Tablelands Folk Festival – the making of the documentary

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Shane Howard and Ben Perkins. – By June Perkins

I went as a volunteer, with my family along to help carry gear etc, to make a documentary and short video trailer of the festival.   It was a last minute ask as I was supposed to be in Sydney at a photo exhibition which was postponed and they originally had another videographer booked who pulled out. I don’t know what the original videographer was planning to do but I specifically asked to make a documentary not just collect raw footage.

This was my biggest and most ambitious video project to date. I was a bit nervous about how I would go, and like all artists I think wow next time I’d do it this way but overall it was a very enlightening and enjoyable experience. This project has shown me the true wisdoms of learning through doing, and learning through service.

It has been two years since my first ABC Open video job, with a small handy cam. I went to cover Carolyn Bofinger’s farewell. The brief then to, collect some footage to include in someone elses longer video.

Since that time I have learnt so much, made several short videos interviewing people about the cyclone, a video postcard, and a dance project documentary, and acquired a rodeo mike and upgraded my camera, and have a couple of brand new tripods.

Using production notes from a mentor I did my best to try and plan the shoot, and think of what I could say with the documentary without preempting the outcomes.

In prior discussions with an organiser I had explained I would like to use interviews with a range of people involved in the festival to shape a narrative. There was so many performers, colours, vibrancy – I wanted to capture some of the spirit of the festival but knew at the outset it would be impossible to capture everything.

Now I am busy at work on the documentary, and have been able to aquire some additional footage and photographs from festival goers and other volunteers at the festival to maybe supplement some of my footage. I have also been through all the interviews and done a rough cut of the script that I will then place the footage around.

I am so happy that the interview questions which were fairly open ended questions, have on first viewing brought out a story which reflects what the festival is about. Now I have to log the other footage and make decisions about what will go in around these. I think I may do a couple more interviews as well.

My husband was astounding with his ability to track down interesting stories and interviews during the festival, including one with Shane Howard, which in the end we had to do twice (what a gracious and sincere human being as well as music artist he is).

My children lugged around gear, bought me food and drinks and contributed ideas for the documentary which I liked and took on board.  My eldest son also played at the buskers tent, to a rapt audience and really took to the spirit of the festival.

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Young Film Assistant, my youngest son last afternoon of filming – June Perkins

We learnt an immense amount about team work, but also the need to have breaks and look after ourselves during the making of this documentary. I hope that everyone will enjoy the documentary when it is finished.

Our best experience as a family of the festival was meeting Shane Howard and what he said to our son, and I can’t say more as it might be in the documentary.   Another wonderful experience was my realisation that I can take my film making to another level.

Yes, not everything went as I planned, but as a wise Indigenous Elder from the area who spoke to me as we came to a close with filming, you will make the film you were meant to make – she added that the Elders were deciding from the spirit world what film footage of mine would work, and it was like a massive burden lifted from my shoulders and I saw a future of fearless film making and the idea of Elders from the local country looking out for me well that almost made me cry (in a good way.)

Well I must have been doing something okay for the Elder I met to say that.  She had been watching me at work all weekend and her words meant so much as I have always wanted to honour the original people of this country and am myself Indigenous to Papua New Guinea through Mum and this is mixed up with my Dad’s European heritage.

Other magic moments, I’ll leave those for another blog post.  So much else to do, like taking my son to tennis (hopefully, just checking the weather)!  Have a great weekend, and keep the music alive!

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Steve Pigram and Shane Howard performing together at Yungburra – June Perkins

Evolution of Shane Howard

Last year I was very excited and honoured to do this assignment for BushTV.   I have always been a fan of the song ‘Solid Rock.’

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Shane Howard, Irish Australian song-writer of ‘Solid Rock,’ and founder of Goanna, has spent a life time trying to understand and distil the collective Australian story.

This journey has been because he strongly believes songs have great power to make a ‘new dreaming,’ for Australia.

“If it’s a song of great power in the contemporary popular era it might filter through and become part of the traditional culture for a thousand years, and not just five minutes – but Australia seems to be living in that very disposable pop world – we don’t value the folk tradition very much here.”

Part of creating a ‘new dreaming’ is the process of uncovering the truth about Australian history, and for Howard his finding of truth has been made possible through Irish Australian parents who were “very open minded, good and just” and instilled in him a love of music and song (from Irish Parlour songs to Bob Dylan, Peter Seeger, Woody Guthrie) and an openness to Aboriginal Australians who he credits with educating him with the truth.

Howard vividly remembers ‘serious questions’ gradually being raised in his mind from meeting with Aboriginal people – from Robert a friend who set next to him for a short time in class in primary school – to all the Aboriginal people encountered on his travels as a youth, with a limited budget, including an old man of the stolen generation.

“I kept running into Aboriginal people and grew more and more interested in the fact they were the real people of this country, they were the traditional owners, the original inhabitants. And that starts to invite some very serious questions – when you’ve been taught all your life that Australia was settled peaceably and there was no blood spilt here. Meeting Aboriginal Australia taught me that was a lie and that you’ve gotta search for the truth.”

His journeys took him to Uluru, the place which was to inspire the words of ‘Solid Rock’ in his twenties.

To read the rest of this article go to  THE EVOLUTION OF SHANE HOWARD