Interview with Joy House Film Festival’s Best Women’s & People’s Choice Award Winners

The Annual Joy House Film Festival was on again at Hoyts cinema on Sept 9th, 2018. The only uplifting festival Downunder that promotes stories of JOY and celebrates DIVERSITY, supported by the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance’s Diversity Committee.

I had the privilege of interviewing our Winners, this week my interview is with our Best Women’s Filmmaker (“Munchies” – Hayley Warnock) and People’s Choice Winner (“That’s Life” – Katharine Rogers).

Munchies    That's life

1) What made you want to produce / make your short film?
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H.W.: I am a self taught stop motion animator. For every stop motion that I make, my aim is for it to be better then the previous one. This particular film Munchies had the biggest, most detailed set i’ve ever made before. It had proper film lighting instead of my desk lamps and I used stop motion computer software to help capture the animation. My overall goal for this film was to keep enhancing my animation skills and tell a story along the way.
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K.R.: Growing up I spent a lot of time watching movies.  They formed a lot of my childhood and I had an understanding of movie images and the power of stories to move people.  When I started telling stories it seemed natural to tell them in a visual medium.
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Hayley Warnock  Hayley Warnock Katharine Katharine Rogers
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2) What do you consider important as a filmmaker and why? 
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H.W.: When you don’t have human characters that people can relate to, I think as an animator you have to work extra hard for your characters performance to be taken seriously, however I think every element that goes into filmmaking is equally important. If you have a message that your audience can take away from your film, and they think about your film after it is shown, then you have created more than just a film.
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K.R.: It always comes back to story.  Everything you do should be informed by the story you’re telling.   And only tell the story if it’s something that matters to do you.
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3) Did you see any challenges whilst making your short film entry?
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H.W.: My biggest challenge while making Munchies was the ability to create realistic smooth movements. Stop motion obviously requires an incredible amount of patience and if you lose focus even for a second you can lose the flow of your movements. After creating all the elements of the set with plasticine or other materials, another challenge arose when I had to move house. It meant carefully picking up and transporting the set across Melbourne. To top it off it also meant tilting the set on its side to fit through the doorframe! It was a delicate process. Luckily there were only a few carrots that didn’t survive the trip.
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K.R.:

It’s always challenging making a short film. No have no budget or very little budget and you’re trying to make everything work to your advantage with only minimum help.   In my case I only had some of the actors for a short window of time, so I had to figure how to get the most out of the time and get the essential shots to tell the story.
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Munchies set  Munchies set
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4) Who inspired you to be a filmmaker and why?
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H.W.: I don’t necessarily get inspiration from any person in particular but rather certain films or single moments in films. When I was much younger I wanted to make films but I didn’t have anybody that wanted to act in them, so thats when I decided to make my first animation. I didn’t need to rely on any actors, I could create my own. However in saying that, YouTube has been an incredible source of inspiration for myself and if I had to pick a singular person, it would be Brit Marling.
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K.R.: ‘m not sure there was just one filmmaker.  There were a number of filmmakers who have influenced me over time.  It changes, a little I think as your tastes change.  I grew up watching MGM musicals so those must have had some influence and then I saw a of arthouse and offbeat cinema which as a young teenager kind of blew my mind, so all that factors in.
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That's life scene That’s Life
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5) How did you discover the annual Joy House Film Festival and why did you want to enter?
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H.W.: When entering film festivals you never really have anything to lose, so when I came across the Joy House Film Festival in the online platform FilmFreeway, I was delighted to read about the festival and subsequently entered. There is something extra special about film festivals hosted in Australia, and it was a great opportunity for my film to reach a wider audience.

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K.R: Three of my films have played at JHFF.  I can’t remember how I discovered it, probably via one of the film festival entry sites.  I think it’s always nice to have a screening in your home town and they’re aren’t masses of short film festivals in Sydney so Joy House Film Festival definitely adds to that landscape.

6) What’s the best thing about the Joy House Film Festival?
H.W.: I was lucky enough to attend the Joy House Film Festival this year. The biggest thing I noticed was that everyone was very supportive of each other with a general vibe of happiness going around! I also loved that it was inside the Hoyts cinema. Everyone’s film looked fantastic on the big screen!
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K.R.: I really like that the festival’s focus is on Joy and Diversity.  There aren’t really any other festivals I can think of that focus on that topic.  A lot of my films are joyful, which is unusual in Australia (lots of shorts made here tend to be quite dark) so it’s nice to have some place to show films that focus on something positive.
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Joy House Film Festival is always held on the Sunday after Father’s Day in September every year.
Spread the JOY! Pay it forward.

 

Interview with the Joy House Film Festival’s Diversity & Youth winners 2018

The Annual Joy House Film Festival was on again at Hoyts cinema on Sept 9th, 2018. The only uplifting festival Downunder that promotes stories of JOY and celebrates DIVERSITY, supported by the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance’s Diversity Committee.

I had the privilege of interviewing our Winners, this week our Youth & Diversity winners –   Shejuti Hossain (Creed) & Ehsan Knopf (Digby Webster)

S  Shejuti Hossain

E.  Ehsan Knopf

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1) What made you want to produce / make your short films?
E.K. : Digby Webster is a short excerpt from a longer feature documentary called “Flying Solo”, inspired by my own diagnosis with a disability, Asperger’s syndrome.
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S.H.: For me, it was about the message that our short film conveyed. Many cross cultural youth in Australia, myself included, face issues with being caught in the middle of two clashing cultures. It becomes an internal conflict where one is torn between wanting to follow the beliefs and traditions that they’ve been brought up with at home, as well as trying to ‘fit in’ to the starkly different culture present in the country/city they live in.
The aim of the film is to contribute to building resilience and social cohesion so that different cultures aren’t seen as opposing cultures. It aims to educate non-islamic people about our side of the story, how our faith isn’t any less than their beliefs, and how we can all live in harmony if we look past our prejudices.
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Digby Digby Webster Documentary
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2) What do you consider important as a filmmaker and why?
E.K. : Using the craft to offer a glimpse of a world largely unseen by the general public, and using that unique perspective to transforms perceptions around certain subject matter or theme – in this case disability.
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S.H.: Film is a powerful medium to spread a message as, if done well, it can captivate an audience and leave a real impression on them. Humans connect through stories, finding areas they can relate, and learning about something outside of themselves.
Filmmaking gives one the power to invite an audience into a certain realm for at least the duration of the film, and perhaps open their mind up more, ultimately making our world a more connected and interesting place to live. It can spark discussions, present new ideas and open up space for groups or minorities that didn’t have space before. This is important for the audience as well, as the audience gets the opportunity to have an experience vicariously that they may not have had the chance to do otherwise, perhaps making them more curious about the world they live in.
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3) Did you see any challenges whilst making your short film entry?
E.K. : The feature film was produced off my own bat – largely edited, financed, produced and directed by me over five years. It required a lot of dedication and self-sacrifice to see it through to the end.
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S.H.: We faced quite a few challenges during the process of creating the short film. We had a very low budget for film, which was the root of many of the difficulties we had.

It was also challenging to film outdoors in Melbourne’s temperamental weather. There were days where there were intense storms and hail – not ideal for shooting a soccer film.

Nevertheless, the dedicated cast and crew persistently overcame these challenges to make this film a success.

Creed  “Creed”

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4) Who inspired you to be a filmmaker and why?
E.K.: BBC presenter David Attenborough and is passionate interest in the natural world kindled wonder in me – as well as the drive to help in turn kindle it in others.
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S.H. :My parents inspired me to be a filmmaker through their love of film. Although they are not filmmakers themselves, my parents have encouraged a culture within our family of watching movies together, and discussing them, for as long as I can remember. We wouldn’t only talk about the stories, but the interesting way the films were shot, creative decisions from the director, the music, the acting, the subtle and overt messages and so on and so on. They inspired me to look at film as something powerful and malleable, limitless in its ability to tell a story.
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5) How did you discover the annual Joy House Film Festival and why did you want to enter?
E.K. : Through a friend. I thought the festival would be a wonderful opportunity to help reach a new audience with the film – through the short film format and to film festival attendees. Compared to where it had previously had screened, as a two-part feature documentary on ABC’s Compass program.
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S.H: I discovered the Joy House Film Festival through the FilmFreeway portal. I wanted to enter as I admired the theme of ‘Spreading joy and happiness’. I think that’s important, as the day to day things we see on the television and in other media is often not very positive, and I saw this festival as wanting to change that.

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6) What’s the best thing about the Joy House Film Festival?
E.K.: It’s desire to embrace and celebrate diversity.
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S.H. : The best thing is the opportunities being part of the festival opened us up to. Being part of Joy House Film Festival gave us the opportunity to show our film to a wider audience in Sydney, network and take our film to the next level at the World Film Fair.
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JHFF crowd sitting 2018.jpg
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Joy House Film Festival is held on the Sunday after Father’s Day in September every year.
Spread the JOY! Pay it forward.

Q & A with Australian screenwriter / producer / director Tony Ayres

Tony Ayres (born 16 July 1961) is a Chinese-born Australian screenwriter, director in television and feature film. He is most notable for his films Walking on Water and The Home Song Stories, as well his work in television –The Slap and teen adventure series Nowhere Boys. He’s Executive producer on Maximum Choppage (a six part kung fu comedy series for the ABC starring Lawrence Leung) and The Family Law (six part comedy series for SBS based upon the memoirs of Chinese Australian journalist, Benjamin Law).

Tony Ayres

Q. When you were growing up who were your role models on Australian TV & Film?

Tony: When I was a kid, I actually avoided Australian film and TV.  There was nothing that I watched, except for getting the occasional guilty glimpse of “Number 96” or “The Box”.  Perhaps it was because I felt a typical Australian cultural cringe?  Or perhaps because there was no one on the screen who represented “me”?  Or some weird amalgam of both.  The shows I loved were mainly American TV shows.

Q. What made you want to break into Australian TV / Film?

Tony: I had always loved words and wanted to be a writer, but half way through my university degree, I realised that academia was killing my passion for literature.  I ended up changing to a visual arts degree at the Canberra School of Art.  If I had found a creative writing course, I probably would have done that.  Film and TV for me was never a driving  passion, more a logical deduction.  Words + plus pictures = screen.  It was only when I started getting into the area that I grew to love it.

Q. How did you get started in your career? 

Tony: After film schools (both VCA and AFTRS), I started work as a TV writer, and was fortunate enough to get work from the start.  Lucky, because I entered the industry relatively late (my late twenties).  Those were the days when SBS was starting to produce scripted drama, and there was a greater appetite for multicultural stories.  I wrote a number of TV plays for a number of anthology series- “Under the Skin”, “Six Pack” and “Naked-  Stories of Men”- which gave me a grounding in writing drama.  As well, I started directing documentaries and short dramas which gave me a taste for directing.  I feel like I was at the right time at the right  place because I was able to make an early career out of the marginal identity politics which I was personally grappling with-  being Chinese, being gay, being Chinese and gay.  I think that’s harder to do these days.

Q. Do you see a positive change to colour blind casting in Australian TV / Film and Theatre and do you incorporate this method of casting in your own productions? 

Tony: Honestly, whilst I think the rhetoric has evolved, in the scripted area  I don’t think that there has been a substantial change in terms of colour blind casting.  Every few years a non-Anglo actor will do a significant film or TV role and in the press junket raise the question of diversity as a public issue.  There will be a flurry of associated articles, and these days a bunch of “likes” on Facebook, but soon after the status quo will settle again.  The network mental “default” will still to be to white.  Non-white cultures will still be massively under-represented.  It will be just as hard for non-Anglo actors who attract attention through a breakout role to sustain their careers.  Diversity for the Australian entertainment industry is like “gay marriage” for Australian politics.  A lot of people believe in it, but few people are prepared to cross the floor to vote for it.

For there to be substantial change, I think that it’s about the people who are genuinely invested in the issue of diversity (ie people from diverse backgrounds themselves) becoming the decision makers, the commissioners, the network executives, the makers.   I guess I’d look at my own work as an example.  Diversity is important to me because I have personally felt the effect/damage of growing up Chinese in a white culture.   So, it’s one of the determinants of what I do.  My kids show, “Nowhere Boys” has a recurring role for a Chinese Australian actor (and the actors playing his family).  I’m currently executive producing “Maximum Choppage” (six part kung fu comedy series for the ABC starring Lawrence Leung) and  “The Family Law” (six part comedy series for SBS based upon the memoirs of Chinese Australian journalist, Benjamin Law).  And I’m also EP’ing a feature film, “Ali’s Wedding”, a Muslim romantic comedy.

Q. What changes do you want to see happen in the entertainment industry?

Tony: In terms of diversity, I’d like the Australian government funding bodies to take this issue seriously enough to create some kind of quota system in terms of representation.  The US and UK industries have both found relatively benign ways to legislate for diversity, and I don’t think it’s harmed their products or their share of the world market.

Finally what projects are you currently working on? 

Tony: Aside from the shows listed above, I’m also executive producing a new show for ABC Drama called “Glitch” which is the ABC’s first supernatural TV series, and EP’ing and co-writing the feature film version of “Nowhere Boys”.   There are some exciting new projects in early days as well, yet to be announced.  But a recurring theme of diversity can be traced through them all.

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