Filmmaking a second skin for students

Students have red-carpet premiere with feature film on the Stolen Generations.

24 February 2020
Students and staff at the Barrangal Skin premiere.
Image: Students, left to right, Haylee Rivers, Nicole Yardley, teacher Fabio Caprarelli, Emma Stocker, Bianca Lentile, Willow Alderton and Karina Pancuka.

When Karina Pancuka graduates from Kellyville High School this year, the Year 12 student will be able to add the word 'filmmaker' to her resume.

She will share that auspicious title with 10 schoolmates who, with the help of their teachers, have produced a film, Barrangal Skin, which on Friday night had a red-carpet premiere at Sydney's George Street cinemas.

Barrangal Skin is based on the experiences of local Aboriginal community members who were part of the Stolen Generations. The film focuses on a young girl who was taken from her parents and placed on a mission where she formed a lifelong friendships with the daughter of the mission manager.

The students and their teachers worked for two years out of school hours developing the script and shooting the film at various locations around NSW.

Aboriginal students from nearby Plumpton High School were recruited to star in the movie and professional actors volunteered to play the adult roles. Grammy-award-winning songwriter Jess Chalker composed the film soundtrack.

Karina, who graduated from runner to sound engineer during the project, said working with teachers outside the classroom and collaborating with other schools and members of the Aboriginal community had been a highlight of her high school years.

Year 10 student and cameraman, Ryan Dagg, was in no doubt after working on the movie that he would pursue a career in the film industry.

Ryan said making the film had been an educational experience - from a skills point of view and enhancing his understanding of Aboriginal history.

"I feel like I've changed so much," he said. "I didn't know anything about the Stolen Generations before; the stories are truly breath-taking and it has been difficult to see and hear what Aboriginal people have been through."

Year 11 student Emma Stocker was used to being in front of the camera due to her drama studies but she said working as a sound engineer had given her in-depth knowledge about what went on behind the scenes in making a film.

"Making the film has given us a wonderful opportunity to gain experience and show that it's not impossible to get into the industry," she said.

Graham Cheney, Kellyville High School head teacher creative arts, who was given the title of creative director, said the project had involved a huge commitment from the students and their parents as they were sometimes filming at 3am to capture the right light.

"This is a world of instant gratification and it is impressive that the students have stuck with the project for two years," he said.

STEM head teacher Fabio Caprarelli said the school had been overwhelmed by the support from local Aboriginal Elders who had worked with the students during the scriptwriting process.

Fabio Caprarelli and Auntie Rita.
Image: Fabio Caprarelli with Auntie Rita, whose story was the basis for the film.

This included the work of Auntie Edna Watson who had translated the script into Dharug, which was then used to subtitle the film.

Mr Caprarelli said the students showed the film ahead of the premiere at one of the homes of the aunties who was unable to attend the opening.

"It was quite emotional, but they were very pleased to have their stories out there," he said.

"After all they have been through, all they want is for everyone to get along."

Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt and members of the Aboriginal community involved with the film were among more than 400 guests at the red-carpet screening.

The film project was funded through a NESA Creative Arts Unit grant that included developing teaching and learning modules for media studies.

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