Say What? David Jacobs

What were the aims?
The vision has always been to encourage and support storytelling about sustainability in ways that are as inclusive as possible. We interpret “sustainability” broadly. As well as environmental issues it encompasses social justice, citizenship, human rights, health, peace, and cultural issues. We encourage young people to tell us with their films what the word means to them.

We’ve received a lot of films about bullying over the years and we’re pleased to have The Lowdown Award in the film challenge, sponsored by the Health Promotion Agency. It’s for a film that focuses on social inclusion and mental wellbeing as a sustainability issue for young people.

And at the core of sustainability is our relationship with the natural world that we are part of, so we’re also pleased to have the Big Picture Award sponsored by DOC.

The project began in 20007 as a film challenge, which we now call the Someday Challenge – make a short film on any camera you like, any genre you like, any length up to 5 minutes. Then in 2011 we began the workshop series as another way we can support young people to use film to tell sustainability stories.

The Someday Workshops are standalone events. We want young people to get value from them whether or not they go on to make a film for the film challenge. Likewise you don’t have to attend a workshop in order to enter the film challenge. But we do of course promote the film challenge in the workshops and we know that leads to a lot of entries.

We began with a trial series of 8 one-day workshops in 2011. Last year there were 32 workshops throughout New Zealand. This year we’ve expanded even further to 42 workshops. They include 6 two-day marae-based workshops for rangatahi and tamariki Māori, supported by Te Māngai Pāho. We’ve also this year launched a trial series of two workshops for Pasifika young people.

Over 1000 young people now participate in the workshops and the film challenge each year. Last year there were 1022 participants and 156 films entered into the film challenge. That took the total number of entries over 9 years to 1038. We’re proud of those numbers and also of the levels of participation by young women and young Māori.

Last year 57% of the participants in the project were young women. We haven’t set up the project particularly to support young women film-makers but it is doing that in practice. I like to think we’re helping to foster a growth of young women in the film industry in authorial roles like writing and directing.

With the workshops and the film challenge we have developed a talent development pathway for young film-makers. The final step in the pathway is an initiative called Someday Stories.

The Body Shop's Barrie Thomas (left) and David Jacobs (right) with Natasha Bishop

The Body Shop’s Barrie Thomas (left) and David Jacobs (right) with 2012 TOFS winner Natasha Bishop

The idea is that we will support proven young film-makers to go further into the sustainability theme with longer films – and with production budgets. We’re proposing a series of six 8-12 minute films for online release and international festivals. The opportunity will be open to any young film-maker or team between the ages of 18 and 28. Once commissioned they’ll be teamed up with a production mentor from the film industry for guidance and support as they make their film.

We thought long and hard about whether the opportunity should only be available to young people who had made winning films in the Someday Challenge. But we decided to maintain the principle of inclusion. Just as you don’t have to attend a workshop to enter the film challenge you can pitch to make a Someday Story without having previously participated in The Outlook for Someday project. You just have to be a proven young film-maker with a track record, a great idea and the ability to turn it into a great film.

I’ve been talking about Someday Stories for a few years now and, funding permitting, we plan to launch the initiative before the end 2016. It would be great to have got to that point in the 10th year of the project.