What is your dream?
My dream is to be a professional film director. I’ve always loved storytelling and believe film is a powerful form of communication; it can entertain, inform and transcend barriers. My dream is to be a ‘film-anthropist’ – making films that give back. This combines my passion for social justice and the arts, which my public service experience and filmmaking accomplishments reflect. Ultimately my dream is to direct big budget feature films, but I strongly believe in starting with a good story – which is why I am passionate about documentary at this early stage in my career.
How did you find your passion?
I’ve been passionate about storytelling for as long as I can remember! I was always the kid with the wild imagination and the entertaining anecdotes. I've been writing my own stories since before I really knew how to write. My filmmaking dream was instilled in primary school after I won a creative writing contest and was heralded as a future Hollywood filmmaker. My ‘Young Authors Award’ from Harbord Public Primary School is one of my most treasured possessions (together with my congratulatory email from Aim For The Stars!)
Tell us about your dreams / goals for the next 12 months?
My dream for the next 12 months is to document the stories of two remarkable women from opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean; Australia’s Isabel Letham and America’s Sonia Lien. Both are connected to legendary Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku. Isabel surfed with Duke in Australia in
1914/15 then pursued an adventurous life in the USA, defying the era’s social norms. She battled illness and injury, helped people with disabilities experience the joys of water sports and contributed to the Red Cross. Sonia discovered 5 years ago (at 76 years old) that she is the daughter of Duke’s brother, Sam. In her book ‘From Alone to Aloha’ she chronicles her life from childhood abuse and abandonment to profound celebration and reunion with lost family. She currently serves on the Local Indian Child Welfare Advisory Board in her community. To achieve my dream, I need to move these two films (one about Isabel; one about Sonia) from pre-production to production. My goal is to achieve this by travelling to the USA to conduct further research and obtain footage (interviews, establishing shots etc). My goal is to use screenings of these films to fundraise for worthy relevant causes, and to launch my dream filmmaking career. I am really looking forward to working with my AFTS mentor in relation to these goals over the next 12 months.
How will the scholarship support your endeavours?
The scholarship will support my filmmaking endeavours by helping me take two documentaries from pre production through to completion. I intend to direct funds to my considerable production expenses, including travel to Hawaii and mainland USA for research and filming. I would ultimately like to pursue filmmaking professionally as my full time occupation. The scholarship will assist me in this broader endeavour by helping me build my portfolio and production experience. This grant will enable me to produce two great documentaries, and thus build credit to my name. Preserving these two important stories on film will place me in a good position to professionally pursue other projects. Thus, the scholarship will not only assist my immediate endeavours to document two stories about remarkable women, it will also help pave the way for pursuing my dream of becoming a full time professional filmmaker. In addition to financially supporting my endeavours, receiving the scholarship has inspired me to truly believe in myself, and my dreams. The emotional support and encouragement I have received is priceless – and I know there is more to come!
Career highlight or biggest achievement?
My filmmaking career highlight would have to be helping capture a remarkable one-off ceremony for an Aboriginal soldier who was killed on the Kokoda Track. In 2012 (the 70th anniversary of the Kokoda Track campaign) I travelled to Papua New Guinea over ANZAC day as a volunteer filmmaker for the Kokoda Aboriginal Servicemen's Committee (KASC). This expedition was initiated by Uncle Richard Archibald (2014 NAIDOC Elder of the year) to bring the spirit of his relative (whose body rests in the Bomana War Cemetery) back to Country. Whilst in PNG, I filmed ceremonies and interviews for inclusion in the documentary ‘Spirit of the Warriors’. Uncle Richard now uses this film to raise awareness about the contributions made by Aboriginal people to Australia’s defence. My time in PNG was one of the most culturally, spiritually and historically enriching experiences of my life. Inspired by this adventure, I self-funded another film-related trip in 2014, this time to Hawaii - which led to my biggest achievement. I filmed interviews and events associated with ‘Duke’s Ocean Fest’ at Waikiki and subsequently sold footage to ‘The Australian’ newspaper. This featured in an online article about the build up to Freshwater’s centenary celebrations of legendary Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku’s surfing demonstration, which I filmed in January 2015. I used the footage in a film I made, ‘Connected by Sea’, my biggest achievement to date! This documentary (which I filmed, edited, narrated and produced) screened at ‘Duke’s Ocean Fest’ on the beach of Waikiki in August 2015. In Hawaii, I participated in TV and radio interviews to promote my film and received praise from audience members at the screening. This production introduced me to excellent contacts for the two films I am currently hoping to complete, including professional surf filmmaker Jack McCoy who mentored me and has been a valued inspiration, supporting my filmmaking dream. Receiving inspiring advice from Jack is another career highlight… together with receiving a personal call from Layne Beachley congratulating me on being the Inaugural Foundation Scholarship recipient! YAY!!
How important is inspiration in your life?
Inspiration is like oxygen for me. I can’t live without it and feel like it’s all around me! There are SO many things that inspire me in life… sometimes it’s almost overwhelming – but always in a good way! Inspiration encourages me to believe that little girl inside with big dreams she cannot hide! It makes me believe anything is possible if you believe and enjoy life’s ride!
Who’s your hero (and why)?
Jem - the rock star female protagonist from the 1980s American animated television series ‘Jem and the Holograms’ (created by the awesome female screenwriter Christy Marx)! In addition to fronting her mysterious girl band (and having the same name as me), Jem also owns and manages a record company (‘Starlight Music’) and supports twelve foster children known as the "Starlight Girls" who live with her and the Holograms in ‘Starlight House’. She also has a fabulous head of pink hair aaaaand her own '80s theme song about being "truly truly truly outrageous!" So in short, she's an entertainer AND a philanthropist with a strong social conscious who is committed to helping girls
realise and pursue their dreams! That's precisely the type of Jem I wanna be!!!
How will you support your community in the future?
I will support my Northern Beaches community in the future by having documented the story of a remarkable local citizen, promoting her as a groundbreaking Freshwater identity. Isabel Letham was a trailblazing woman who was devoted to sports, arts and giving back to the community. To me, her story represents a missing link in our Australian identity (which is dominated by ‘boys and the bush’ but lacking in ‘girls and the sea’; our other half respectively). As the Inaugural Foundation Scholarship recipient, I will preserve Isabel’s story for posterity. I am excited to tell her story with assistance from a Foundation established by the most successful surfer in history, who, like myself (and Isabel!) is a woman from the Northern Beaches. My Isabel film will showcase local history and talent, featuring music by artists on the Northern Beaches. Beyond my hometown, I will support my broader Pacific Ocean community by documenting the story of Sonia Lien. I have been blessed with
great mentors in my filmmaking pursuits and plan to give back by perpetuating that cycle of support, offering guidance and encouragement to aspiring filmmakers in my community (whom I hope to connect with at local screenings of my films). The film I screened in Hawaii, ‘Connected by Sea’, was motivated by my desire to support my community. I documented local history (Freshwater's centenary celebrations of Duke's surfing exhibit) and our relationship with Waikiki. I captured the community spirit stretching across The Pacific and told the story of Freshwater's Duke's Day; a community event founded by volunteers, promoting Duke's legacy and environmental protection –which I also intend to promote.
What’s the motto that you live by?
I have a few… “Carpe diem”, "Never, never, never give up.” "Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid". “…test the limits and break through”, “Have courage and be kind” ,“Seek and you will find”.
I have a LOT… The Beatles, The Beachboys, Green Day, U2, Angus & Julia Stone, Cloud Control, Pink, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Helen Reddy, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Eminem, Rihanna, Jem and The Holograms, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Gwen Stefani, Whitney Houston, Cyndi Lauper, Black Eyed Peas, David Bowie, ABBA, Queen, INXS, Roxette, Nirvana, Elton John, The Doors, Jack Johnson, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Beyoncé, Xavier Rudd, Kate Miller-Heidke, Rage Against The Machine, No Hat No Play, Ziggy McNeill, Larissa McKay, Jesse Owens.
The Red Tent, The Song of Achilles, In Pharaoh's Army, Kylie Chan’s ‘Xuan Wu’ series, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Looking For Alibrandi, From Alone to Aloha.
Favourite TV Show?
Redfern Now, Dexter, Grey’s Anatomy, The Simpsons, Jem and The Holograms, Entourage, The OC, Sex and The City, Game of Thrones, Dancing With The Stars.
If you had one message to share with other women chasing their dreams what would you say?
Chase those dreams until you catch them siSTARS! Think of any setbacks or failures as nutrients for creative growth… just like flowers blooming out of soil or a phoenix rising from the ashes. Adversity inspires greatness. Don’t ever let society-induced self-doubt hold you back… you owe it to the world to succeed – which you WILL if you believe. As girls / women we make up half the human race but in the ‘top jobs’ men occupy a disproportionate space. More women are rising to the top but we need more, so don’t stop! Pursue your dreams until they come true and one day all the glass ceilings will be broken through! Our minds, stories and contributions matter. We should never be considered worth less than our male counterparts and should embrace our female identity as a strength, not a weakness. As a great Australian woman sang “I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore!” Amen Helen Reddy! Believe these lyrics and to dream catch; you’ll be ready: You
can bend but never break me 'Cause it only serves to make me More determined to achieve my final goal And I come back even stronger Not a novice any longer 'Cause you've deepened the conviction in my soul I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman!