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2023 NAIDOC Week Spotlight: Adam Jenkins

03 July 2023
Adam Jenkins, NAIDOC Week 2023

Every year the South Australian Film Corporation celebrates NAIDOC Week by highlighting the work of First Nations screen creatives living and working in South Australia.

This year we are throwing the spotlight on the three First Nations South Australian filmmakers currently creating new and original short film projects as part of the SAFC’s First Nations Short Film Initiative. In today’s article we meet emerging Ngarrindjeri/Kaurna writer/director based in Adelaide Adam Jenkins.

Adam’s credits as a writer and director include short films Aucune Perte (2000), The Other Side of Negative (2005), and a documentary for NITV’s Our Stories about his mother, Aunty Steph: Becoming an Adelaide Jewel (2017). His short film Wild at Heart, which he directed and co-wrote with Tammy Coleman Zweck, came third in the People’s Choice at the Tasmanian Breath of Fresh Air First Nation Short Film Festival in 2022.

How long have you been working in the screen industry and how did you get started?

I’ve been in the industry on and off for about 15 years. I started in 2000 writing and directing my first short film, but after that I got side-tracked for almost 10 years when I took on a full-time job and stopped making content. However the passion never left and I returned in 2015; from that point I’ve been taking it more seriously.

This time around I’m applying the knowledge I’ve learn along the way and programs I’ve participated in to become a better writer and director.  

What do you like best about working in the screen industry?

What I like most about the screen industry is that it gives creatives like me an outlet to be expressive, bold and a visionary doing what I love best – making films. 

As a child I was inspired by the best filmmakers in the industry, and I hope to inspire the next generation of filmmakers with my current and future work. 

Tell us about your short film project The Getaway. Where did the inspiration for this film come from?

The Getaway is an Aboriginal short horror film. It follows the story of Kyle who has lost his connection to country; he takes off on a spiritual journey back to his mother’s country to reconnect with his culture and to come to terms with the loss of his mother. Kyle’s ignorance of his culture becomes his downfall.

The inspiration for The Getaway came from the idea of “what would I do if I had little knowledge of my culture?” Would I know where to go or what to do and what protocols I should have followed? The Getaway is a metaphor for not knowing your cultural and ancestral roots. If you don’t know who you are or where you come from, you could end up doing something that metaphorically comes back to haunt you. 

How is production going on The Getaway? Where are you at with it and how are you finding the process?

We wrapped on principal photography in May and have been hard at work in post-production. We’re just finalising the sound mix and then it will be finished and ready for an audience. 

Oh, I’m in my element! I love making movies, so I found this whole process at times challenging but overall rewarding and it’s assisted in my development as a writer/director. I also couldn’t have done it without my team and enjoyed working with them in bringing this story to life, so overall I’ve found this process fun and enjoyable.

What are your hopes for The Getaway?

I hope audiences enjoy this little film we’ve put together and have fun watching as much as we had fun making it. Ideally, I hope The Getaway gets recognition for my crew and myself and the hard work we put into making this film but mainly that it highlights that we’ve got a bunch of talented First Nations artists and crew here in South Australia with global stories to tell.

Are you working on any other projects at the moment?

No not yet.  I’ve been too busy finalising The Getaway and gearing up for its promotion to take on any projects. With that being said, I’m currently developing ideas for my next Aboriginal horror film called Taken which I’ll start writing soon.

What are your career aspirations for the future? Do you have a dream screen industry job?

I’m hoping that The Getaway is well received and that it can establish me as First Nations writer/director. Yes, my dream job is Directing so any opportunity where I can direct a project, that’s what I’m aiming for. My goal is to transition from short films into feature films where I can demonstrate my talent for telling good stories.

What’s your top piece of advice for other First Nations creatives who want to get into the screen industry?

I’ve got three pieces of advice for other First Nations creatives: be passionate, be enthusiastic and be knowledgeable. Be passionate about filmmaking first and foremost. If you aren’t passionate, you won’t go that extra mile to succeed when things get hard. Without passion you might end up giving up too soon. Your passion will get you through those long hours and frustrated nights.

The next thing is be enthusiastic. Do this by attending industry events and functions to get yourself known within the local industry. Sign up to the SAFC newsletter to know when and where events are and what’s happening.

Lastly be knowledgeable by learning the industry – whether that’s writing, directing, acting or crew roles. Become a sponge and learn as much as you can because that knowledge will help you down the track, and if you can demonstrate you know how to do something well then people will want to work with you because you know your stuff.

What’s your favourite Australian film/TV series of all time and why?

Mad Max 2 is my all-time favourite Australian film. That movie changed the landscape of Australian cinema. It created a whole genre of apocalyptic films that still inspire filmmakers around the world 40 years later. It’s iconic and inspirational and put Australia on the world stage. I hope that one day I can make a film that inspires other filmmakers like Mad Max inspired me.

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