By Peter Galvin
It is almost three years since Lisa Camillo graduated with a Diploma from the Sydney Film School.
Since then she has wasted no time building a profile as a content maker.
Though specialising as a director, Camillo has earned credits as a producer, writer and cinematographer across a diverse spread of projects, including music video and non-fiction.
Camillo based in Sydney has her own independent business; her short films have travelled the world, and right now she is completing her first feature, Balentes, a poignant documentary about her homeland, Sardinia.
This week her short drama begun at SFS, Requiem, will be part of the official selection at the prestigious One Take Film Festival in Croatia.
Asked how she came so far so fast she explains: “Persistence,” she says, laughing, adding that every film is a challenge and success can’t be taken for granted.
Camillo who grew up in Rome and Sardinia came to Australia at age twenty. She completed a degree in anthropology and a Masters in International Development in her adopted city of Melbourne. Between study commitments she took modelling jobs and playing rock and roll gigs with her band.
Immediately after graduating she launched into social welfare work where she formed a strong commitment in collaborating with Indigenous communities especially in areas like health.
Here Camillo learnt first hand about the pride and resilience of people who face tremendous struggles of survival everyday.
Positive stories were not reaching the mainstream she said.
“People in these developing communities are doing brilliant things and we are not hearing their success stories,” she says.
“What drew me to filmmaking,” Camillo explains, “was the feeling that my work as an anthropologist could have greater impact if it had a greater audience.”
A friend of a friend recommended Sydney Film School.
Camillo says she felt at home at SFS: “I loved the family atmosphere and the level of teaching was brilliant – a really great mix of theory and the practical.”
“Once at SFS I was able to use everything I studied at university,” she says. “I discovered straight away that it was never too late to change career pathways.”
Camillo made Live Through This in her first few months at SFS. This short documentary came directly out of her experience working in communities where domestic violence was a sad fact of life.
Still, Camillo elected to focus on a story of forgiveness centring on the profound familial bond between father and son. The film made a huge impact when it appeared at the distinguished Flickerfest short film festival in 2013 and launched Camillo’s career.
Straight after graduating Camillo got started on Balentes, spending more than a year researching the project, which she says deals with a ‘loss of innocence.’
The film is part personal journey, part social and cultural history of Sardinia, a one-time playground of the rich and famous, that now is host to war games operated by Italy’s more powerful and wealthier allies in NATO.
Situated in the Mediterranean Sea, with more than 2,000kms of coastline, Camillo remembers Sardinia as a place of sunny beauty, where the rural community thrived in harmony with the vibrant tourist trade. Now, she says, the island is struck by poverty, disease and social decay – a direct outcome of the weapons testing on the island.
Balentes – the title mean men and women of courage and honour – describes Sardinia’s social and cultural crisis and explores the bravery of the island locals who are confronting the power of government in order to restore their way of life.
“I wanted to tell a different kind of personal story,” she says. Made on a variety of camera formats – including the Red, DSLRs and even an iPhone – Camillo used a tiny crew of two or three throughout the production and shot a lot of the film herself. It will be ready for release in late December.
After that Camillo plans to shift her operations to Los Angeles where she wants to launch a new drama project.
“I love to live in the moment,” she says of shooting a film, her favourite part of the process.
“It’s about responding to life around you,” she says.