In March this year, a small crew from ACMI’s Media Studio Team embarked on what seemed like the beginnings of an epic, reality-TV-worthy challenge. As part of ‘ACMI in the Regions’, the goal was to film nine documentaries in three towns in seven days. Three months later, with all nine films in the bag, Csilla Csongvay (Executive Producer) and I (Jessica Scott, Producer) were back on the road to Mansfield Shire to share the results of with the stars of the films – all local community members.
The screening was a hands-down success. Mansfield was incredibly well organised – equipped with a performing arts centre and their own screening system. All we had to do was show up and enjoy their hospitality. Over 150 people gathered from all three towns involved (Jamieson, Tolmie and Mansfield itself) both to celebrate, and no doubt, stickybeak.
For us, the pressure was on to meet the community’s expectations, especially since they had given so much of themselves during the shoot. Not only did they open their doors, farm gates and lives to us, but a handful of them went to great lengths to co-ordinate things for us on the ground, wrangling locations, interviewees, work experience kids and even special town events in the process.
There was a nervous twitter in the air as familiar faces milled in the foyer of the theatre, and more than one approached me with the slightly anxious question: “How did they turn out?” A few minutes after the films started you could almost hear a sigh of relief in the air as the audience settled in to enjoy seeing their stories on the big screen. There is nothing like watching a film with the people that it’s about. The crowd laughed, cheered and provided an audible running commentary as each story unfolded.
After the lights came up and all acknowledgements had been made we got the chance to catch up with the now more relaxed stars of the show, who uniformly expressed their approval. Each town had shared its individual story, and learnt a little more about its neighbours. The screening had provided the foundation for a kind of ‘cross-cultural exchange’.
The neighbourliness and hospitality of the Mansfield Shire was perfectly encapsulated the morning after, as we breakfasted at the Mansfield Produce Store. We casually bumped into audience members and a couple of the “stars”. In true country-hospitality style, they greeted us and chatted as though we were old friends, instead of new.
Jessica Scott, Producer
Watch past ‘ACMI in the Regions’ projects online at Community Stories about Places.