Lights, Camera Action in Geelong

Lights, Camera Action in Geelong

Montanna Macdonald

Montanna Macdonald

Journalist Ponderings

As safe COVID-19 practices draw more Hollywood actors to Australian shores, the Geelong region is just one of many booming cities with film industry potential. 

With an abundance of opportunity for major film productions, the Geelong region’s future is looking promising. Some previous Geelong film sets include Mad Max, the Dressmaker, Paper Champions, not to mention multiple streaming service shows like Netflix’s show Rostered On and teen series currently filming on the Surfcoast, Surviving Summer.

The arts and entertainment industry is struggling with restrictions on gathering, events, and tourism globally. Still, funding resources and COVID-SAFE film production in Australia is an exciting avenue for future filmmakers, jobs, and encouraging investment back into the arts and hearts of Aussie towns. 

A new foundation in Geelong called the Geelong Waterfront Film Foundation is paving the way for encouraging filmmakers to produce in town, with tax deductible funding and grants available for film production in Geelong. A game changer in an entertainment industry that is battling through a pandemic. 

Ponderings met with Executive Director of the Geelong Waterfront Film Foundation, Belinda Lyle, for an interview to discuss the exciting opportunities, resources and support for local emerging artists the Foundation can provide.

What does the Geelong Waterfront Film Foundation want to achieve in Geelong? 

“A group of local stakeholders are now working to create an environment in which a sustainable local film and TV industry are possible. With diverse and impressive natural landscape Geelong is destined for the screen. Urban areas, semi-rural landscapes and beautiful coastline see Geelong and surrounding as an ideal area for filmmaking. Let’s establish a filmmaking hub with a framework in place to make it easy to film in the area!” 

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What is Geelong Waterfront Film? 

 

“Geelong Waterfront Film (GWF) is set up as a Foundation, in which once adequately funded via local investors, backers and the community at large will assist filmmakers financially should they choose to film in the region.”

“The brainchild of the Foundation, Geelong Accountant Mr Patrick Rowan, found when producers currently come to the region, they are usually looking for ways to raise completion of finance for final production. As an Accountant, he was often approached to recommend investors. Establishment of the Waterfront Film Foundation allows investors to make a tax-deductible contribution to the Foundation which in turn can be a grant or investment to those filming in the region.”

How does Geelong Waterfront Film support local emerging talent in the region?

“GWF is committed to supporting local and emerging filmmakers, creating another funding stream for them. Through its financial support, the Foundation allows for more diverse voices to be heard as this could mean the difference between a film being made or not. This extensive project now also has a newly established board consisting of various artists and Geelong professionals. 

What achievements has the board managed so far?

We have a small grant from the City of Greater Geelong to establish a database of people in the industry. There’s so much talent in Geelong – experienced and emerging filmmakers, directors, lighting & sound engineers, actors, – post-production experts, we are continually surprised with who’s coming out of the woodwork.”

“We want people to be able to come to Geelong to film and know there’s expert talent here to help with the production. The evolving database will help point people in the right direction.”

“In the BIG picture, GWF wants to host the Waterfront Film Festival, think Cannes and Sundance – red carpet and limos – all on Geelong’s stunning Waterfront. This would certainly attract international attention. Wheels are in motion for local film awards and the criteria that must be filmed in the Geelong region. This is a chance to showcase existing and up and coming talent.”

Belinda Lyle, Executive Director GWF.

Belinda Lyle, Executive Director GWF.

 If you are an actor or an aspiring filmmaker, how can you get involved?

 

  • Sign up for the Industry database. It costs $20 per annum to set up to be listed on the website database. Your talents are also promoted through WFF’s social media. It’s not only actors and filmmakers – anyone involved with the industry can sign up to the database!

 

  • Member-only events are planned for down the track offering networking opportunities. 

 

  • There are also opportunities for businesses to get involved with sponsorship. 

 

  • We also run several working committees if anyone wants to be involved with the project. 

 

  • Film-buffs and people interested in the arts can also sign up as a “Friend of Geelong Waterfront Film” for $20. Tax-deductible donations can also be made to the Foundation. 

 

The future of film in Geelong is an exciting avenue for jobs, emerging local talent and tourism, and we look forward to watching this space! To find out how you can support- jump over to: https://www.geelongwaterfrontfilm.com.au 

 

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Bullying and The Gift of Individuality Explored by New Book: Danyon

Bullying and The Gift of Individuality Explored by New Book: Danyon

Written by Montanna Macdonald

Author Dacre Danes is one to keep your eyes peeled for with his newly anticipated release of the novel Danyon. The pro-surfer/photographer from Queensland has entered the publishing foray with charm and a book filled to the edges with an in-depth tale. 

Themes of friendship, bullying and complex relationships in an authentic narrative will leave you pondering. Threads of history, romance and mysticism are explored in a backdrop fuelled with sex romps for good measure. 

“This book is for hope. The whole message is to prevent suicide events and to make people aware of what they say to each other, be careful what you say because you don’t know what the other person is going through,” says Author Dacre Danes. 

The protagonist of the story; Danyon, is severely bullied and suffers from violent trauma from his years of mental anguish. With support from his best friend Blake and newfound friendship with his school bully Dash, Danyon comes to realise his suffrage from being bullied might just be a gift of individuality. 

Author Dacre Danes joined us to share his excitement about his book, five years in the making. 

“I have always been a writer since I was given a typewriter for Christmas when I was ten. I have always read books; books are like trophies for me. [the book] started as therapeutic for me to get a few things out, and then I remembered lots of things that have happened to people and stories. A lot of the inspiration has come from my experiences personally and other people I know. I want this book to get into the hands of people that need it, especially people that are getting bullied. I want them to realise they have a gift, they’re here for a reason, and there is hope.” 

A parallel war story throughout the novel touches on human relationships in the past, and this juxtaposition Dacre says is like the war of bullying. 

“You had to be at war then, but we don’t have to be at war with each other now,” Dacre says. 

The book touches on what Dacre describes as “magic realism” which he uses to explore the character’s blackouts and other symptoms. As a reader, you are left wondering if Danyons spiritual and mystical experiences are clairvoyance or a diagnosed illness. 

There are also underlying themes throughout the novel that explore the LGBTQIA community. Dacre wanted Danyon to be an icon for those who did not feel the need to be labelled but instead fuelled by romance based on connection over gender. Dacre believes novels should be more accepting of this community, as “love is love”. 

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Dacre Danes is an ambassador for bullying prevention organisation Bully Zero. In partnership, Dacre will release a live podcast called Bull Rush, which is in conversation with Bully Zero CEO Ali Halkic. Dacre is also an ambassador for Equi Energy Youth and the Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Association. 

 

“I have a hashtag called #iamdanyon, and I’m gathering people who have my book to upload a picture of themselves on Instagram with a hashtag because everyone has a story of mental health or a story of bullying. So when people tell a story, they can say, well I am Danyon as well,” Dacre says.

Danyon is Available at Barnes and Noble & Amazon along with all good book stores. 

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/d-a-n-y-o-n-dacre-danes/1137436388

 Amazon;

 https://www.amazon.com/D-n-y-Dacre-Danes/dp/164999396X/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1598054280&sr=8-1

 

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FOUR PAWS Save Bear Cubs Nikko and Nara

FOUR PAWS Save Bear Cubs Nikko and Nara

Written by Montanna Macdonald

These Asiatic black bear cubs’ names are Nikko and Nara, the cutest two bear cubs you have ever seen saved by organisation FOUR PAWS; a bear rescue mission in Vietnam. 

FOUR PAWS is a global animal welfare organisation supporting animals, creatures who are victims of human battery in varied and horrific ways. The organisation is a noble one, and their work includes projects in emergency rescue and ongoing care for a great range of different animals. 

This year, FOUR PAWS Vietnam rapid response team saved two bear cubs from smugglers from the illegal wildlife trade. The legal and illegal wildlife trade in Vietnam is a billion dollar industry. Bile farming is the process of breeding bears in captivity. The terrible conditions are made even more atrocious by the shocking bile extraction process from the bear’s gallbladder while alive; only to be sold in markets, restaurants, online and used in pseudo-traditional medicines. 

There are two types of rescue missions FOUR PAWS do to save these bears. One where bears are voluntarily handed in by owners willing to give up bile bear farming. Two: bears are confiscated from illegal traders. FOUR PAWS act quickly in a short time frame to rescue bears just like Nikko and Nara.

On the 21st of July, FOUR PAWS were notified of two Asiatic black bear cubs that had been confiscated by the environmental police from wildlife smugglers who were trying to sell the cubs online via social media.

On the 22nd of July, the small FOUR PAWS team made an 11-hour journey to Lai Chau Province at the Vietnam border where they rescued the cubs and brought them to their new home, Bear Sanctuary Ninh Binh. 

“Both cubs were very stressed and huffed at anyone trying to approach them. The male is quite protective of the very timid female, hiding in a corner and nestling under him. They will now receive all the care they need to calm down and recover from a turbulent start of their lives. Both cubs are in stable condition, but slightly underweight. Our vets are examining them thoroughly, and once we are sure they are disease-free we will socialise them with another bear cub we rescued earlier this year from similar circumstances,” says Emily Lloyd, Animal Manager at Bear Sanctuary Ninh Binh.

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The Vietnamese Government announced on the 24th of July the banning of imports and trade of wild animals.

While this is promising after years of effort from FOUR PAWS and fellow animal welfare NGOs, the organisation hopes the Government’s efforts to enforce the ban will be effective. Still today, there are over 400 farmed bile bears in Vietnam. 

“Although the sale and possession of bear bile are illegal in Vietnam, it still exists as due to weak enforcement of the laws. We hope that this new directive and subsequent revised enforcement efforts will also affect bear farming and eradicate the illegal sale and possession of bile products,” says Kieran Harkin, responsible for Wild Animals in Trade at FOUR PAWS.

The Bear Sanctuary Ninh Binh where Nikko and Nara now live is a wildlife conservation education centre and a beautiful, safe home for these furry friends while they heal and grow. Nikko and Nara have made a fellow friend, bear cub Mochi. 

The sanctuary, which began construction in 2016, now has six outdoor enclosures, three bear houses, a quarantine station and veterinary unit, a feeding kitchen and an admin building.

It can house up to 50 bears now, but once fully finished with construction will be able to provide a species-appropriate home for up to 100 rescued bears. Currently, all 33 Asiatic bears in Bear Sanctuary Ninh Binh were victims of bile farming and illegal trade. 

“Our bears often arrive with a multitude of health issues; some are obese, some emaciated, some are even missing paws or limbs from being trapped in the wild. Dental disease is common along with mobility issues and gallbladder and liver infections from the unsanitary bile extraction process.”

It is admirable the work FOUR PAWS do to give these bears hope for a better life and future. We asked FOUR PAWS spokesperson Elise Burgess, what does a day in the life of the Bear Sanctuary Ninh Binh look like?

For FOUR PAWS, they do a variety of tasks, from essential rehabilitation and quarantine processes for bears newly rescued, to feeding, medication, general enclosure maintenance but also what they call “environmental enrichment”. 

“An essential part of animal care is ‘environmental enrichment’, which is necessary for the optimal physical and psychological well-being of our rescued bears. The five main categories of enrichment are sensory, cognitive, social, physical habitat and food.” 

“Our outdoor enclosures provide a complex environment where the bears can forage for food, dig, climb, swim, play, hide and rest, all things they would naturally do. In the wild bears spend the majority of the time they are awake looking for food. By presenting our bears’ food in different ways such as scattering and hiding it throughout their enclosures or using puzzle feeder toys, for example, we are allowing our bears to express this natural behaviour. Bears are thought to have the best sense of smell of all animals on earth, 2100 times better than humans! Therefore olfactory (scent) enrichment is particularly stimulating for bears, so on certain days our bear caretakers put out different scents such as cinnamon, or peppermint, for the bears to investigate.” 

Now, Ponderers, we hope envisioning bear cubs safe in a beautiful haven sniffing for cinnamon and peppermint brings you all the heart smiles for your day. 

You can donate to FOUR PAWS at their website, and follow them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for updates on the incredible work they do with not only bears but other projects around the world. 

If you would like to know more information about the Bear Sanctuary  Ninh Binh, follow them on Facebook, and when international travel is allowed again, go visit Ninh Binh! You can see the bears in their tranquil haven, purchase locally made souvenirs and enjoy some traditional vegetarian and vegan Vietnamese dishes at the onsite restaurant. 

 

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Piano Bar Harmonising Hope In The Face of COVID-19

Piano Bar Harmonising Hope In The Face of COVID-19

Founder and co-owner of Geelong’s Piano Bar Andy Pobjoy laughs as he explains how he creatively juggles playing the piano, singing, hosting their Facebook live streams, meanwhile changing the camera angles with his right foot.  

 

“It started off with just me, as at the start of lockdown you weren’t allowed to have other people in the venue, so I worked out a way of switching cameras with a foot trigger, but its necessity! We had to do it! What started as two Go Pros has now turned into an eight-camera shoot with full lighting production. It’s pretty cool.” 

 

The much loved Piano Bar on Malop street Geelong is a hot-spot for live entertainment, as founder Andy shares how performing on cruise ships inspired the unique idea. 

“I used to work on cruise ships, and I was doing the same sort of thing we do at Piano Bar, getting a whole bunch of people from different walks of life, and sitting around the piano asking for their favourite songs. It just brings people together; it all starts with the music; it all starts with a song.”

“But I was away from my family, and it was time to start thinking about doing something closer to home. So against everyone’s advice, saying this would never work in Geelong, we ended up with a little venue on little Malop Street about five years ago, and we have never looked back!” 

However, with COVID-19 restrictions forcing the Piano Bar to close, Andy is determined to support the venue’s performers, staff and community through the power of song and social media streaming. 

“We missed everybody. We had to come up with ideas of how to keep the business running and that’s why we started doing live streams. So it was about community, it was about connection, and certainly still feeling like we still had some sense of control when we really had very little.”

This innovative idea of doing free live performances with musicians, vocalists, special guests and taking song requests from viewers comments turned into an online hit, with thousands of views, media attention and over 100 live streams. 

“Our record was up to 110 thousands viewers on one particular Saturday night, that was the night we were on Channel Nine News,” Andy says.

Resonating with people during the COVID-19 crisis, the Piano Bar expanded its newfound digital fame globally.  

 

“We had people overseas and a lot of people suffering from chronic conditions who are immune-compromised. This was a lifeline for people that were on their own as well. And we had some people who were at every single live stream and shared that entire journey,” Andy says. 

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Co-owner and performer Joss Russell says not only did the live streams provide entertainment for viewers, but the online donations from audiences also offered support for their performers who have lost income. 

“People really get involved in the live stream, and on the other side of it as well, the donations have gone towards the performers who couldn’t get Job Keeper, so it’s gone a long way in supporting those of us who have had their gigs run completely dry throughout the COVID-19 crisis.” 

While virtual audiences have been a success, Joss says it will be great to have real crowds again. 

“We have had so much fun with the live streams, but I think nothing will truly replace the atmosphere of having a real crowd in front of you. When you look around the room, and you see smiles on everyone’s faces, and you see everyone up on the chairs dancing, smiling and cheering, it’s just a good feeling to know that people are as happy as you are.” 

As of September 16 under Step 3 of the COVID-19 Roadmap for regional Victoria, the Piano Bar is opening its doors in Geelong and their other regional Victoria venues. 

With limited space for 20 patrons in it’s Geelong venue, the team has evolved once more with creative and safe ways to entertain from the outdoors. 

Every weekend the Piano Bar will be at the Geelong Race Course, the West End/Little Malop Street precinct with laneway jazz sessions and also regular and special guest shows. 

“It’s going to be great, and it’s awesome that we have adapted to the restrictions so that we can still provide something good while keeping everyone safe at the same time,” says Joss.

Andy hopes the Piano Bar’s newly found online community will convert from screen to table in support of keeping the entertainment industry alive. 

“Rain hail or shine we are going to be outdoors! We hope people will jump on board with it and get excited like we get excited every time we get to do something new.” 

To support the Piano Bar and purchase tickets to upcoming events, go to www.pianobar.com.au

 

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