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Byron Shire
February 23, 2024

New film celebrates getting back outside

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Rani Shepherd, Suzanne Whiteman, Sienna Shepherd and Luke De Gruchy at In Your Face Studios in Suffolk Park for voiceover recording yesterday. Photo David Lowe.

Free From Lockdown: Back Out in Nature is a new short film in which a group of disabled and non-disabled performers from the Northern Rivers celebrate being in nature after COVID lockdown.

Yesterday four young performers from Ballina Shire’s Little Dragons group braved wild weather to record their own poetry for the soundtrack of the forthcoming film, with Andy Bambach at In Your Face Productions.

Producer Suzanne Whiteman lives near Ballina and has been working in disability arts for thirty years. She was the founder of Sprung!! Integrated Dance Theatre and said her dream with Little Dragons was ‘to have a group for everyone, where everyone could come. Everyone is invited and we’re mainly run by volunteers.’

Her complete group includes over forty young people from right across the region, including members from Kyogle, Yamba, Tenterfield and the Gold Coast.

Suzie Whiteman works with Rani Shepherd in the recording. Photo David Lowe.

Working in the moment

Ms Whiteman told The Echo that Free From Lockdown is a community film which comes from the heart.

‘What’s happened is we’ve been working in the moment, because of the situation with COVID and everything,’ she said.

‘It was like, this is what we’re doing, please turn up, and then the wonderful Andy would come and help us!’

Suzie Whiteman normally works with her artists group at Alstonville Dance Studios, but said after the 2020 lockdown restrictions, numbers were limited to ten people, so she moved her group outside to work in nature, initially based at her farm, where there were no restrictions, and then to the beach.

Thomas Ward performs his poem. ‘An invisible wall is in the way, do you get what I say?’ Photo David Lowe.

The film features original writing from the group, as well as dance, yoga and ‘working creatively in the moment – beyond technique.’

Ms Whiteman said, ‘It’s fantastic to share my passion for the arts with my love of nature – specially the ocean – such an amazing playground here in the Northern Rivers.’

A place for everybody

The Little Dragons group has recently been featured in an exhibition ‘A Place For Everybody’ at Ipswich, with photos from the film production by Andy Bambach and Lismore photographer Cathy Ryan.

Andy Bambach in the cockpit at in Your Face Productions. During yesterday’s session, there was a blackout affecting the whole street, so recording was completed using batteries by mobile phone light! Photo David Lowe.

‘Andy’s been a wonderful mentor every time we’ve worked with him, with people with disability,’ said Suzanne Whiteman.

Andy Bambach has written and performed music for the new film, as well as shooting and providing post-production assistance via In Your Face Productions.

Free From Lockdown is also supported by Alstonville Dance Studio and Arts Northern Rivers. Stay tuned for the completed fifteen minute film at a film festival near you later this year. Free From Lockdown is going to be totally accessible, with audio captioning and Auslan interpreting.

Until the premiere, check out this short preview featuring the performers recorded yesterday:


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