The team at Screenwave had only just come down from the success of the Screenwave International Film Festival in January. The year ahead looked rosy, with more than 70 regional schools across NSW signed up for Nextwave’s youth filmmaking workshops and surety that the Screenwave annual film festival was attracting big attention both from across Australia and abroad. And then came Covid-19.
Like many creative industries, a complete direction change would be needed for survival. The uncertainty would mean no in-school workshops. How would they continue to reach their younger audience?
“The word I keep hearing people use about COVID-19 is uncertainty. Without any definitive timeline to work with this year, SWIFF had to cancel Nextwave’s youth filmmaking workshops in over 70 schools throughout NSW. All of a sudden there was a big Nextwave-sized hole in our budget,” says Screenwave co-founder and festival director Dave Horsley (pictured above with partner and co-director Kate Horsley- picture courtesy of Jay Black ‘And the Trees Photography’).
As of last week the team at Screenwave are celebrating. That hole has been filled, as they were awarded funding for the Nextwave Regional Youth Film Project to go on-line through the State Government’s Stronger Country Communities.
“Right now, we’re producing ten 15-minute educational videos on how to produce short films for young regional Australians, which will be available online for free to all Coffs Coast young people aged 10 to 25, thanks to the Stronger Country Communities grant.”
How essential was it to receive this funding?
The Stronger Country Communities Grant has been a lifeline this winter. It’s given us the breathing room to take a step back and point ourselves in a new direction, aiming to ignite that spark for filmmaking for young folks all across the country now as a national film education program – instead of just where we can physically travel to. It also means we can move ahead with the Nextwave 2020 short film competition – which is now open for submissions (closes Sep 21).
The Nextwave Film Project has been running for several years now. Can you describe the type of benefits for our youth that you’ve witnessed with this project?
The number one thing has been the production of films. Seeing young filmmakers telling their stories, flexing creativity, is the whole point of Nextwave. We encourage people to get weird with it – get out there and be creative.
As a team, the proudest moments are when you see these great new filmmakers decide they’re going to go to film school. So far there are six Nextwave filmmakers that have come out of the competition and into tertiary education and filmmaking careers. But like I said – watching the films come in every year through the competition is awesome too.
Do you believe the arts in general will survive this period? How important is it that the community continues to support the arts in any way possible?
We’ve got a lot of mates working in the industry – some have fared okay like us, some have lost their livelihoods. Considering the effect COVID-19 has had on the arts and events industry, I would have hoped the Federal Government would have put together an industry stimulus package by now. There are a lot of artists falling through the cracks, not eligible for JobKeeper due to the short term, project-based nature of their work – and it’s going to take a lot to bounce back in the recovery.
If people in the community love the arts – and love local arts – the best thing they can do is come out and support once restrictions are lifted. Buy tickets. Attend exhibitions. Go to performances. Go to festivals. Get involved. Volunteer. If people want to stay in touch with local arts, join the Coffs Coast Creative Industries Facebook group. Lots of updates about what’s going on there.
How different will it be to deliver the Nextwave workshops remotely?
After six years, we felt it was time for a change-up anyway, so to move back into film production, making these educational vids, has got our team pretty chuffed. The vids will be a step-by-step guide on how to make your first short film – no experience required. It’s just about giving it a go.
We want to make the education program as accessible as we can for young people all across Australia this year – it’s a significant moment in time for everyone, and there’s an opportunity to hear the perspectives of young folks across the country en masse.
Will you be able to have the same reach and provide the same support for the participating youth?
The silver lining here is that the program is going national this year. It will be a subscription service from next year on – but for this year it will be free to all young people in Bellingen Shire and Coffs Harbour, thanks to this new grant we’ve received. We’re also opening a scholarship program to make access to the Nextwave education portal free to a number of Indigenous communities across the country as well as rural and remote students learning through Distance Education.
At this stage are you forging ahead with planning for Screenwave International Film Festival January 2021?
That’s the plan. Our whole team misses the cinema big time. I’m sure there’s a lot of folks out there jonesing to see movies on the big screen. But we’re taking one step at a time. Without a crystal ball to see whether restrictions will lift – or whether we’ll get a second wave of infections – it’s just too early to tell right now, but compared to how other countries are faring it’s looking positive. We’re planning for SWIFF 2021 at this stage as a 16-day festival, January 7 to 22.
Festivals give region their flavour. We’re really lucky to have some great ones in our region. Curryfest, Camp Creative, Nexus Con, Bello Winter Music (and SWIFF!). If you love having these festivals in the community, this will be the year to support them and buy a ticket, bring your mates, help share the good word, lend a hand, and get in on the fun.
So many of us are appreciating film even more in this time of social restriction. Do you believe we may emerge with an even greater appetite for film?
It’s bizarre. In a time where the arts are struggling the most, consumption of art has never been higher. It would be difficult to imagine going through social isolation at the moment without books, films, and music. We will come out of this with a bigger appetite and a greater appreciation for what the arts mean to us in our everyday lives.
Right now though, there needs to be a focus on supporting Australian artists however we can. Through their works, Aussie artists bring a lot of meaning and joy to our lives, and I think sticking together and helping out those struggling should be the focus leading out of the pandemic.
The workshop videos are coming in June. Reach out to us at www.nextwavefilmfest.com.au if people want to sign up for them.