Leading film makers, students and celebrities have come together to turn cyberbullying weapons into tools of empowerment for Australia's first mobile phone film project, the REELise Film Festival with the finalists to be screened in Rose Bay on Sunday 23 March 2014.
The free pilot program, is the brainchild of Rose Bay Police Youth Liaison Officer and YouTube dancing sensation, Constable Yasmin London and Karen Hamilton, REELise Program & Festival Director. It aims to raise awareness of the youth mental health issues associated with cyberbullying.
Over the past six months, Eastern Suburbs secondary schools students formed crews with the help of REELise Mentors to write, shoot and edit a 5-minute film on their mobile phones addressing the theme 'Unspoken Feelings".
The field of entries has been narrowed down to nine finalists from Ascham, Kambala, Kincoppal, Reddam House, Riverside Girls High School and South Sydney High School who will compete for the prize of Best Film Junior, Best Film Senior and Spirit of REELise, which recognises the team who has truly embraced the program.
A Juror Panel comprising film luminaries, Michael Cordell, Cherie Nolan and Rowan Woods will determine the Best Film Category winners. Festival goers will also have the chance to vote for People's Choice by SMS on the night.
'Watching the competition entries was incredibly moving. Entries were powerful and revealing. I'm so proud of the students and what the REELise Program can achieve," said Karen Hamilton, REELise Program & Festival Director.
Constable Yasmin London said: 'Cyberbullying is one of the biggest issues facing youth today with only one in ten young Australians telling someone about it. The REELise program empowers youth to speak up and builds confidence."
The REELise Festival will include a tribute to its Ambassador, Charlotte Dawson, who recently lost her long battle with depression.
Karen Hamilton said: 'Charlotte Dawson was a passionate advocate for young people and a tireless campaigner against cyberbullying. Her loss is deeply felt by all those who were lucky enough to have had Charlotte's generosity of spirit touch their lives."
For more information please see http://www.reelise.org.au/film-festival/
The REELise Film Festival 5pm-9pm, Sunday 23rd March, 2014
Colleagues Rugby Union Football Club, Blue Giant Park (end of Manion Avenue), Rose Bay, NSW
Question: What is the REELise Film Festival?
Karen Hamilton: The REELise Film Festival is a youth empowerment initiative based on mobile phone filmmaking. It offers:
a free mentoring program, where student film crews are teamed with leading Australian filmmakers to learn how to enhance their storytelling skills; and
a competition for young filmmakers aged 12-18 years, offering insider experiences with leading Australian film and television production houses.
Question: How is the REELise Film Festival different to other film festivals?
Karen Hamilton: It focuses on equipping young people to use the technology readily available to them - their mobile phones, to produce short films about youth themes. The idea is to inspire confidence that they have the ability and the tools to broaden awareness about the issues impacting them (notably cyberbullying) and to lead change.
Question: What do you hope to achieve from the REELise Film Festival?
Karen Hamilton: We're hoping to achieve a number of things:
Greater public awareness about the issues which impact youth mental health particularly the growing problem of cyberbullying;
To produce a group of young filmmakers who feel better connected to their community support networks , who truly feel they have a voice; and who will be inspired to continue on a creative path; and
A celebration - of their achievements, of the power of youth to lead a better future and of the coming together of a community. Our festival simply would not have been possible without the generous support of members of our community.
Question: What inspired you to develop and create the REELise Film Festival?
Karen Hamilton: A key weapon of cyberbullying is the mobile phone. The idea was to take that instrument and make it the centre point of a youth film festival, turning it into a positive tool to inspire change. We also have a wealth of television and film industry talent in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney so we wanted to tap into that and share the benefits of their experience with aspiring filmmakers.
Question: Why was it important for you to create a Film Festival that aims to raise awareness of the youth mental health issues associated with cyberbullying?
Karen Hamilton: Cyberbullying is a big problem. One in five Australian teens are cyberbullied every year and that has real life consequences for their self-esteem and mental health. The victim feels there's no escape. The bullying follows them into the safe haven of their bedroom – to wherever there's a device and it feels very visible. Countless people have access to the 'entertainment" of your embarrassment or social exclusion.
About one in ten victims report cyberbullying – often because they think it won't be taken seriously (it's just words) or because they're embarrassed. So I think it's really important to send a loud message to people in that position that you are not alone, you should not be ashamed or embarrassed to seek help; bullying is unacceptable and you are surrounded by people who care.
On a personal level, I was deeply affected by a youth suicide just prior to dedicating my time to the creation of REELIse.
Question: How difficult has it been for the committee to come to terms with the terrible loss of ambassador, Charlotte Dawson? How will the festival draw on her passion to continue to raise awareness for mental health and cyberbullying?
Karen Hamilton: We were deeply saddened.. Charlotte was a beautiful, witty, articulate woman and the sense of loss shared by all those lucky enough to have known her is great. Charlotte was a passionate crusader against cyberbullying and an active champion for young people. A special tribute to Charlotte forms part of the Festival and we are introducing a memorial award to recognise the commitment of others to youth empowerment and to promoting change.
Question: What types of youth mental health issues do you hope to raise awareness for?
Karen Hamilton: A key focus for us is depression. Depression is likely to impact one in five adolescents by the time they turn 18.
Cyberbullying is a significant contributor to the onset of depression. And It takes beautiful young lives. Suicide is the number one cause of death for Australians between the ages of 15 and 25.
Question: How did your team narrow down the field of entries to nine finalists?
Karen Hamilton: The key criteria was that the film had to be made on a mobile phone, be 5 minutes or less and address our theme 'Unspoken Feelings". We were looking for how well and how creatively entries addressed that theme - content originality, creative visual composition and cinematography; and editing technique.
Question: Can you talk us through the films created by the nine finalists?
Karen Hamilton: Five of the films are by young female filmmakers which is great as they are often under represented.
All nine are wonderful films. I'm proud to be screening each and every one of them. Our youngest film crew member is 11, the oldest is 17. All have made mature insightful films. Eight of the nine explore cyberbullying themes – the choices we can make, the consequences for both victim and bully, the motivations that can underlie bullying behavior. The ninth entry is a whimsical take on the quest for social acceptance.
We see some inventive camera work, excellent sound design, powerful performances and great editing. One uses a dog to provide an ingenious point of view for the story and an ironic and satiric take on bullying.
It will be tough decision for our judges.
Question: How will the prizes for Best Film Junior, Best Film Senior and Spirit of REELise be awarded?
Karen Hamilton: Best Film Junior and Best Film Senior will be decided by a panel of jurors comprising Michael Cordell, Cherie Nolan and Rowan Woods.
The Spirit of REELIse award will be decided by REELise Inc. and given to the filmmaker, actor or film crew that we believe truly embodied the spirit of the REELise program. We are looking for energy, enthusiasm, commitment, obstacles met and overcome. Our winner could be an actor or filmmaker for whom this was a very personal journey and a desire to speak out about an issue affecting them or a loved one or it could be filmmaker or crew who truly grabbed the opportunity to be mentored with both hands and grew their skills and confidence as a result.
Interview by Brooke Hunter