Going The Extra Mile

September 4, 2018 Lara Damiani Blog

Think Films was built on the philosophy of going the extra mile because we are genuinely passionate about what we do and who we do it for. Earlier this year, Think Films Producer/Director Lara Damiani released her short film “Little Bang’s New Eye” which she shot, edited and directed over two trips to Hanoi, Vietnam. The story follows three year old Hmong girl Bang as she journeys from her mountain village home to Hanoi for urgent medical treatment for retinoblastoma – a form of eye cancer. The project was a labour of love for Lara who secured the voice of well known Australian actress Kerry Armstrong to narrate the film and the services of talented colleagues who provided post production services to get the film finished and delivered. This year, the film has won two IMPACT Docs Award and an IndieFilmFEST Award, was an official selection at the Indy Film Festival in the USA and recently official selection for DOCS Without Borders. Read what writer Adrienne Hurst had to say about Lara’s work on this film here: http://www.digitalmediaworld.tv/cameras/2001-dp-lara-damiani-goes-the-extra-mile-for-video-with-a-conscience

Using Film to Shine the Light

April 23, 2018 Lara Damiani Blog

Our short documentary “Little Bang’s New Eye” recently won two international awards and will be screening shortly at the Indy Film Festival in Indiana, USA.

Yesterday evening, Channel 7 broadcast a story on the film and the organisation our film is helping to shine a light on – Sight For All. Sight For All is an Adelaide based non-profit providing specialised eye care in developing countries around the world. By training local doctors to undertake specialised procedures, their philosophy of collaboration is one we really get behind.

This is why we do what we do and why we love it !

What Drives Me and How It Helps You

April 16, 2018 Lara Damiani Uncategorised

I love stories. Stories that can inspire and educate and motivate.

When I made my first feature documentary I chose a subject that wasn’t the easiest – but, for me, it was a subject I wanted to shine an international spotlight on. The subject was Tibet. Not from the point of view of the splendour and beauty of its countryside and landscape, nor from the point of view of it’s national religion and the depth of the principles of Buddhism or the colour and richness of the visual narrative. My story was about the debate between the Dalai Lama’s political Middle Way Approach and those of the Independence activists. Who is right. Who can win. What does the future hold ? An interesting and cyclical complex debate.

Since making and releasing that documentary on international television, the one thing that has driven me forward is my belief in the power of visual stories to communicate and educate, to motivate and inspire, to create debate and change.

Since then, I look for stories that can help organisations demonstrate their impact but that also have a social message. Most recently, my short film “Little Bang’s New Eye” – about a young girl from Vietnam and her journey with retinoblastoma, a form of childhood eye cancer, made for Sight For All, demonstrates the work and impact that organisation is having in eye health care in developing countries. (The film has recently won two awards and will be screened at it’s first international film festival later this month). And more than that – it also allows those of us in the developed world a unique insight into life for those who are faced with the sorts of challenges that many of us are not exposed to. I think it’s a great reminder about appreciating what we have and understanding what others go through.

I’m driven to tell these types of stories and it’s this drive that I bring to my work which I believe creates a unique opportunity to help you tell your stories in the a way that multiplies your impact and helps you reach your audiences in a genuine and heartfelt way.

Harnessing the Power of Storytelling

December 5, 2017 Lara Damiani Blog

“Philanthropist Melinda Gates is a storyteller. ‘The power of stories open our hearts to a new place, which opens our minds, which leads to action,’ she once said. Storytelling is front and center at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.”

I read this opening paragraph on a Forbes article by Carmine Gallo this morning. Bill and Melinda Gates have got it right.

They understand that powerful narratives that demonstrate personal stories and stories of change are the most effective way to reach your audiences.

As Carmine Gallo writes: “Bill and Melinda Gates understand the power of story to drive action.” He talks about how data can back up stories to increase their impact. He also writes “Charities that want to amplify their message this season and all year long should consider the power of story to inspire their donors.”

So, if you’re thinking of getting your message across think about the power of documentary storytelling through pictures, words and video. It’s a lasting way to influence, inspire and motivate.

At Think Films we love telling stories through pictures, film and words. The Think Films team includes videographers, photographers, journalists, illustrators, animators, sound designers and communications experts who are all driven by the passion of what we do and who we do it for.

This is why I do what I do

November 23, 2017 Lara Damiani Blog, News, Projects

Image above: Little Bang from northern Vietnam – whose journey with eye cancer I follow in my short documentary “Little Bang’s New Eye”.

I realised a few years ago I’m lucky I discovered I have a passion. It may have been realised a little later in life but when it happened, it happened with a bang! (no pun intended in relation to the title of my film:)

I remember the day I decided I would give up my corporate career to become a documentary filmmaker. It was the end of 2006 and I wanted to make a documentary about Tibet for release just before the upcoming Beijing Olympics. I wanted to (and I did) use that documentary to help shed light on the Tibetan struggle since Chinese occupation in 1949.

That passion has continued and has been a solid part of my filmmaking work since.

Last week, I had the first public screening of my short documentary “Little Bang’s New Eye” to a packed theatre as part of a film fundraiser to help raise funds for essential equipment for Sight For All who work in developing countries delivering eye health care. My short film follows the story of a little Hmong girl from Northern Vietnam and her journey with retinoblastoma – a deadly form of eye cancer. Within that story, is another story of how the life of Bang and her older sister Vang, were likely saved because of the work of Sight For All.

This film was a labour of love. I offered my time and resources over two filming trips in 2016 and 2017. Those trips were made possible with the support of Sight For All. A week after returning home having completed the first filming trip in 2016, I was diagnosed with a back injury and was unable to work for a couple of months. Fortunately, this improved and in 2017 I was able to return for a second filming trip.

After a screening last Sunday to a packed theatre as part of a film fundraiser, “Little Bang’s New Eye” is now being entered into a number of international film festivals. The hope is that audiences around the world will have a chance to learn about life for some children (and their families) in developing countries, the work of organisations like Sight For All and the chance to be grateful for the health care we have.

This is why I love documentary films. They can educate and inspire and motivate. They give us the opportunity to learn and discover and sometimes just to appreciate what we have.

This is why I do what I do.

If you’d like to support the work of Sight For all, you can donate to their 2017 Christmas Appeal here https://sightforall.org/donate

A Letter from John Pilger

September 3, 2017 Lara Damiani Blog

On Thursday this week, I delivered a breakout presentation at the YWCA’s She Leads Conference in Adelaide. The theme was “Owning Your Change”.

I spoke about how I changed my career from fishing to film and the journey and the lessons learned in between.

This morning, I remembered a handwritten note I received from John Pilger back in 2001 in response to a letter I’d written to him asking if I could work for him. I was about to change from one career to another and I wanted to be the type of investigative journalist that exposed social ills, like John Pilger.

In the note, John Pilger wrote:

“Dear Lara,

Thanks for your excellent letter – it reminded me of when I wrote to people in London from Sydney at your age. Alas, I can’t help; I don’t employ anyone. My TV company support a small team, and we all make the coffee! I’m sorry.

I wish you every success. I have a feeling you’ll go far! All good wishes.

John Pilger.

So, while I’m not the investigative journalist like John Pilger, I still admire him greatly. And that note was part of a train of events that lead me to becoming a purpose-driven filmmaker.

Thank you John !

Collaborative filmmaking. I love it when everyone gets involved.

June 16, 2017 Lara Damiani Blog

Something that’s always been important to me in my work is being able to involve those around me in the filmmaking process.

Recently, I was on assignment in Bougainville in the Pacific, working with CUFA Project Officers travelling to a number of villages to interview people who have participated in and experienced the impacts of CUFA’s projects that focus on giving young people much needed skills in financial literacy, employment skills, micro-enterprise development skills and more.

I could see how keen a couple of the project officers were about the camera, so with some on-the-job training and a lot of enthusiasm, they showed their skills in the field behind the camera.

People talk about Participatory Video, which is something else I’m really passionate about, but I think it’s also about providing opportunities for participation (and new skills) with the people I work with in the field. Giving them the chance to get behind the camera or work with audio.

I love being able to do this as part of my job. Collaborating and sharing what I’ve learnt with those around me is just part of my approach to what I do.

Impact and Evaluation Videos – how decision makers and stakeholders can see what’s happening on the ground.

April 23, 2017 Lara Damiani Uncategorised

I was recently in Cambodia on assignment for CUFA. CUFA is an international development agency whose aim is to combat poverty across the Asia-Pacific region. Their core programs have a focus on “economic, education, enterprise and employment activities, all of which enable people to lift themselves out of poverty and strengthen communities”.

It wasn’t the first time I’d worked with CUFA and again, I saw firsthand the real results they’re achieving with their excellent approach.

The assignment involved interviewing a number of Cambodians from Poipet and Phnom Penh who had been resettled as part of an ADB resettlement program. People spoke to us openly about their challenges and difficulties but also about the positive aspects of their resettlement. I found it fascinating to hear people’s perspectives and it really made me think about all the social and logistical challenges that appear when resettling hundreds of people.

The final video will provide an evaluation tool demonstrating the impact of the resettlement project from the perspective of the people directly involved.

And this is why I love using video to demonstrate impact and evaluation. It’s engaging, it’s about creating connections through personal stories and it provides the people making decisions with a point of view and possibly a new understanding many of them would probably rarely get to experience.

Above image:  One of the community members who spoke to camera about her experiences with the resettlement scheme.

Animation. Art. Alyawarr Stories. Working with some amazing women from central Australia on my current project.

January 2, 2017 Lara Damiani Uncategorised

In October last year, I spent time with a handful of talented women artists from the remote community of Ampilatwatja in central Australia. I’ve been going to Ampilatwatja since 2010 when I made my first trip out there to start work on an independent documentary about Alyawarr elder Banjo Morton and the walk off he was involved in back in 1949. I discovered it was the first walk-off by Aboriginal stockmen in the Northern Territory. Banjo and a few other stockmen walked off from the Lake Nash Cattle Station where they were employed, demanding wages instead of rations.

This time, in 2016, I’m producing a series of short videos that show each of the artists working on a painting from start to finish that will incorporate animation. The animation is being produced by Karu-Karu studio.

Most of the artists paint Arreth, which translates to ‘strong bush medicine’, demonstrating a deep connection to country. For the Alyawarr people, their land has provided and sustained for generations. The paintings pay homage to the significance and use of traditional bush medicine, allowing an insight into their community. The Alyawarr people have lived in this part of Australia for hundreds of thousands of years.

As part of this project, we spent a day outside of the community where the women showed me a variety of bush medicine plants and explained their uses and which I filmed. I’m now cutting this into a 12 minute film which will be screened on Indigenous Community TV once complete.

I’m lucky to be able to work with these wonderful artists who have shared their stories and talent with my camera. I’m looking forward to finishing the video series and to showing them to the world !

To find out more about the artists from Ampilatwatja and their work, click here.

The above image shows artists Margaret Kemarre Ross (left) and Beverly Pula Luck who are two of the artists involved in the project.

How an email turned into a lifelong friendship

December 13, 2016 Lara Damiani Blog, News

In 2007, I embarked on a daunting but exciting journey to make my first feature documentary. I was driven by a desire to start a new career that would allow me to make films to make people think.

If you’ve ever embarked on a project with no funding before, you know how important it is to find ways to keep your costs down. One way I did this was to look for product sponsors. One of those has now, nine years later, turned into what I know will be a lifelong friendship.

At the start of my documentary journey in 2007, I had to make various filming trips to India and Tibet and I needed appropriate clothing. I went into a shop in Adelaide to look for travel-wear clothes only to find, as usual, everything made in China. This, I thought, was quite ironic given the documentary I was making began from the point of China’s invasion of Tibet in 1949. Eventually, in one shop I noticed a travel wear brand called Earth Sea Sky whose clothing was made in New Zealand. My research later revealed that the company was family owned, ethical and sustainable. Just the type of company for me!

Months after sending my email to Earth Sea Sky telling them about my plans to make the film and how I was looking for product sponsors, and still not having received a response, I relegated the email to the dustbin of email history. One day however, not so long after this, I received an apologetic response from the owner of Earth Sea Sky, David Ellis.

That email, in 2007, was followed by many other emails, the provision of clothing for not only my Tibet documentary but subsequent work around the world, and personal meetings, catch ups for dinner and coffee with David and his wonderful wife Jane. Our visits and communication continue to this day and I consider them among my very good friends.

Back in 2007, their support felt almost miraculous. Here I was – an unknown, making my first ever feature documentary and they believed in me. The documentary was finished as planned in time for screenings just before the 2008 Beijing Olympics and was even acquired for purchase by TV New Zealand as well as Czech Television. Screenings were held in theatres across Australia, NZ, Asia and Europe.

I love everything about Earth Sea Sky. The clothing they make, how they make it, their business principles and ethics, their stance towards sustainability, their integrity. Most of all, I love the fact that they are a family run business who really believe in the quality products they make.

Thank you David and Jane – for not only your ongoing support for my work but for your commitment to a business that is ethical, sustainable, professional, personal and so wonderfully family run.