Returning Home to Western Sydney - Information & Cultural Exchange

Returning Home to Western Sydney

Growing up in Western Sydney, I have always found the negative stereotypes of the area a fact of life. Stories of backwards cultural attitudes, of working class ignorance are rife in today’s media. But this isn’t the Western Sydney I see with my own eyes. After moving to Melbourne to pursue film I have always felt the urge to represent Western Sydney through a positive lens, where cultural identities and emotional tenderness are prevalent in this community.

In late March 2016 I was given the opportunity to tell my local story when I was shortlisted as a finalist in a short film pitch competition run by St Kilda Film Festival in partnership with Olympus.  After the surprise wore off I set to work contacting producer Maren and cinematographer Dimitri, with the intention to fly back to shoot the film in Minchinbury, my hometown in Western Sydney. The following weeks included a series of rewrites, production meetings securing the final cast, Jordan Gallaway and Rebecca Lamond, and working the tone of the film and the visual treatment of the story.

The film Window is about watching other bodies to find comfort in your own skin. Spurned from a personal place, I felt it was natural for me to also play the lead in the film as for me, as well as the character of One, I was looking to discover something deeper as a filmmaker, searching for connection through the creative process. The film also had me have both my first on screen nude scene and my first on screen kiss – these were challenging scenes as I felt even more vulnerable and raw onscreen. But it left me closer to the film process and allowed me to inject more of my personal sense into the character. It was this personal approach that sold the film to many of the talented crew who  collaborated on the film.

Under time pressure brought on by the challenge, and with limited resources, I’m hugely grateful to I.C.E. for supporting our project and helping me tell an authentic local story, to screen at St Kilda Film Festival this weekend. Thank you also to Blacktown City Council and several Western Sydney businesses including the iconic Big Chief Burgers – a staple of Rooty Hill. Many residents remarked upon seeing us filming that they were proud there were finally filmmakers telling positive stories about the area.

My vision for the film is to present a slice of life of Western Sydney, a place where our identities are challenged and labelled, where our internal struggles remain behind closed doors but where self-expressions and creativity is flourishing. It was truly a humbling experience to make this personal film in Western Sydney; it felt just like returning home.

Window, short film written and directed by Vonne Patiag, and proudly supported by ICE, is premiering at St Kilda Film Festival, 4pm Saturday 21st May alongside five other finalists in the Olympus Filmmaker Challenge.
Words by Vonne Patiag.

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