Photo courtesy of Neil Grant

Photo courtesy of Neil Grant

Nurturing audiences

In an environment of increasingly frequent catastrophic natural disasters around the world, Forged from Fire offers communities an insight into how lives evolve throughout the aftermath of such an event, and perhaps forecasts pathways through such tragedies that may prove helpful and hopeful to others, now, and in times to come.

Forged from Fire is a film we intend to take direct to audiences via mediated local, regional and rural screening events; safe and respectful spaces in which the film can be screened and open floor discussions take place. Audiences are expected to include the bereaved, their friends and families, sponsors who have donated to the project, international contributors, artists and artisans, locals and blacksmiths from around the world.

The few screenings to date of the OUR TREE short have seen audiences moved to express their own responses to Black Saturday, often for the first time. From the stories of personal loss shared at the 2014 Human Rights Arts & Film Festival screening launch, the intimate screenings at the Hurstbridge Uniting Church, to the emotional responses and encouragement offered by non-fire affected audiences at both the 2014 Community Development Conference in Glasgow and the Internet Rights are Human Rights Workshops in Barcelona, time and again audiences responded with cheers, applause and tears.

This story of loss and recovery seems to remind people of an innate urge to be with each other, to be held safely within the spaces our films are screened, intimate spaces in which people have felt safe to grieve and speak openly about their feelings irrespective of who they are or where they came from. I have found people want to share their concerns openly, and in doing so, whether they are fire affected or not, I believe these genuine moments of intimate sharing binds communities together at a time when so many are fractured. Audiences are to be nurtured and respected, not led.
— Andrew Garton

In producing this documentary we have found the project already bringing people together, particularly those that gave generously, by way of financial donations and voluntary labour to the creation of the Blacksmiths’ Tree. They have come to meet many people from fire affected communities. This sense of connection, healing through openness, frank discussion and the support these opportunities afford, is significant in the healing process and its social impact is invaluable.

Forged from Fire is a social document, enabling community members to reflect on journeys made since Black Saturday, and share them with each other. That is why mediated screenings are so important.

Recording impact

We intend, for reporting and marketing purposes, to measure the impact of our film by tracking invited and curated screenings, audience numbers, DVD sales and audience feedback. However it is the qualitative impact that we are really interested in. Such impact may be measured in responses to the film through direct contact with audiences, recorded and documented testimonials such as hand-written testimonials that may be left in a “reflections book” at screenings, sourced online and through various community publications.

I feel so honoured to have watched this project grow and succeed. My leaf is a little treasure and I was left speechless seeing the tree in person yesterday. It talked to me like it was a living breathing thing. My three heartfelt photos that sum up my presence at the launch are attached. Thank you!
— The Davey’s

A few words on Outreach

The Blacksmiths’ Tree was made possible by way of an international collaboration and a vast network of local volunteers from fire affected communities in Victoria. The Black Saturday fires, the devastation, the pain and loss felt by a few was some how felt by many. The Blacksmiths’ Tree gave form to that. In terms of outreach it has already begun and will continue as knowledge of The Blacksmiths’ Tree reaches out beyond the tiny hamlet of Strathewen where it has been installed.

In keeping with the local context in which The Tree was conceived, forged, assembled and installed the production of Forged from Fire is marketing itself. Everyone who has contributed to the project is not only local to the region from which The Blacksmiths’ Tree grew, we are each of us affected by the Black Saturday fires.

This process of collaboration and outreach will continue through post-production. For example, a call-out to local composers and song-writers to contribute to the documentary soundtrack, that will no doubt describe their personal experiences during and after the fires. Production initiatives that engage with local artists will further knowledge of the documentary, building anticipation for its completion and the screenings to follow.

Forged from Fire will be available on DVD and/or BlueRay, packaged as part of a book being written about the Blacksmiths’ Tree. The book will be marketed through local, regional and international networks.

Targeting festivals that are focused on human rights, social change and community development will greatly increase the capacity for audience outreach, both locally and abroad. Noting too that all events will provide opportunities for all facets of the project to be marketed and distributed, from the proposed book to the completed documentary.