Kate Howat is a Coffs Harbour local and artistic director of Screenwave and REC Ya Shorts, as well as a member of the festival’s judging panel. We get the lowdown from Kate about what it’s like to work on REC Ya Shorts…
Why did you start REC Ya Shorts?
It comes from a mixture of growing up in regional NSW and Coffs Harbour and the experience and exposure that I’ve had with working with film festivals and going to film festivals and being part of a great cultural and social scene in bigger cities. Coming from regional NSW, there weren’t that many opportunities for young people to have some sort of platform for the next step in a career in film. So it meant a lot personally to start something for young people that gives them a starting point, a place to be able to be creative and express themselves. And film is a great medium with which to do that. You can just make a film by yourself too. There’s no judgment with film.
Have you noticed a different flavour and style to films created in regional areas compared with urban areas?
Absolutely, it’s better! No, I mean it is really different. The films that I’ve seen from metro areas, they have a different tone and shape. I guess the films are a bit rawer in regional NSW. Visually rawer because there are just so many wonderful landscapes and places in the environment that we live in, particularly around the Coffs Coast. So they’ve been very rich visually. But they’re also more raw emotionally and quite brave – we’ve had films that have dealt with homelessness, bullying, social issues. They seem to be very courageous and upfront.
What do you like best about teaching the REC Ya Shorts short-film-making workshops?
Travelling and seeing places I wouldn’t necessarily have an opportunity to see, and just sitting back and hearing the ideas that come out of the story-telling exercises that we do with young people. Particularly kids in rural areas, there’s just so much going on around them.
Resources are more limited and therefore so are the opportunities, particularly in any kind of creative field or creative industries – there are very few schools who have film-making as a subject. They might have media and communications and photography and touch on images. So that’s what really exciting for me – introducing that kind of element to students who wouldn’t necessarily have even considered film-making as a career option, or know how to go about that and put it into practice.
What are the most common questions you get asked by young people during the workshops?
About the prize money and what the prizes are! We get a lot of questions about the theme and why that’s included. Because work with Headspace Coffs Harbour it’s important for festival director Dave Horsley and I too to have that theme (this year the theme is “connection”). It’s something that we feel very passionate about – the importance of mental health and breaking down stigma.
But probably the number one thing we get asked about is concept and story development: ‘I’ve got a great idea, how do I film it?’. So we provide that support and structure. Entrants can make their film as unconventional as they want, they can break that classic structure, but having the foundations is very important. Because going out there with a camera or your phone and filming a bunch of stuff is one thing but then you’re stuck with it and you don’t know how to make sense of it – so we try to help with that.
What do you think makes a great short film for this type of festival?
Creativity, and courage. It can take a bit of courage to get out there and enter your film, but you can get much more back from it. Just taking that one step to kind of get out there and get your story seen by thousands – potentially tens of thousands – of other people is an awesome opportunity. It will get you exposure (and prizes!) if that’s what you want – or maybe just because it’s an important story for you personally to be able to get out there to express it.