Archive for June, 2011|Monthly archive page

my map my summer

So, remember when I submitted footage to Map My Summer, the Australia-wide user-generated film project inspired by Life in a Day? Well, it turned out that two bits of my footage of the bats of Gordon were selected by Amy Gebhardt, the director of the project, and are included in the final Map My Summer film, WE WERE HERE.

That film premiered at a packed screening last Saturday night, before the Australian premiere of Life in a Day, as part of Sydney Film Festival. As a contributor I was an honored guest. Amy and executives from Screen Australia and YouTube introduced the film along with SFF director Clare Stewart. Dr George Miller, the distinguished supervisor of the project, was not there (he is too busy working on Happy Feet 2), but he sent a video greeting. I found myself wondering if at any point the dude who directed The Road Warrior looked at my bat footage.

You can watch the finished product embedded here, or on YouTube’s Map My Summer page, for a few more days at least. (I believe they’ll take it down on Saturday after a week’s run.) It’s about 25 minutes long. My footage occurs twice: once near the beginning, and again about two-thirds of the way through.


To tell you the truth, I spent some time being worried that there would be a conflict of interest; I work for Sydney Film Festival- and I just didn’t know what would happen when that came out. So I kept it on the downlow for weeks, while I was waiting for everything to be confirmed. But it turned out that when my colleagues were delighted when they found out about my part in the film, and wondered why I hadn’t boasted about it before.

The whole thing is a bit ironic. Recently I’ve been wanting to get back into film production, and have been planning a couple of different short film projects as a way of challenging myself. I didn’t imagine that footage of bats I shot on my iPhone would end up being the first effort of mine to be screened in public.

But I’m pleased. In general I think community-based filmmaking is one of the directions the industry is going in. I just took a workshop with Joe Lawlor, who has been doing some terrific things with his Civic Life project – collaborating with local communities on financing and producing films in places as diverse as Newcastle, UK and Singapore. User-generated films might be considered the logical extreme of this. At the very least, it’s one positive step towards making sense of the chaos of online video content.

I’m also happy about being included in this project because of being a recent migrant to Australia. I remember seeing a rude comment on one of the posted invitations for Australians to submit footage of what summer means to them: “Better get ready for hundreds of shitty clips of bands playing at the Annandale.” It was funny, but it also highlighted the fact that I haven’t had time to become cynical about anything here yet. I’m still amazed by so many things others take for granted – like seeing flowers blossoming in the winter and parrots hanging out in my front yard. I wanted anything I submitted to reflect that amazement – and it did.

I didn’t have to make many creative decisions – the bats themselves did all the work. Simply pointing the camera at the level of the horizon produces a pretty astonishing image.

Or, maybe all of that is just a roundabout way of saying it really doesn’t have anything to do with filmmaking – it was all pretty random and I’m just lucky. But that works too.