Make the most of what you’ve got.
With Marvel working on various projects and many Netflix and Stan Originals are all being created on Aussie soil as the industry floods in due to eased COVID restrictions and complications.
While it’s exciting to see Keanu Reeves and Liam Neeson living it up in the place we call home, the next generation of filmmakers, producers and creators are star-struck with the available opportunities.
Harry Sweby is one of these up-and-comers in the Australian film industry. At only 21, he has done ran two film festivals, over 30 podcasts episodes and produced a handful of short films.
Sweby has always been engaged with the industry, even without the tools of the trade of any family members with connection to the industry. Even without the camera or the means to record, the process was still something very much at the focus of playing around at such a young age.
Sweby says he’s really the only person in his family who is involved in something creative like the film industry. Despite his parents having careers in nursing and law enforcement, they still have had their role in guiding Sweby down the path without being producers or film students.
It was only in high school when Harry really started to explore the wonders of filmmaking.
“I don’t think it was until high school that I got a really good chance to take advantage of some of the tools and technology around in the space, like cameras and editing software.”
Sweby’s early work at High School was influenced by horror and ‘thrill of the chase’ type cinema. Single-word titles were his specialty, with projects such as SLACK, Puke and Vomit, as well as a project entirely in Japanese ‘Thieves of Fate’.
His classmates were all massive fans of his creative work and his Film and Television teacher, Dominic Thurlow was one of his most early mentors and teachers.
Watch PUKE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rO3llohcnus
“Harry was a model student. Not only how he presented himself and with his results but in how he dreamt about his future and elevated those around him.” He said.
“Few students take advantage of what is available to them, even at a university level. Harry was doing this whilst still at Padua.”
It was his burning desire to work on new ideas — even the bad ones — just to see what would happen.
While film groups and film festivals don’t accept shorter and more amateur type work, a large portion of this early work has seeded the foundations of Harry’s later projects.
“Being a filmmaker is about recognising talent and encouraging people to explore their own talents. Being able to give people opportunities they didn’t have before is somewhat my job.”
Harry was able to pick up these skills in ways that few other manage to succeed in in the film industry. Like being a professional sportsperson or songwriter, the backlog and history of work produced becomes the portfolio, yet many film students will not start on this until they graduate.
At Padua College, he finished at the top of many of his classes such as Film and Television. But final grades didn’t provide the long-term experience that his individual work outside the system was.
“I think my way to etch my name into the industry has been to build my portfolio of content and film, using it as a means to put myself out there and be in charge of my destiny.”
Reflecting on his university course, the extra projects such as his short films, an ongoing YouTube channel and many side projects supplemented his degree, being the next platform to which he could explore the industry.
Sweby says the film is a collaborative medium and that the reliable people you meet early are worth holding on to where you can. Coming directly from high school, many of Harry’s friends also found themselves at QUT, studying film or another Creative Industries course.
“It’s hard to keep working with my friends and people I’ve already built something with because sometimes we want to do the same roles or need to go at different paces.”
Despite this, he would continue to make new relationships and find more ways to share stories and advice with people he can work with.
Fin Taylor is a freelance musician and is one of the people with whom Harry has developed a very strong working relationship within recent times.
Harry met Fin in high school many years before they would go on to work together, which he describes as being fate. Fin at the time working for the Theatresports program in Brisbane providing background music and audio for the scenes being played out on stage. In recordings of Harry’s team winning in 2017, Fin can be seen playing the piano which was improvised for the scene.
Check out Harry’s Theatresports Grand Final Video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbPHVPgWJ18
Fin and Harry would become like vegemite on toast, with Harry carrying the visual elements and Fin taking care of the sounds in any project.
“It’s quite funny how it all worked out because Harry reached out to me for a podcast, knowing I was the one doing some of the music for Theatresports. We’ve kept the ball rolling ever since and that was in back in 2018 now.” Fin said.
“Harry and I have had an excellent working relationship since and I personally haven’t worked with anyone with as many fingers in different projects as him. We have made many YouTube videos together now, one with over one hundred thousand views.”
While time at university was very straightforward with classes and assessment, Harry would repeat what he did in school and begin to produce a large amount of his own work, involving many other creators such as Fin in a very collaborative effort.
“…as a freelance musician, people like Harry are not normal. It would be incredibly stressful to work on so much without financial return or more to show for your work.” Fin added.
This has now manifested itself into more than 30 podcast episodes, a couple of short films, and hundreds of short-form pieces of digital and social media content.
He has even led two film festivals, named Light Up Film Festival, focusing on the short films of students and local Brisbane filmmakers, at Reading Cinemas in Newmarket.
See the Event Recap footage from “Light Up Film Festival”: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=670372517171945
For Harry, this was always the plan. Bringing together all the things he learned right back to his high school days, with all the people he’s pulled in along the way, and executing his plan to make a lasting impression on the film industry.
“It’s hard to pick one particular person or group along the way that stands out the most, I’ve worked with local bands, solo musicians, comedians, filmmakers and artists. But when we are able to all come together for some of these projects, it has a lasting effect that is just special.”
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted many lives and industries throughout the lockdowns, quarantines and restrictions that came with it.
However, Australia’s film industry benefited greatly from the crisis. 2020 saw the migration of the film industry during COVID and a lot of film and television finding its way into Australia.
Despite the knockback of the pandemic, new opportunities sprouted and Brisbane became a lucrative place for the budding filmmaker to make an impact.
Sweby said that COVID really changed how the last year of his degree looked compared to past years, with the cohort missing out on a lot of on-set work. There were three to four months where the industry really suffered at the start of lockdown.
It was disappointing what this graduating class missed out on, but Sweby took things in his stride. New procedures with space and PPE for COVID were an excellent learning experience for managing a set and something he never would have taken on board without the pandemic.
The most important factor of COVID for the industry was the influx of work and projects coming into Australia in a ‘boom’ for the sector.
Sweby says the federal government has repeatedly shunned the creative industries in favour of alternative sectors at this time. Since the degrees and work is being scaled back at this level, there are areas in film with job shortages at the moment.
Sweby has only managed to land these opportunities off the back of his extra work with podcasts, films and the festivals. The real concern is that the opportunity for filmmakers will pass and they will miss out due to lack of training and qualification, despite the abundance of work that is in Australia at the moment.
In a post-COVID reality, a lot of this work will return to the United States and potentially leave Australia undertrained and without work in film.
“This is why I’ve been carving my own destiny and getting a hold of every opportunity I can. I cannot afford to miss out on this.”
“The film industry isn’t one you can learn from a book and you need people and projects to learn from and get feedback.”
Since graduating from QUT, Harry has continued to move forward and land himself an internship role working with Moving Floor Entertainment, thanks to hosting a podcast with principals of the company, Stephen M. Irwin and Leigh McGrath.
Another opportunity that wouldn’t have been possible without the 30 or so podcasts before it. He has also begun work on another film project, leaning once again into his love of one-word titles, “GROOVE”. A mockumentary about the porn industry in the 70s.
“Groove will be exciting because I am once again pulling in all of the people I have worked with over the years for the first project that I will be able to send to other festivals.”
“I won’t be getting any money back from this, but I know my new role with Moving Floor productions wouldn’t have happened if they didn’t see me doing stuff like this.”
“I’m excited about where I am going, but also about who will be coming with me and what whacky projects I will get involved with.”
Now that so many parts of the puzzle have come together for the 21-year-old, the path to centre stage in Australian filmmaking and the prospect of Hollywood becomes more realistic, his future is as bright as ever.