kuril dhagun Deadly Stories in Cooktown

Last week I was in Cooktown for our very first kuril dhagun Deadly Stories workshops. These workshops are about working with Indigenous community and training them in basic video and sound recording and editing. Participants have the opportunity to produce a short documentary style video about local heroes.

Mitch and I were lucky enough to be joined by Pip Kelly who has had lots of experience producing videos such as this. Pip has worked for the Queensland Museum, The Edge and is currently the Pitch In! Project Officer and working with Margaret Warren, in Discovery Services at the State Library. Her expertise and lovely nature when it comes to working with community is a great asset to the team.

Mitch Dalley, Sonja Gibson and Pip Kelly

When I went to uni, I did a subject on video art and experimented with lots of video and loved editing. Since then I have created videos and film clips with friends for fun and I have produced a number of short interviews and digital stories for work but I haven’t really learnt the technical aspects before. I have learnt so much within a short few days about audio, lighting, exposure and other manual functions on the camera.

I first traveled to Cooktown in February of this year to meet with the local library and Indigenous community. During my visit I met Sonja Gibson and she was very passionate about the project and being involved from the start. Sonja worked closely with Mitch in the preparation stages of the workshops. She was our community assistant who helped us by talking to potential participants, collect registration forms, book venue and catering and be a local advocate for the project. Sonja was a great help throughout the workshop week as well.

Jake and Nathaniel record Lea Ambrum story

The first couple of days were introductions, project overview, watching demos and then straight into interview techniques, testing equipment (cameras and audio recorders), creating storyboards and filming cut aways. Wednesday was my favourite day because it was shooting day. Traditional Owner Cynthia Deeral took us out on Gamay country which was on the back tracks towards Hope Vale. We stopped at Jepson creek for some billy tea and filmed some interviews there. It was really special. We continued on to Hope vale where we did some oral history recording with and old man by the name of Uncle Herbert McLean. He told amazing stories and had us all teary eyed by the end. I had to leave the next day to get back to Brisbane but Mitch and Pip continued on without me. Thursday and Friday was spent at the Cooktown Library editing their videos.

In just one week the Cooktown group has produced rough cuts of four short videos about local heroes; Alberta Hornsby, Eric Deeral, Herbert McLean and Lea Ambrum. Once the final edits are done we will compile them onto a DVD and have a community celebration and screening. We keep a copy at the State Library and in the Cooktown library and Hope Vale Indigenous Knowledge Centre. We also encourage participants to upload their story onto the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs’ Deadly Stories website.

We hope to continue a relationship with Cooktown community and are already discussing ways we can improve the program and potential avenues of funding for future workshops.