Southern Institute of Technology graduate Jerry Westaway has had a winning week with the news his short film The Green Revolution – made as part of a Graduate Diploma in Screen Arts – won the monthly prize for ‘Best Student Short’ at the Changing Face International Film Festival in Australia.
Originally from Timaru, Jerry spent 2020 in Invercargill to complete his qualification at SIT, and in the process made and directed the documentary film - the only student in his year focussing on this style - which he hopes will be the first of many successes.
“I hope this will be (my career), I’ve wanted to do filmmaking since I was twelve years old” he said.
The film centres around the international movement of School Climate Strikes, but is focused on what happened locally in Invercargill. Jerry said he researched the topic and found it very hard to find any documentaries about the movement, he felt this added to his film’s uniqueness.
Jerry got in amongst it, attending a climate strike and this gave him the inspiration to make the film. He said at the time it really felt like something significant was happening.
“I felt like I was in the middle of history taking place”. And it all happened in Invercargill, perhaps viewed as socially conservative, yet hundreds came out to make demands on climate action, he said, adding, “...and on that same day thousands were outside parliament”.
Aware of the global significance of the subject, Jerry said it may be interesting to an international audience the story takes place in the southernmost city of the worlds’ Commonwealth countries.
He respects the work of teenage environmental activist, Greta Thunberg with whom he has something in common – they both have Asperger's syndrome.
“..she calls it her superpower which is quite an empowering way to look at it. It gives a diverseness of opinion and view”, said Jerry.
As with many projects during 2020, Covid did make things harder, climate strikes were cancelled and Jerry had to make compromises, but in the end it’s turned out better than he expected. “I’m quite proud of what I’ve done” he added.
The film is officially selected into the film festival, as well as considered for nomination in the Annual Awards, held in November.
Jerry’s hoping to enter the film into more film festivals – he said most films have about a 2-year lifespan for entry into this type of event.
Dr Kathryn McCully, Programme Manager, Creative Industries for School of Screen Arts, said it’s a strength of SIT’s filmmaking programmes that students have the freedom to pursue their interests.
“Students have the opportunity to make the work they are passionate about, exploring concerns that matter to them. We are immensely proud to see Jerry’s work showcased and celebrated”, she said.
Changing Face International Film Festival is in its fifth year and not only offers the usual annual film festival, but also bi-monthly online film festivals. They look for diverse “thought-provoking, challenging, and engaging films, web series, and screenplays”.