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A Hobbyist Filmmaker’s Journey

Despite only shooting and editing my first short film in 2001, my journey to becoming a hobbyist filmmaker has been a long time coming.

As a child, my parents owned a home video camera, and my dad particularly enjoyed filming my siblings and me doing all sorts of random things. And in my small primary school, with a total population of maybe 30, my dad even used the camera to shoot the majority of the school as the cast of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Creativity practically flowed in our family. I also found myself writing, directing and acting in plays I wrote about Alvin and the Chipmunks in front of my whole primary school. My year 7 graduation even consisted of a dance I choreographed myself to Just Around the Riverbend from Disney’s Pocahontas (who said TV/movies stifled creativity?!)

In high school, I decided to take some drama classes, but my outgoing personality had begun to diminish when I realised I didn’t do so well among much larger groups of people. The plays I appeared in had generally given me smaller parts to play, as if I didn’t want to be noticed in case I made mistakes. I was shy and afraid of forgetting lines. When I was done with the acting at school, I pretty much gave up my dream of becoming a “famous actor.” But my journey for the stage didn’t end there. In year 11 I decided that actually comedy was much better, and I began writing stand up comedy material that I thought there was no way I’d ever perform. But in 2000 (ie, the following year), I braved the stage by entering Raw Comedy – at that stage, a rare accomplishment for someone who was only 16.

In university, I found myself exploring new forms of expressing my creativity in comedy – yes, that very first short film. I wrote the script and cast myself and my brother, while my dad and myself were the camera operators. We used the second home-video camera my mum owned (my parents had separated before this one was purchased) as we had not yet bought our miniDV camera. The film was called How to Stalk a Celebrity and was shot with the intention of entering it into a comedy film competition. It was not selected, but I still enjoyed myself immensely. Even if I did have to edit it using the VCR!

I didn’t shoot anything again (besides having someone film a few stand up routines I did on stage, and another act’s comedy show at their permission) until I went around the world in 2004-2005. But I was still working toward my journey, minoring in Media Studies as part of my undergraduate degree in university. I think that was the major turning point for me as far as choosing to go back to university after my world trip to do a Graduate Diploma in Media Production. This minor also encouraged me to attend the Toronto Film Festival in 2004 and the Sundance Film Festival in 2005.

The footage from my world holiday has still not been turned into the mockumentary I planned to make, but a lot of the Toronto footage was used in my GradDip film Journey, as the film itself was set in Toronto. This may have seemed a difficult task to accomplish while shooting in Perth, but actually the cities aren’t too different, and most of the scenes were shot indoors anyway. The only outdoor scenes were set at an airport – possibly the most challenging location I have had to find to date. I hired (which ended up costing me nothing as they refunded me my deposit and the payment) a couple of trolleys from Perth Domestic Airport and shot the airport scenes at the West Australian Production building in Osborne Park. But I have had so many compliments from people watching the film that say it actually looks like an airport. Mind you I should probably also thank my cinematographer, Patrick Herford, for that. I think it also helps that as I was waiting to leave Toronto airport, I took some video footage of the plane I was about to catch, which happens to be in the opening of the film.

That year, 2005, I learned so much about filmmaking – writing, directing and editing in particular. I got to work with a now award-winning cinematographer, and had a feature film director, Melanie Rodriga, as my supervisor. I would not have accomplished nearly as much as I did without their help. My cast were also brilliant. It was a lucky coincidence that an actual Canadian stand up comedian, Mike Sheer, was planning on being in Perth at the time of the shoot, and was also in Perth to help me with the audition process to find my Nadine. Mike played Ryan opposite Hannah Sutton. This was the first film I shot with real actors.

The same year, Mel introduced me to PAC Screenworkshops, of which I have now taken several of, and have worked with numerous actors in Perth because of it. SWS2 – Romance and Seduction (2005) made way for A Straight Answer starring myself and Mahesh Jadunudan; SWS2 – Comedy (2006) produced Dead, a script I wrote whilst doing my GradDip, starring my then fiancĂ© (now husband) Jeremy Malcolm, our friend Michael Lamont, and my best friend from university, Cameron Kilshaw; while SWS2 – Improvisation (2007) developed Barren starring Zalia Joi and Robbie Vecchio.

The PAC courses have been great in the sense that it has allowed me to follow through with some ideas, actually knuckle down and shoot and edit films to a deadline, as well as meeting colleagues. In fact, one PAC director, Courtney Waller, and I have often called upon each other for help. He was a second camera person for me on Barren, and I was the production assistant on his Super 8 film Bubbles.

In 2006, Jeremy and I started our business Malcolm Media to provide services in web development and film/media production. Through this business, and using the spiffy Sony HD camera we bought for it, I decided to initiate a filmmaking club with the help of Arena Arts and Entertainment, called MAHEM. January 2007 saw the first meeting to decide on a script to shoot first, Present Vision, which was written and directed by me. Shooting took place in June 2007, starred Jeremy Malcolm, Ellen Jurik and Donna Abbey, and premiered at an Arena meeting on the 29th of June 2007. We will probably have another screening at the next MAHEM meeting.

What I hope to eventually achieve as a hobbyist (because let’s face it, there’s no point in harbouring fantasies about actually being paid to work in the industry) is to write and direct a feature film (not necessarily together) that may or may not go places, entirely self-funded, such as was done with Fisheye Stiller, directed by Steve Kezic, that my husband played a small role in.

In June 2007, I wrote a feature film called Motherless Children as part of Script Frenzy, but I will probably edit it further, and cut the film in half, creating two short films (on the long side of ‘short’) before I decide to go ahead and shoot any of it, if it comes to that.