Sharing stories and experiences in the Outback

Outback Queensland has just seen an influx of 120 Griffith University-led students and staff who travelled to Winton for the Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival.

Now in its 10th year, the festival incorporates Kolperi Outback Filmmaking — a film education and development program committed to increasing opportunities for emerging filmmakers in the Outback.

It’s developed into a formidable leader in career and education pathways in partnership with Griffith Film School (GFS) and fast become a highlight of the curriculum for selected GFS students, with alumni even returning to the event as mentors.

Head of Special Projects at GFS and Kolperi Director Mr Ashley Burgess took just three students with him for the first outback filmmaking bootcamp 10 years ago after his experiences making content with communities in Vanuatu, Burma and Thailand, which inspired him to get students out of the classroom.

Head of Special Projects at GFS and Kolperi Director Mr Ashley Burgess

“The core objective of the outback bootcamp has always been getting students inspired to tell authentic stories about the Outback by engaging meaningfully with the Winton community,” he said.

“Students learn to engage with and understand a different community and realise that if you put people first, your product often takes care of itself.

“It shifts the dynamic from being all about an end result, to being primarily about the partnerships and the people behind the film.”

Mr Burgess said not only does the bootcamp give students a genuine practice-based experience of making films and animations, it also puts them under a different kind of pressure, with much shorter timeframes to produce work before it’s shown on the always-sold-out closing night of the festival, in front of big names such as top Australian cinematographer John Seale.

“When making their graduation pieces, students might have a whole semester to make one film, but in my first job after graduating, I pitched five stories to a current-affairs producer who said ‘great — make those — I need them by tomorrow’ so it does prepare them for that real-world environment, but also gives them a huge round of confidence when they get back to uni.

“Their [non-participating] friends will be stressing about deadlines and they just brush it off knowing they’ve done it before and can do it again.”

The Vision Splendid program has also grown to include a ‘Swaggies’ program for year 11 and 12 students, to give them a ‘taster’ for careers in film.

Starting with a pilot program last year with 18 students, this year saw 25 come on board along with their teachers who also get professional development out of the experience.

There’s also an industry writers program sponsored by Screen Queensland for indigenous writers who are supported to develop scripts featuring First Nations stories.

LiveArt Creative Director Dr Simon Degroot

Adding another new component to the festival this year, LiveArt Creative Director Dr Simon Degroot took a group of nine students out to create a ‘Humans of the Outback’ exhibition series, with 10 individuals profiled and either photographed or painted by students and the works displayed along the main street of Winton in shop windows.

“Ash [Burgess] and I are both very passionate about the students working across different disciplines,” Dr Degroot said.

“We facilitate a space where the film students can bond with the art students and the painting students work with the photography students and there was even a student from the Queensland Conservatorium who created a soundtrack to accompany a video piece, so there’s a real cross-collaboration facilitated by the festival and the remote community in Winton.”

Following the festival, the images will be donated to the collection at the Waltzing Matilda Centre, run by Queensland College of Art alumnus Karen Stephens, with prints to also be displayed on the iconic Spirit of the Outback train travelling between Brisbane and Longreach.