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May 7, 2021

Story of harrowing local sea rescue attempt sails to victory at short film festival

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A powerful documentary about a deckhand’s incredible attempt to save the lives of two mates aboard a prawn trawler off the coast of Byron Bay has won a prestigious short film award.

The doco Sea Rogue by filmmaker Matt Blyth was given the Jury award at the Port Shorts International Film Festival.

A still from the award-winning documentary ‘Sea Rogue’. Image supplied

The film tells the story of the deckhand  Michael “Mick” Williams, who swam 27.7 kilometres in an attempt to save the lives of his best mate skipper Charlie Picton and fellow deckhand JJ when the Sea Rogue sank on February 27, 2008.

The story immediately captured the attention of Blyth as he too lost his best mate at sea, back in 1997.

‘From the moment we met Mick we hit it off, given we have both lost great mates at sea, there’s was a lot of common ground,’ Blyth said.

‘Mick’s book Sea Rogue, a true survivor’s tale is incredibly powerful so it wasn’t hard to take that foundation and turn it into a compelling documentary.’

Actor, producer and film festival judge Stephan Curry described the film as ‘beautiful, powerful and captivating’.

‘You can’t lose your best mate and not get cut to the quick and you can actually feel that in Sea Rogue. It’s a story
of hope, of never giving up, a beautifully executed short documentary.’

Sea Rogue is part of a larger national marine safety initiative known as the SeSafe Project, which has a goal to raise the fishing industry’s safety performance and bring all commercial fishers home safely.
For more than a decade the safety performance of the Australian fishing industry has not improved, with an average of 5 fatalities
each year.

Working in this industry is one of the most dangerous occupations in Australia, and fatalities are approximately twenty-five times higher than the mining and construction industries.

The initiative is funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, and aims to assist the fishing industry to move
towards zero fatalities and accidents.

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