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Rachel Perkins on telling stories about the past

By Sista Girl Productions, 2009 2:35 minutes

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Rachel Perkins has a collaborative approach to filmmaking and enjoys developing ideas with other people. For her, the most important part of making a film is communicating ideas effectively, and when informing audiences about Indigenous Australian history it is particularly important to engage people on an emotional level. Perkins is interested in telling stories about the past in order to understand the present. She was initially drawn to One Night the Moon because of the music, while she also found the tragic story of a lost child dying due to racism compelling. The music was an effective way of dramatising the clash of cultures that formed the basis of the story.

Collection Blak Wave

Discussion Points

Rachel Perkins believes that the range of different ideas that are contributed in a collaborative filmmaking process is essential to effectively communicating with an audience.

  • Read Anna Dzenis’ account in Metro of the quite distinctive process of collaboration that underpinned the making of One Night the Moon (Metro, No. 131/132, 2001: 114-117).

Perkins came to the project quite late, but was able to add her own ideas to the mix. The music that is so central to One Night the Moon was developed at the same time as the script.

  • What is the effect of placing music and songs at the centre of the drama?

Rachel Perkins’ filmmaking practice is imbued with a sense of responsibility to other Indigenous Australians. She considers that as an Indigenous filmmaker she is a mediator, sometimes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia and sometimes between the events of the past and the people of the present.

  • How do you think this perspective relates to One Night the Moon and its innovative combination of storytelling modes?

Rachel Perkins’ desire to tell the stories of Australia’s past from an Indigenous perspective dovetails with her focus on creating emotional engagement with the audience.

In an interview about the making of One Night the Moon, Perkins describes the struggles she had convincing the rest of the team to change the ending so that it was more dramatically effective.

She reworked the script so that “it became more of visual piece rather than a historical, informational sort of work which was what it was before”.

  • Refer to this interview. Consider how significantly Perkins changed the original thrust of the work and how effective this change is to the film’s impact.