SFS Festivals

Kate Hickey Roller Dreams

We talk to SFS grad Kate Hickey about her feature film debut Roller Dreams, premiering at the Sydney Film Festival this June

By Peter Galvin

kate hickeyNot long after Kate Hickey graduated from Sydney Film School she started working in film and TV in the United States.

Originally from Newcastle with a background in advertising, Hickey first went to New York, before settling in Los Angeles, where she established a home base in Venice Beach.

Hickey, who won the award for best editing at the SFS festival in 2005, quickly racked up a series of impressive feature film credits assisting in the editorial departments of pictures like Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008), Whip It (2009), The Town (2010), The English Teacher (2011) and Paradise (2012).

But, Hickey told the SFS Blog, her career highlight came when she scored a gig as assistant editor on Girls, the celebrated comedy-drama created by its star Lena Dunham in 2012, (who was only 26 at the time.)

“It was so me,” she laughs, “I used to stay up late to watch it, and I just devoured it.”

Hickey began on Girls in season 4 and work through season 5 before being promoted to editor for the sixth and final season, which concluded early in 2017.

“I love editing,” she explains. “It’s a bit like [solving a puzzle]. It’s peaceful and therapeutic. I like to sit with [the footage] and find an order for it and its really rewarding when other people love it.”

Still, as Hickey built up her career in post-production further with credits as principal editor on small but impressive indie pics like Farah Goes Bang (2013) and Oh, Lucy (2017) she was working on her feature debut, Roller Dreams (2017) a documentary that its roots in her childhood.

“When I was a little girl I was obsessed with Xanadu,” she says with a laugh. First released in 1980, the film was a sort-of romantic musical…with the dance numbers performed on roller skates.

Featuring songs by Electric Light Orchestra, Cliff Richard and its big star, Olivia Newton-John, Xanadu was Hickey’s favourite movie so much so she would “dress up as ONJ and roller skate up and down the beaches of Newcastle pretending I was in the movie.”

Hickey was intrigued to discover that Venice had its own roller dance scene with a history that stretched back thirty years, a history that in a very deep way touched the sad, volatile and angry story of how LA’s non-white inhabitants were often marginalised, forgotten and dismissed.

Venice is 23kms west of the centre of LA. In cultural terms, it was, at least in the 80s light-years away from the monied, Guccied world the city is famous for.

roller dreamsHickey explores all this in Roller Dreams, through the eyes of five ‘stars’ of the scene – ‘Mad’, Terrell, Sally, Jimmy and Duval – and notes that not one of these superb performers whose innovative stylings pretty much invented the roller dance form were invited to share their skills in Hollywood.

It’s a smart, and moving film that strikes a fine balance of fun, social insight, and history as it explores the lives of its main characters using some truly stunning archive material, new interviews and a pulsing soundtrack of great tunes including Prince’s Kiss – the scenes signature ‘jam’.

“It took eight years [and many different cuts] to complete,” says Hickey. “I was 26 when I started it, and I’ve definitely grown up making the film.”

She met the cast through what remained of the roller scene in Venice in the early naughties: “I grew very fond of them of them – they were flamboyant, larger than life characters.”

Hickey learned that most of them had come from South Central, a district with a bad rep for gang related violence. “Venice and roller dancing became an Oasis for them,” she says.

Back in Australia in early June for the movies world premiere Hickey was overwhelmed by the films rapturous reception from the sell-out crowd at the Sydney Film Festival: “It’s pretty amazing.”

She remembers her SFS days fondly: “It was a really diverse, liberal culture, that really encouraged creativity and I felt at home straight away.”

The relationships Hickey established then form in her words, ‘a global village’. The SFS grads become like a network, sharing advice, help and assistance no matter where they are in the world or what they are doing, she says. The bonds forged at SFS, remain, after more than a decade, still strong:

“You go out and do your own thing, but if you need to reach out and collaborate,” the support is always there, Hickey believes.

Asked what she took away from her SFS experience that has had the most impact in her professional life Hickey says it was at school where she learned the importance of ‘persistence’.

“Film school is a family,” she says, “but its also a bit of a competitive environment too, and I think I would say to students you have to be willing to work through the night to really make your film great. It’s the same [expectation and demand] in the working world.”

“On Roller Dreams [I persisted] because I just wasn’t willing to let it go till I though it was the best it could be.”





Finding an audience for student films


By Peter Galvin

We talk to three prize-winning graduates from 2016 about finding an audience for their films and their career pathways.

Professional filmmakers often debate the question: what’s harder? Getting a film made? Or getting it out into the world, so an audience can see it?

The question is just as important for emerging filmmakers. In the best imaginable outcome a successful festival appearance can lead to career development – a contract with a production company, prize money, recognition, or a distribution deal.

Still, there are practical hurdles to consider. There are literally 1000s of festivals available to the filmmaker, both traditional and online and just working through the options costs time and making submissions can end up costing money, too.

“I think it’s really important to be selective [and strategic] when considering where to send your film,” suggests Jonathan Wilhelmsson, who graduated in the SFS Advanced Diploma in December, after specialising in editing. His major project, Waltzing Tilda, a spectacular post-apocalyptic comedy-fantasy, laden with intricate visual effects, which he wrote and directed, earned him the Best Director prize at the SFS Festival last month.

raquelWilhelmsson explains that he will, alongside Tilda’s producer SFS AD graduate Raquel Linde (who shared the best producer prize) will be seeking out ‘niche’ and ‘destination’ film festivals for their film – that is those events that specialise in showcasing a certain kind of cinema. “In our case we will look at sci-fi, fantasy and comedy,” he said.

Adds Linde: “I think its really important to research and research before sending off your film.”

It’s about finding the right audience for your film, she says. SFS has a mechanism in place in order to deal with festivals and advice available from industry experts like Nick Szmidt, a distribution specialist, but Linde believes that filmmakers need to take a ‘hands-on’ approach in the goal of getting their film into the world.

Linde who left school in 2010 came to Australia at the start of 2016 from her native Spain to study at SFS after earning a BA in film and working as a fashion photographer. Her AD major work, Atomic Garden, an ambitious and poetic film, won the Best Thesis prize at the SFS festival in December.

She said that distribution is like any other aspect of filmmaking: it’s about being sensitive to the complex subtleties of each element and working as a team.

Originally from a small town in Sweden called Mockfjard, Wilhelmsson first came to Australia in 2010 for the SFS Diploma straight after graduating high school. Since then he has returned to Scandinavia where he setup a small business specialising in editing and visual effects. He came back to Australia in January 2016 to complete the AD. Now he plans to stay here and develop Waltzing Tilda into a feature with Linde.

Wilhelmsson says that initially there was some scepticism about the achievability of Waltzing Tilda, a view shared by staff and students. This only made him more determined: “I think it’s important to aim high…it forces you to be better.” He says it’s a credit to his cohort, Linde and the School, that in the end, he was given full support. A demonstration, he says, of the community culture of SFS.

Petra Lovrencic, AD producing graduate who shared the Best Producer prize with Linde and fellow graduate Afreenish Shahid agrees that SFS is a ‘safe space’ to explore, challenge and define one’s filmmaking practice: “We could be as ambitious as we could be,” she says of Ill Rittorno, a melodrama about betrayal and revenge set in a remote province in the Fascist Italy of the 1930s, which she produced.

Written and directed by AD graduate Alex Giblin, the film, says Lovrencic, had enormous logistical and practical issues to resolve not the least of which was the choice of making the film using Italian dialogue: a language not shared by any of the key crew members!

“I think the mistake I made during the production was taking on too much,” she says now. “I learned to delegate and the importance of lining up the production with the vision so everyone is making the same film. It was the hardest film I was involved with…and the most rewarding.”

Lovrencic who left school in 2004 has been in the work force (specialising in human resources) since 2005 and came to SFS two years ago wanting to write and direct. What she found was a vocation: “It was the first time in my life where I had to really work hard at something.” Her own film as writer/director Tesla, Revisited! won an audience prize at the festival in December.

Last Spring Lovrencic joined the SFS community as a staff member. She accepted the role of Executive Producer of the SFS Studio. “The role is about sourcing clients, pitching ideas to clients, writing treatments, organising shoots,” she explains.

Her advice now to grads and film students is to see distribution and festival going as part of career development: “Part of the reason you enter your film in a festival is to actually get to the festival!”

Festivals are an important opportunity to network, she says. It’s a chance to meet other filmmakers and share experience and insights.

Big festivals are attractive because of their visibility, and they are hotly competitive as a result. But sometimes a large international festival can demand exclusivity based on territory and region (that is, a film can be disqualified if its already been screened by a similar festival in the same city, and or/country.) This is where the film student needs to read the small print, when selecting a festival, says Lovrencic.

“I think when you are new to the industry you really need to take every chance – in makes sense to enter your film into as many festivals as you can,” she says. “Its far more achievable than just focusing on getting into ‘the Big One’.”




Take four, graduates from the class of the 1st SFS Festival

As we approach the 25th SFS Film Festival we catch up with four media professionals who graduated a decade ago from SFS’ first year 2005

By Peter Galvin

lauraLaura Rinaldi from Sydney was straight out of high school when she began her career in media as a student at SFS in 2005.

“I remember that first day really well when we all met each other and the teachers,” she says.

“We got this talk from one of the senior staff members. He said, ‘I have never met anyone who wanted to get into film and TV who didn’t make it’.”

“I was so relieved,” she says, with a laugh.

Today Laura works in production across a variety of roles, and has over the last decade accrued a large number of credits on shows like the ABC’s Rake and SBS’ The Principal.

“I went to England to work a year ago,” she says, “because the UK is ‘the Hollywood of TV’.”

There she worked with Arrow Media as a casting researcher. She returned to Australia a few months ago and has settled in Melbourne.

Laura spent several years studying media, film and TV in a number of different cities in Australia before attempting to land her first substantial job. That turned out to be with the prestigious Sydney production outfit Essential Media.

Sophie Zoellner, another SFS 2005 alumni, is now a freelance producer specialising in TV. Right now she is finishing up a contract on ABC’s Rage as the famed music shows’ producer. She has also produced online content such as Like a Version for the same network.
Her first job was a kids TV series – a quiz show – not long after she completed the diploma at SFS. “It was the most fun I have had,” she remembers.

“At school I specialised in editing and documentary and I think the thing I’ve taken away from the experience was that it was a chance to get hands-on experience,” she says.

On entering the industry, for an emerging filmmaker, in their first job there can be a lot of restraints. Sophie says: “If like me you work as a researcher you might not get the chance to touch a camera for years.”

Still, passion and persistence has paid off, she says.

Early on she worked on ABC’s Four Corners world renowned for its penetrating and tough investigative reporting on social, cultural and political stories – a job she says that has had a profound impact on her life and career: “It was great working on a piece for months and then when it goes to air finally it changes [how people] feel about a subject or an issue.”

Katharine Thornton née Hodge (pictured below with Frank Perikleous, Managing Director of ComScore Australia) produced Go Quickly, completed as a major project before she graduated in 2005. Written and directed by now head of production at SFS Michael McLennan, this ambitious thriller was a runner-up in the Sydney Film Festivals Dendy Awards.
Film school was great, Katharine remembers, because: “It gave me the sense that we could do anything.” That’s because, she says, the films they were undertaking seemed impossible to achieve given the budgets involved, the limited shooting time and the relative inexperience of the crew.

“I was straight out of school and for Go Quickly I had to go off and ask the Army whether we could borrow some of their trucks!”

Katharine recalls learning the value of ingenuity and organisation as a solution to production issues rather than “throwing money around.”

“We were taught to be frugal and to come up with as many creative solutions as possible in order to tell your story,” she says.

Soon after graduating SFS Katharine interned for Emile Sherman, who would later win an Oscar as one of the producers of The King’s Speech.

Now based in Melbourne Katharine works in the ‘business’ end of the movie business: as National Sales and Distribution Manager for Sharmill Films one Australia’s most successful independent distribution and exhibitors, specialising in art house and alternative content.

Part of her job is to make decisions on which films Sharmill will distribute in Australia. For Katharine her job is part of the filmmaking process, even if its not part of producing the film: in a real way it helps determine the future of certain films and the opportunity’s an audience has to see them.

“There is no way you can enter the industry without understanding distribution and producing,” she says.

Vilash Patel was already working in TV when she came to Australia from New Zealand in mid-2005 to study at SFS. Nine years ago she got a job working at the Seven Network. A few years later she accepted a transfer to the network’s Melbourne office where she now works as a presentation co-ordinator, a role that ensures that programs air as scheduled.img_5092-copy

She remembers her time at SFS as the place she learned to appreciate how films were made, and how each role was crucial to the films successful delivery.

“Once you know how the whole process works, you begin to understand what you are good at yourself,” she says.

Vilash is building a career as an independent producer and her time at SFS taught her that ‘casting’ crew was as important as selecting cast: “You need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of everyone as you are getting people on board [for a project.]”

Recently Vilash set up a production company Triurban Media Productions with colleagues Chris Keogh and Stella Dimadis. Their first major project is She Shot Tv, which looks at the rewards and challenges of women in media. Launching in March on C31 in Melbourne, WTV Perth and their own YouTube Channel.

“We want to make a difference to gender equality by promoting women working in film, media, TV and online,” she says. Meanwhile the team are working on a film festival, which aims to screen on International Women’s Day next year.

Her advice to graduates is to ignore the promise of ‘glamour’ that is the myth of a life in media: “It’s long hours and hard work.” Of course Vilash, loves it, all the same, she says.

Sophie suggests that after SFS graduates take every single opportunity no matter how ‘low’ the job seems, because: “you never know where it might lead you…”

Katharine recommends persistence. She began her professional career with Sharmill by “knocking on the door and asking for a job…they said they didn’t have one and I said I wouldn’t stop knocking till they gave me one!”

Laura remembers the emphasis that SFS placed on respect – for professional behaviour on set, and indeed for the making of content in any medium.

“I think that attitude, and a really positive outlook is really crucial in getting any job in the industry – people only work with people who not only can do the job, but that they like,” she says.

Being enthusiastic and optimistic about the future helps. That was something Laura found was rather unique about the culture at SFS, based on her experience of other institutions.

“I studied at VCA after SFS and our first day their was very different! We were all brought together and the lecturer told us, ‘most of you will never make it’,” and I remembered my first day at SFS and thought: ‘that’s not true’.”





Examples of She Shot TV can be viewed on You tube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMkcU2EW0lk&t=89s https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUeJhRJ0pJEhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwPXdDwXzzs


SFS IAB Pitch Competition: The Next Step


By Sam Wyatt

A question often raised by prospective and current students of Sydney Film School is “what do I do when I graduate?” The SFS Industry Alumni Board Pitch Competition was established in 2009 to encourage and assist alumni in taking the next step towards being a filmmaker. The Pitch Comp is designed not only to enable the winners to create a film that is a building block for their careers but also to give all entries valuable experience in developing a marketable concept and pitch.

This year the Pitch Competition was back for the 20th SFS Film Festival on July 15, bigger than ever. We were lucky to have not only the $5,000 main prize but supplementary prizes from Pozible, Panavision and an additional co-contribution to any crowd funding campaign from SFS. In the first round of judging we had a large number of entries, all of which were of a very high standard; the judges agreed that the level of preparation that went into this year’s pitches raised the bar and every single pitch was impressive.

Our biggest challenge was to choose three finalists from the field, and then to pick a winner. The three finalists, Paromita Dhar’s documentary “In Between”, Erin Latimer’s comedy “The Crush Space” and Julian Tynan’s comedy “Hustler” were all excellent pitches and concepts. They were so impressive that after the votes from Industry Patron Rich Welch (Antenna Documentary Festival), IAB Judge Sam Wyatt, and the audience, there was a tie!

For the first time in Pitch Competition history a tie-breaker was called for, resulting in the narrowest of victories for “In Between” a documentary focusing on Bangladeshi immigrants living in Madrid.

The victory of “In Between” breaks new ground for the Pitch Comp as both our first winning documentary and international winner. The IAB would also like to thank the crew of “In Between” for donating the $2,000 Panavision camera package to second placed “The Crush Space”.

We hope this result proves to current and future students just how much of a worldwide community the SFS alumni really are. We also hope that the two excellent international entries from this year will encourage more global SFS filmmakers, however far away they may be, to enter next year.

The judges have some feedback based on this year’s entries that they want to give to all prospective entrants of the Competition. Firstly, take time to refine your script (or documentary treatment) as much as possible; the fewer questions the judges have to ask on story the better. The most successful pitches were those that could clearly articulate their concept’s tone, style, audience, marketability and achievability. It is best to be as far along as you can be with all your pre-production process – transparent intentions, preparations and examples with elements like casting, design, locations, budgeting and scheduling are key contributing factors in a strong pitch.

Think along the lines that people who are potentially going to fund a film want to know that the vision is clear and marketable, that their money is safe and that the film is going to be completed by the required date. Be as professional as possible in everything that you do and in how you present because impressions of a crew’s attitude to a project can make a big difference. All three finalists this year had either started shooting or had most preparations for their shoots locked in for the imminent future.

It is not always necessary to have a trailer, however film is a visual medium so concrete examples and references for visual style and the tone of the film really help. The more out of the ordinary an idea is the more the judges need to see of how the finished film will look and feel to be convinced that it will work.

The IAB looks forward to seeing everyone at the premier of “In Between” at the 21st Sydney Film School Festival in December. We note that many of the other entries, including the other two finalists, are either currently in production or about to go into production. We look forward to seeing so many great films.


Sam Wyatt is a member of the SFS IAB and served as a member of the SFS IAB Pitch Competition judging panel.

The Serendipity of Success: Kim Mordaunt

On taking chances and following your heart in filmmaking


IT’S THE BLOGIES!: 19th Festival Wrap-Up

So the 19th SFS Festival has come and gone; and what a festival it was – culminating in an awards night of scarcely believable quality. Congratulations to all of the students!

As with every festival, it’s left to the Maestro – SFS Artistic Director – Ben Ferris to spot the underlying theme of the three days of screenings (One of these days there’ll be a festival so diverse as to beguile any attempt at identifying a unifying theme – but this was obviously not one.)

The theme this time around was the challenging of the traditional patriarchal voice with which stories are told. Here’s what the Maestro had to say:

Click here to read Ben Ferris’s graduation speech at the 19th Festival

It strikes me, judging by the quality of the films on display –  and this sentiment is not restricted to the aforementioned films – that the weight of this expectation does not weigh heavily on the talents of this particular group, but rather serves as encouragement in the form of high praise from a man who, along with Kathryn Myliss, Leslie Oliver and all of the seasoned SFS teachers, has shepherded innumerable students through such festivals. Personally, I think this collective slate of films may have been the best SFS has yet produced.

Writing this blog affords me certain indulgences. One I have been particularly excited about is the BLOGIES. My pick of the festival’s talking points.

So it is my pleasure to present the Inaugural Blogies; 2013:

The Tarantino Award for Most Tonal Shifts Per Second (TSPS): 

“Adam and Eve Get Kicked Out Of The Garden Of Eden” by Jaeson Iskandar


This is one of those films that oscillates between light handling of heavy subject matter and serious contemplation; stopping at every junction in between. I’ll leave it to the audience to decide whether or not it works, but there were obviously some very brave decisions taken along the way. 


The Raging Bull Award for Most Romantic Portrayal of Violence in Black and White:

“Move” by Colin Jones


There was an ethereal quality to this film, and I haven’t been able to decide exactly what gives me that feeling. What I do know is that it takes a high proficiency in visual composition to be able to evade my delicate sensibilities when, at a high frame-rate, a hammer blow of a kick is dealt and shockwaves ripple through a man’s body. When normally I would cringe with empathy, the best I could muster on this occasion was: ‘beautiful’.

The Gangnam Style Award for Most Likely to Succeed on the Internet:

“Dogs on Red” by Filip Persson


Filip’s superlative thesis film delivers exactly what it says on the tin – Dogs, shot on a Red. Unsurprisingly, the audience on the day received the film extremely well, as the innocence of the second most popular pet on the Internet (I would’ve equally enjoyed “Cats on Red”) is captured in vibrant colour and clarity in slow motion.


The Aaron Sorkin Award for Best Line of Dialogue

“The Hunger” by Clifford McBride


I suspect that this is one of those films, which, in its formative stages, was meant to be a psychological drama about principled characters pushed to the extreme, until one day, somebody pointed out its immense comedic potential. A potential, I might add, which is largely realized, and on that basis alone, it deserves  Blogie. It might also have won for its creative and provocative use of stock footage; rotting carcasses and murderous wombats.

It’s finest moment, in my opinion, is delivered by SFS’s own Jessie Munnings. After watching his friend play a game of ‘stop hitting yourself’ with a recently deceased buddy, he half-heartedly declares: “What you’re doing is extremely wrong!” (Intentional or no, it’s understated enough to be side-splittingly funny).

The 8mm Award for Murder-Porn

“The Gesture” by Arnold Perez


With only one on-screen fatality, ‘The Gesture’ is pretty far away from having the highest body count. It is, however, quite sexually charged right the way through, laying just the right number of hints along the way – I got the feeling there would either be a murder or a passionate sex scene at the end.

Ultimately, I was disappointed not to get the sex scene, but credit anyway to Kate Houston, who was convincing as a psychotic killer (what experiences did she draw on? I wonder…), and Eric Ung, for his cinematography work on the unsettling scene pictured above.


The Jack The Ripper Award for Gleeful Violence

“REVOLUTION” by Jackson Frazer


What a hoot this film was.

  • 8 minutes long
  • 16 shots fired
  • 6 hits
  • 4 violent deaths (3 on screen)
  • 1 murder by van
  • 1 murder by pitchfork

Enough said.


The Buzz Lightyear Award for Taking Me To Infinity and Beyond

“Apollo” by Mitchell Earnshaw


The things you love in any film are reflections of yourself, and so I hope I wasn’t alone in falling in love with the idea of space exploration all over again whilst watching this film.

From the naivety portrayed in audacious early cinematic efforts such as George Melies’ “Le Voyage dans la Lune” to the Apollo 11 mission which completed mankinds’ “giant leap” – with plenty in between – “Apollo” is an apt reminder of what mankind is capable of achieving when we dare to dream.

The “It’s Not A Fish, It’s A Mammal” Award for Not Being A Fish

“Fish in a Tank” by Marco Boriani


The gentle, understated voiceover would be a soulful, introspective reflection on something deeply personal to the filmmaker. Would be: if Marco were a fish.

The Golden Blogie for Best Moment of the Festival 

Bianca Malcolm sings “Bohemian Rhapsody”


For those of you who missed it, let this serve as a warning not to miss sessions at future SFS festivals. When facing technical issues with the projector during the first session of day 3, the audience was left waiting for issues to be ironed out by our hard-working team in the projection room. Up stepped the Maestro to lay down the gauntlet: “who among you will step forth and entertain?” (or at least, I think that’s what he said).

Cometh the moment, cometh the woman. Up stepped Bianca to lead the room in an impromptu rendition of Queen’s greatest hit. Not only did she display unencumbered vocal prowess, she also displayed good deal of intestinal fortitude (which is also on display in her films “Metaverse” and “I.C.U.”).

Credit must go also to Sarah Wilson for being a good sport when her film, “Loss of Love”, was interrupted by the glitch.


The Maestro’s graduation speech at the 19th Festival

“In Patrick McGinley’s “Always on Your Side”, a mother hands her daughter a copy of Kate Millet’s 1969 book “Sexual Politics”

In this book Millett argues that authors view and discuss sex in a patriarchal and sexist way.

In Colin Jones’ “Move”, the tension between the sexes is established, as we are introduced to a female ballerina in contrast with a pair of male boxers. This tension will only be resolved in the final film: Biting Down (Kate Cornish), where a young female heroine challenges the traditional role of “femme fatale” – traditionally the means by which a male protagonist is diverted from the object of his quest – but in Cornish’s hands becomes a true force in her own right.

Incidentally Cornish penned “The Gesture”, another film in which we see the clear supremacy of a female killer over a string of helpless male neighbours.

Jaeson wrestles with it in his delightful film,” Adam and Eve Get Kicked out of the Garden of Eden”, in which he seeks to navigate the impasse through the possibility of a threesome…

Martina Joison’s “Mabel” rides into town with a false image of a man, and leaves with a flesh and blood variety, in a whirlwind of energy that breaks apart the unhealthy relationship between the two men in the film.

Laura Waite’s “Your World” completely parodies the male dominating presence in early educational films, and by reversing gender roles, provokes all sorts of questions about gender stereotypes.

Carolina’s “Nowhere” works metaphorically to establish a kind of limbo space, through which the male and female lovers must traverse in order to find one another again, a representation of the constant kind of negotiation that needs to happen within every successful relationship between the sexes.

In Yuling’s film, “The Silent Flow”, the female character, while initially jealous and disempowered, is seemingly empowered by her connection with the sea, and ends the film vindicated, turning away the apple that the man is offering her. 

Unsurprisingly the image of the apple recurs, the symbol of tension between the sexes.

The figure of the dominant woman manifests itself in the dynamic between the young girl and boy in Andy’s “Walk With Me”, in whose eyes the boy must prove himself.

In “Memories of Jack”, a strong, determined young girl with lead her grandfather towards the harsh reality that her father and his son is now dead. 

In Julian’s “Snake” the women, while absent from the film, still assert a powerful presence upon the father and son, simultaneously disrupting the relationship and then bringing them back together.

Pete Raftos deftly navigates the complexity of this tension of the sexes in “Maya and the Boy”, where a babysitter is not entirely aware of the full power her sexuality has over the young boy she is minding.

It is young girls in Sneha’s video clip, “Bravado”, that usurp the traditional male role of hooliganism.

Even the main subject of Bianca’s documentary, “Metaverse”, breaks open the stereotype, as she embraces the traditional domain of young men: computer games.

Matthew Jelly’s hero in “Stuck” is unable to forgive himself for his aggressive behaviour towards his wife and daughter, and is punished by his daughter for it.

Sandra Fonseca’s Sabina in “Shadow” is battling her own demons in the way she defines herself through the opposite sex, but she too is able to find her way through, taking the snake by the tail.

The festival ends with a powerful female presence in all three films of “Si”, “Solitude” and “Biting Down”, as the powerful presence of a mother, a defiant wife, and ruthless killer, respectively. 

In Jungian terms, our behaviour and societal structures are founded upon archetypal patterns inherent in all storytelling. It follows that if we can change or challenge the archetypal patterns, we can also change ourselves, and the world we live in.

Based upon the slate of films presented by you at our 19th SFS Festival I am very optimistic about the way in which conventional patriarchal storytelling will be challenged by you as the future generation of filmmakers, both as women and men. I think this ultimately extends the framework in which we see ourselves reflected.”

Click here to read the 19th SFS Festival wrap-up

Bob Ellis: Keynote Speech at the 19th SFS Festival


On 12th December, esteemed Australian writer and filmmaker, Bob Ellis gave the keynote address to a packed Chauvel Cinema in Paddington to kick off the final session of the 19th Sydney Film School Festival. Here are his words of inspiration.

“When I began first making films in Sydney – a drama called Who Travels Alone about an Australian soldier dying in a nameless Asian war and in a steamy, muddy jungle remembering home, in April, 1960 – it was with a borrowed Arriflex and short ends stolen from Cinesound by my cameramen Mick Molloy, later to shoot Barry Lyndon, and Peter Hannam, later to shoot 2001 – -A Space Odyssey, and it was a kind of weekend outing, with no thought of funding, or even release.

Films were made then for love, by young men like Bruce Beresford, who at fourteen persuaded the Australian army to lend him two tanks for his anti-war film, and Chris McGill, who at twenty made After Proust in two weekends with borrowed carriages and parasols in Centennial Park, and belonged, as a rule, to Communist-connected Russian film appreciation societies and screened Ivan The Terrible Part One and The Cranes Are Flying a lot, and The Overcoat, and the Sydney University Film Society which favoured the Marx Brothers, Bob and Bing, and the earlier Pommy comedies of Peter Sellers.

All of us, of course, awaited eagerly the new subtitled films at the Gala and the Lido and their refreshing nude sequences. One Summer of Happiness comes to mind, Black Orpheus and The Virgin Spring. You can never appreciate how, in those days, in Les Murray’s words, ‘Film was our spare religion’. We awaited each new Bergman offering with the same elated suspense as our ancestors awaited each new Papal Bull. What is the answer, Ingmar? What is the answer this time?

Bergman, and Antonioni, Renais, Alf Sjoberg, Renoir and Marcel Camus seemed to comprise all wisdom, and Fellini to be an embracing Shakespearian universe that we preferred to our own memories of childhood, wartime, circuses and acrobats and clowns.

We were ‘opened up’ by cinema in those times as a previous generation had ben by Marxist activism, and a later one by drugs. If the Seventh Seal had meaning, then 2001 had, wow, total meaning, and the films of 1968, In The Heat Of The Night, Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, 2001, and the dreary, Oscar winning Oliver! seemed a tumult of possibility, a gateway to a new world.

And, in Australia, it was.

Bazza McKenzie, Libido, The Cars That Ate Paris, Sunday Too Far Away, Caddie, Newsfront, Don’s Party, Alvin Purple – I had credits on only three of those films – opened us up and internationalised us as never before, Newsfront was made for four hundred thousand dollars, and the great breakthrough war film Breaker Morant, dizzyingly, for eight hundred thousand dollars, and in each if the above a PROFIT achieved by the film adoring students of the Russian classics who were, then, the entire film industry.

Then 10BA occurred, and the lawyers and accountants got in. The Treasurer, John Howard, decreed that you could write off 150 per cent of your profits and 50 per cent of your losses, but each film must be done by June 30, which meant all films were begun, at the latest, the previous October, and everyone was bidding for the same ten cinematographers whose prices quadrupled. Soon four and five million were being spent by tax-avoiding dentists on a two-page script, and shysters demanding actors improvise, or fight to the death a savage koala, and from this absurd inflation of cost, dumbing down of standards, and the unique and typical two-faced creation of John Howard, we’ve never truly recovered.

State film funding bodies sprang up, and, under Keating, a film bank, run by Kim Williams, called the Australian Film Finance Corporation. But never fully addressed the big budgets – Oscar and Lucinda with Cate Blanchett and Ralph Fiennes, cost eighteen million and lost the lot – and the rapid migration overseas of our better directors, actors, editors, designers and cinematographers, to work on sometimes demeaning projects in Hollywood. Simon Wincer made The Lighthorsemen here, and Free Willy there, Fred Schepisi made Jimmy Blacksmith here, and Mr Baseball there, and IQ, a wacky romantic comedy about Albert Einstein administrating the difficulties of two young lovers. I proposed at one time what I called a Judas Clause for all Australian directors who trained here and did well overseas, that they send one half of their income over a million dollars each year, home to Australia, which made them, and got nothing back from them.

This migration, however, did less harm than one might think. The film schools disgorged each year considerable talent, and the ever-cheapening new technologies empowered almost anyone with half a dozen friends to make a ten or twenty-minute film that was adored at Tropfest or Dungog or the Sydney and Melbourne festivals. Each year in the 1990s with relentless predictability brought out one or two excellent features, and three or four good ones, and five or six … acceptable ones. Ten years ago there were, by my count, five hundred good young directors viewable in the archives of Tropfest, and shows like Frontline, and The Games, and, lately, A Moody Christmas, displaying a level of international excellence that left me in no doubt that the ‘industry’ was in no trouble, though everybody in it was pretty often starving.

It is absurd, for instance, that the director of Australia’s best … or second best movie, Beneath Hill Sixty, is broke and in need of a feed most times I ring him, and actors as good as Brandon Burke, Simon Burke and Bill Charlton and Drew Forsythe and Amanda Bishop and Heather Mitchell and Laurel McGowan had interims of struggle in the last ten years.

But the answer, probably, is in this room. A vow of poverty, a group of friends, an eight hundred dollar camera, an editing computer, some NIDA actors or WAAPA actors more keen to work for nothing, than wait for the phone to ring, and a co-operative sprit like we had in 1960, a desire to make good things, now. Now, and not waiting for a committee to dally over a third or fourth draft of a script while your enthusiasm drains down into your boots, is, I’m sure, a fair description of many here tonight, awaiting the announcement of the first or second prize, and commiserating afterwards with a gang of fellow travellers, fellow pilgrims, to the Shrine of Godard and Truffaut or Tarantino or, God help us, Baz Luhrmann, and the glories that await the pure of heart and the rich of soul, on Oscar night, or BAFTA night, or … the Logies, or the Dungog wreath of honour, or something less. It is a journey worth taking, in the first or second flush of youth, to the foothills of the Matterhorn that beckons us up to amazement and bliss and immortality, or not.

It is the answer, and the only answer, and it is in this room.”


From Left to Right: Mark Allen (Chairman of the Sydney Film School Board), Ben Ferris (SFS Artistic Director), Bob Ellis and Hannah Klassek (MC at the awards ceremony)