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SAM FIELD – Covering The Hustings

opening-shot1With his first documentary screening on the ABC this week (and later on Iview), we spoke to young director Sam Field about what it was like to film. Screening as part of the Opening Shot initiative, Candidate Games, covers the recent City of Perth Mayoral election. Specifically it looks into a couple of younger candidates, as they challenge an incumbent mayor. What should have been a relatively straight forward endeavour, proved to offer more than a few challenges. Candidates dropping out, legal obstructions, and reports of scandals, all made it an interesting election to film, and one that certainly kept Field on his toes.

“Opening Shot initiative is a partnership between Screen Australia, Screenwest, and the ABC,” explained Field. “It’s basically to give young film-makers their ‘opening shot’ or their first crack at having a doco screened on television.” The initiative was organised in competitive rounds, so had to compete against a large number of projects. Candidate Games was the only all WA crewed entry to be picked up.

The documentary was inspired by a Facebook post from Mike O’Hanlon, who had put his hand up to run against the incumbent Lisa Scaffidi. “O’Hanlon placed onto social media some big ideas about solar grids and filling Perth with electric cars. This was a great opportunity to follow an unlikely candidate against an entrenched lord mayor. A typical David and Goliath tale.”

This of course, all became a major obstacle when O’Hanlon dropped out of the running. It forced Field to think on his feet, and to modify his concept a little. “It’s still about generational change, so we just had to re-frame. We got access to Reece Harley, another candidate, that is actually younger than Mike. We continued on our path of a Gen Y candidate facing an incumbent. Luckily Mike re-inserted himself in the story a couple of times later down the track.”

That was the first of many challenges that occurred during filming. One of the key sequences is a public debate featuring all the candidates, where one candidate has refused to be filmed. There was also the release of the Crime and Corruption Commission findings on Scaffidi’s undisclosed gifts mere days before the election. The ramifications of which will still follow Scaffidi into the new year.

It demonstrates that despite our increasing national or even global focus, there is still a place for local politics. “What takes place in local government can have a real effect on our world. The old; think global, act local scenario. I think Fremantle council has just shown you can start a national debate, with their decision to move Australia Day celebrations. I think what we pass on is is maybe local government is a place for our generation to get involved. Maybe those decisions can build a better Perth.”

Field enjoys telling factual stories across a range of mediums. With an Iview series on the horizon and an interactive documentary already out, we should be hearing more from the Perth based Periscope Productions in the future.

Candidate Games will premiere on ABC2 at 9:20 on Wednesday 7th of December.

DAVID O’CONNELL