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December 3, 2022

Young animators shine on Ballina’s big screen

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Ignite Indigenous Youth Animation launch
L-R: Jared Roberts, Nena Carroll (youth workers), Daniel Elliott (animation teacher), Lee Mathers (gallery coordinator), and Andrew McDonald (creative producer). Photo David Lowe.

A group of up and coming local indigenous animators were excited to see their first films on the big screen at Ballina Fair Cinemas on Tuesday night.

The young film-makers were joined by friends and family, including elders, along with their tutors and collaborators, for the Ignite Youth Animator Program launch. The short films covered a diverse range of subjects and animation styles, with themes ranging from monsters to Black Lives Matter.

Youth Worker Nena Carroll with Aunty Nita Roberts from Bunjum Aboriginal Corporation at the launch. Photo David Lowe.

Northern Rivers Community Gallery hosted the seven week learning program, which was led by experienced animator Daniel Elliott, of Visitors From Dreams, and young emerging animator Sophie Baldwin.

The special guest animator mentor was Tim Adlide, and NRCG’s Creative Producer Andrew McDonald oversaw the program delivery.

Daniel Elliott told The Echo he’s been animating since he was a teenager, going on to work in advertising and then in Canada doing work for Netflix, and now back in the Northern Rivers. Stop motion animation was a new challenge for him.

‘Yes, this was as much of a learning experience for me as as it was for the kids!’ said Mr Elliott. ‘The principles of animation are exactly the same though, no matter what medium you’re working in. My background is mostly in digital, so I appreciated applying those techniques to a more tactile, physical form of animation.’

Black Lives Matter film from Ignite Youth Animator Program.

Wide range of techniques and themes

Twenty students worked in groups on five different films, with most having no previous animation experience.

‘There were some pretty creative kids and some of the ideas were really out there and fun, said Mr Elliott. ‘In terms of technical skill, there’s still things to learn. But in terms of ideas and stories, which is what I was trying to push more than anything, yeah, definitely. There’s potential here, a lot of potential.

‘There’s a lot of differences in tone, with a couple of funny ones,’ he said.

Young animator Ciara Kelly Torrens at the launch. Photo David Lowe.

‘There’s a lot of mediums going on as well. So we’ve got clay, we’ve got cut-out animation work. There’s a lot of green screen work too.

‘We encouraged everyone to experiment to solve problems, instead of hitting a brick wall and then thinking okay, I can’t keep progressing. That’s what animation is, it’s problem solving as far as I’m concerned,’ said Mr Elliott.

NRCG Creative Producer Andrew McDonald said there were fifteen students involved from Bunjum Goori Youth Program in Balina and five from the Southern Cross School of Distance Education, all from between years 7 and 9.

Great experience

Jared Roberts and Nena Carroll are youth workers with Bunjum Aboriginal Corporation. ‘It was good for our jarjums,’ said Mr Roberts.

Youth workers Jared Roberts and Nena Carroll speak at the launch. Photo David Lowe.

‘It’s great for them to learn a different medium. They’re used to seeing the dot painting, face painting, boomerangs and animals, but now we’re seeing a different art form like claymation. Watching it all come together has been really good.’

Cyril Bolt is one of the young film-makers, originally from Cabbage Tree Island and now living in Ballina. His film is called The River’s Secret. ‘It’s been good,’ he said. ‘Something that I haven’t done really before, a different experience.’

And can you tell us a bit about your film? ‘You gotta wait to see!’ he said.

NRCG’s Lee Mathers speaks at the launch. Photo David Lowe.

NRCG Gallery Coordinator Lee Mathers told The Echo, ‘I’m really excited about this, this has been a long time coming. This was a grant project we actually got before COVID,’ she said.

‘The idea was that it would be local indigenous youth telling their stories through stop motion, and the results have been great.

‘What they’ve learned is a series of technical skills in producing their own stop motion film from start to finish. So from storyboarding, concept development, scene creation, creating a production name for their production teams, through to the animation, and then some special effects.

‘We just love working with youth, and this is the first time in NRCG’s history that we’ve done a program specifically with indigenous youth,’ said Ms Mathers.

Ignite Indigenous Youth Animation launch
Young animators Ciara Kelly Torrens and Phoenix Raine being interviewed by Andrew McDonald on the red carpet. Photo David Lowe.

Animation takes time

Young film-maker Phoenix Raine said she learned animation took a lot of time and patience. ‘It drives you crazy how long it took!’

Daniel Elliot agreed. ‘A lot of them learned just how tedious and time consuming animation is. As a teenager, I did it because I lived in the country and had literally nothing else to do. I don’t recommend it to people who have lives!

‘But I know a few of them really enjoyed it and we’re looking to do more in their own time,’ he said.

Young animators Hamish and Riley Henman at the launch.Photo David Lowe.

Two of the youngest film-makers were Hamish and Riley Henman, who made a film about a caveman and a dinosaur.

‘It was pretty difficult, said Riley, ‘but it was still fun at the same time. It maybe took six weeks! But it’s still fun.’

Mayor Wright a stop motion fan

Ballina Mayor David Wright also spoke at the launch. ‘This is a great thing,’ he said.

‘I used to go to the movies every Friday night… once I saw a 1958 stop motion film called The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, made by a man called Ray Harryhausen. And I have never been so scared in my whole life. And that was all done with plasticine, and taking lots of photos.

Ballina Mayor David Wright speaks at the launch. Photo David Lowe.

‘So I just applaud Ignite Studios for going with such a fantastic new idea and having so many kids involved. I hope we can continue this,’ he said.

Lee Mathers then read out a message from guest animator Tim Adlide, who was unable to attend the launch. ‘I know these students have all learned a lot more than they realize, he said.

‘Animation is nuts and bolts filmmaking. You learn video is an illusion made up of lots of still images. It can be very tedious and boring, requiring focus and perseverance,’ said Mr Adlide.

‘All the films demonstrate what can be achieved with imagination, planning, perseverance, and collaboration – well done to everyone!’

The resulting films and some glimpses of what happened behind the scenes can be viewed below:



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  1. Absolutely Deadly… So proud of our young Aboriginal teens very creative and not frightened to express their political views.. Well Done.


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