Four people are sitting on the ground in the Australian bushland. They appear to be listening to another person who is sitting in front of them. There are bare trees in the background, and the word 'Storytime' written in the sky in capital letters.

The Melbourne Women in Film Festival is back for another year. The MWFF envisions a world where a diversity of women’s voices, stories and creativity are equally recognised and celebrated.  It aims to at celebrate and support the work of women filmmakers and creatives – from directors, writers and producers to cinematographers, sound designers and editors. Chantelle Grey of Orenda Magazine sat down with Director of opening night short film Storytime (2009), Jub Clerc.

Storytime is about two adventurous Kimberley kids wander deep into the mangroves at sunset, only to find that the terrifying campfire stories of the Gooynbooyn Woman may not be a myth after all. Clerc’s award-winning Indigenous horror film is based on her experience of growing up in the Broome region of Western Australia, where she was regaled with stories of the spirit of a woman that lived in the mangroves and stole children. But to Clerc and her Nyul Nyul/Yawuru community, the Gooynbooyn Woman is not just a legend, but a very real creature.

After spending some time doing performance acting and theatre, what made you get involved in the film industry?

Lynette Narkle came into Yirra Yaakin while I was working there and asked if anyone had an idea for a film. Screenwest had just appointed her as the first Indigenous Film Officer and there was an initiative for first-time filmmakers to apply for. I applied for one but got another instead, with a bigger budget. Woohooo!

How did you find the transition?

I didn’t know what the rules were so I just did what I thought made sense. Thank god I’m not a dumb ass. I also had a team around me that knew what they were doing and I trusted that. My ego is almost non-existent so I wasn’t fanatical about running the whole show.

Your horror short film Storytime follows two young children as they encounter a creature that’s believed in widely by your community (Nyul Nyul/Yawuru). How did you go about translating a story you’d grown up hearing to something that worked as a screen story?

I asked the question…what if? What if I hadn’t have listened to my family and gone wandering in the mangroves alone? I kept it relevant and true to the legend.

I asked the question…what if?

I know you’re working on a thriller with a young Indigenous woman at the forefront, based on the same legend the short film was made from. How important do you think it is to have female-led, Indigenous films being made and represented in Australia right now?

I think people blur the lines of cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation too often in the Arts in general. Be it film, tv, theatre, fashion, music etc, etc… So I think having Indigenous women and men, as key creatives, is imperative to keeping transparent relationships with content makers who wish to share in telling our stories with us, not about us.

How do you navigate being an Indigenous woman in a mostly white, male-dominated industry?

I have learnt to surround myself with people I like.

I think having Indigenous women and men, as key creatives, is imperative to keeping transparent relationships with content makers

Do you use it as a point of difference?

Most of my projects have Indigenous content so navigating around the people I work with is important. They get to go home, I do not…I live my culture, they do not, so my priority is doing things proper way or not at all. Last thing I want is aunties chasing me around with a fucking Nulla Nulla for the rest of my life, ha! Sometimes, if the funding initiative places you with key creatives that they’ve selected, surrounding yourself with the good people is out of your hands but you learn from that too.

What advice would you give to young women starting out in the film industry? Do you have any recommendations of programmes or initiatives for them to get involved with?

Work on projects that you believe in, that are telling a story that you want to tell. Don’t be afraid to ask. The worse thing is not that they’ll say no…the worse thing is not asking.

Work in all departments so you know what everyone does and how hard they do it. Don’t take anyone for granted. Budgets are too small to have anyone you don’t need on set.

They are so many amazing programmes out there now, especially with the Gender Matters initiative. So apply apply apply.

 

The Melbourne Women in Film Festival is happening now until Sunday the 24th of February. Get tickets via their website.