like realising how popular it really was and that you would then have to take it seriously?
A: We were definitely taking it seriously before Kirsty, the producer, even came on board. The idea of it being a joke was at the very first conception, then the more we started writing it the more serious it just naturally became. When we first started pitching it to people who could help us make it a reality it was far more dramatic in tone and the joke side of it had been completely removed.

Q:The original trailer for Wastelander Panda received 100 000 views in the first three days. What are some of the marketing techniques you would say helped to get this incredible amount of views?

A: We used a lot of social media to get Wastelander Panda out there in the beginning. We sent our trailer via different people’s emails , so it wouldn’t look like they were all coming from the producer or director. We sent to blogs like Buzzfeed and io9 among many others. Then the blogs started being shared and it began to have a life of its own. We’d also make sure we emailed other blogs it always got to them in the morning, so if it was an American blog it got there early in the day and not just before they went home and forgot about it over night. These guys get hundreds of emails a day so if it arrives during the night it’s at the bottom of their list in the mornings.
Q: Do you think that a viral marketing campaign is the way of the future for film and television/web series?
A: I think it has a large role to play, but it won’t be the way of the future. It will just be another way and mostly for people to get a start.

Q: How is creating and directing a web series different to a traditional television series?
A: Obviously because it’s shorter episodes, it’s harder to write a narrative per episode. You have just two minutes for a beginning, middle and end and sometimes it’s not possible to deliver a proper story because it can come across like there is way too much going on in such a short time. Part of the hassle is realising that and then how to do it. I’m still not sure how to do it (laughs). You can also not showcase your idea so much which is a real bummer, there was so much more I wanted to show people that I just couldn’t. I guess I look at web series like a stepping stone to TV, it helps you understand the way TV is written as well as the fast turn around and broadcaster relationships.
Q: In order to make Wastelander Panda, you started a Pozible campaign. What advice would you give to people who are thinking about starting a crowd funding campaign?
A: Go out there and do some actual work first before asking people to give you money. Shoot a concept scene or just give them something that they can see and trust you in delivering on a bigger scale when you receive their money. For example, there are lots of people asking for money for a short film and they put up no trailer, no concept of anything or maybe a director’s statement. No one cares if they don’t know who you are as to why you should get to make a film, they have to want to watch your film regardless of whose making it. People wanted to see a walking talking panda kicking ass, they didn’t care, that it was me directing it either. You could see we had worked hard to go out and shoot the trailer, it was obvious that there was a lot of time and effort that had gone into it and we needed their help to go further. We couldn’t do it without them and I believe that made a great difference. People have been making short films long before crowd funding so part of getting your money is convincing people as to why you actually need crowd funding in the first place. Why are other people capable of making a short film for no money and you can’t do the same? That’s part of the success rate, it’s not all about having a great idea. For us we had a concept people wanted to see more of and we proved we had gone out and worked very hard to deliver them a slice of it.
wastelander panda 1
Once the campaign was up it became about politely reminding people we needed their support and not continuously filling their news feeds with donation status’ or look like we were begging. We had also worked for a while in the industry helping a lot of people for free so we were in a good place to ask people to do us a favour back.
Q: In your career you have done an incredible amount of work behind the camera in the camera and electrical department, cinematography, editing, visual effects and animation. Do you think as a director it is important to have experience in as many areas of film making as possible?
A: Yes, absolutely. The best directors in the world understand at least one or two other areas so well that they could shoot their own movies or edit them if they wanted….which is not a great idea, but they could. Knowing other crafts better than most allows you to approach your set with far more expectation and control. You know how to save money more, you know how to ask for what you want and your people trust you far more when you just totally get what it is you are trying to achieve. I’ve seen directors not be able to tell a Director of Photography what they want because they didn’t understand lens terminology. I’ve seen directors get overwhelmed when they are shooting shots that will involve VFX because they just don’t know what the VFX teams need. It seems hard for directors to stand out these days if they don’t know the basics of multiple departs. I’m incredibly blessed to have worked in other mediums before directing. Wastelander Panda wouldn’t have been the same without it.

Q: What advice would you give to people looking to enter the film industry?
A: Work on everything you can in your early days, work for nothing and just get on everything in any department. It will benefit you greatly as on set etiquette and relationships are things you can’t be taught in class. Listen to what people have to say, even if you don’t agree with it and never assume in the first few years of being in the film industry that you know more than others, or you have some natural gift that makes you better than others. This way people are more open to you and it will get you further. There are a lot of people these days that refuse to start at the bottom. They don’t want to camera assist they just want to shoot, they don’t want to work as a runner on a big set, they just want to direct their own stuff straight away. If you want to be the best you can at your job, it’s a long ride. It’s about helping others and doing the bad jobs to gain the respect and experience you need to be better at yours. If I’d just walked straight into directing, then Wastelander Panda wouldn’t have ever happened because I wouldn’t have learned any of the skills I needed from working as a camera assistant, runner and editor that helped me meet the people and gain the knowledge I used in that production.

Q: What is coming up next for you?
A: I have just finished a director’s attachment on the ABC TV series called ‘Jack Irish’, which was the best experience of my life. Having been so inspired by that, it’s great to be home working on my own scripts again. I recently received a writers grant from the SAFC to complete my first feature film script so I’m feeling back in my element again as a writer.
I’m also about to participate in the HIVE LAB at the Adelaide Film Festival which is going to be an awesome experience.

Hannah Balke talks about her short film Ruckus screening at Sydney Underground Film Festival

Alumni  representing Sydney Film School at Sydney Underground Film Festival

At Sydney Film School, we are extremely proud not only to be a major partner of this year’s Sydney Underground Film Festival, but to also have two alumni have their short films featured in the program. Hannah Balke’s Ruckus and Nick Martinelli’s The Everybody’s Guide To Film Making have both been selected as part of the OZPLOIT! shorts session, which will take place on Saturday September 19.

Ruckus was the winner of Most Provocative Film at the most recent Sydney Film School Festival in July and was praised for it’s courage and ability to shock. Hannah Balke is currently working as Production Designer on the first Bangladeshi feature film to be filmed in Australia and is also working towards directing her next project with the help of other Sydney Film School alumni, which will be a surreal drama.
We thank Hannah Balke for taking the time to speak to us about the upcoming Sydney Underground Film Festival and her film Ruckus.

Interview and article by Nicole Newton-Plater

Hannah Balke

Firstly, how does it feel being part of the shorts line up for Sydney Underground Film Festival?

Hannah: I’m a bit nervous, but good. I’m proud of the team I had and it’s encouraging to see that a student film can have a life after post production.

Hannah, your film Ruckus won the award at the Sydney Film School Festival for Most Provocative Film. Do you think people will be shocked at Sydney Underground Film Festival when they see your film or do you think it will fit right in in the program?

Hannah: I think the point of Sydney Underground Film Festival is to not fit in, so I guess in that sense it’s in the right place. After working on the film so much it’s hard to say whether or not it will shock people because I’m a bit desensitized at this point, but I’m definitely not letting my mother see it.

Where did the inspiration for your short film come from?

Hannah:  My thesis teacher told me I could do anything I wanted… enter the supernatural lesbian murder monster. I had recently watched a surreal horror called Pop Skull too and that also inspired me a lot.

What are you most looking forward to when your film premieres at the festival?

Hannah: Popcorn and free beer.  I told my crew when we were shooting that my goal was to get it in to Sydney Underground Film Festival, but I didn’t really think it would happen. The festival has a great atmosphere and I’m looking forward to seeing Ruckus up with other films.

How did what you learnt at Sydney Film School help you in the production of your film?

Hannah: Probably everything. I didn’t know anything about making films before I started my diploma. I’d never touched a film camera in my life and I’d never edited anything before. I wasn’t even sure they would play my film at the school festival to be honest but the teachers were really supportive so it was a great experience.

Sydney Underground Film Festival will take place at The Factory Theatre Marrickville from September 17-20 2015. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit

Nick Martinelli talks about ‘The Everybody’s Guide to Filmmaking’ and Sydney Underground Film Festival

Alumni representing Sydney Film School at Sydney Underground Film Festival

Interview and article by Nicole Newton-Plater

At Sydney Film School, we are extremely proud not only to be a major partner of this year’s Sydney Underground Film Festival, but to also have two alumni have their short films featured in the program. Hannah Balke’s Ruckus and Nick Martinelli’s The Everybody’s Guide To Film Making have both been selected as part of the OZPLOIT! shorts session, which will take place on Saturday September 19.

The Everybody’s Gunickide To Film Making is a comical look at what people believe to be the success formula of the film industry. Since leaving Sydney Film School, Nick Martinelli has been working as a Production Assistant for a documentary production company and doing freelance work as a location manager for TVC’s, while also working on his first feature script.

We thank Nick Martinelli for finding time to speak to us about the upcoming Sydney Underground Film Festival and his short film.

Firstly, how does it feel being part of the shorts line up for Sydney Underground Film Festival?

Nick: It’s great, Sydney Underground Film Festival screen some really cool films that you don’t get to see anywhere else, let alone hear about. I’m really happy to be a part of it.

Nick, your film The Everybody’s Guide To Filmmaking will be making it’s world premiere at the festival and has been described as a humorous look at the filmmaking industry. Is this how you would describe it yourself?

Nick: Yes, I would describe it as a satire on some people’s perceptions about filmmaking.

And where did the inspiration for your short film come from?

Nick: Like anything creative, it was from many sources of inspiration and ideas, that all came together. I did reference the instructional video from 2004’s Dodgeball with Patches O’Houlihan, a bit of Hamish and Andy, among other references from other sources.

What are you most looking forward to when your film premieres at the festival?

Nick: Audience reactions, I really want to see people laugh, but on the flip side that’s why I’m also scared to go see it. What if they don’t? But I’d imagine that’s how anyone creative feels, when the public views their work. I guess I’ll just use it as a learning experience to make a better film, I’ve already learnt so much from making this one, I’m looking forward to my next project.

How did what you learnt at Sydney Film School help you in the production of your film?

Nick: The greatest thing I got out of Sydney Film School was meeting a lot of like-minded filmmakers. I was very lucky to meet some very cool people who are very talented at what they do, I love working with them and I am forever grateful for the people I’ve met at Sydney Film School.

Sydney Underground Film Festival will take place at The Factory Theatre Marrickville from September 17-20 2015. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit