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Tarkine Together

For tens of thousands of years the Tarkine which covers 447,000 hectares of wilderness in the North West region of Tasmania, has been revered by Indigenous cultures who`s very way of life depended on an intimate nature/ culture balance. Today we view such places as commodities for Forestry, Mining Resource Extraction Industries and Tourism.

What is the innate value of a wild and ancient place?

Join Lisa Gormley (‘Home and Away’ & ‘The Gloaming’) as we journey through the last remnants of Ancient Gondwanaland’s forest rivers and trek along the rugged Tarkine roaring 40’s coastline where the dunes meet the cool temperate Rainforest.

‘Tarkine together’ is the story about the effect of wilderness on the human experience. This documentary aims to give a voice to the tarkine and explore why the tarkine has been amongst Australia`s longest running conservation debates.

For forty years intense controversial debates have raged over the Islands remaining unprotected wild zones. Hydro Dams, Open Cut Mining and more recently Old Growth Forest Logging Proposals have gone head to head with those people wanting Tasmania’s remaining Wild Zone Wilderness Protected for their universally recognised Natural and Cultural Heritage Values for future generations to enjoy.

Rhys Shepherd was born in Naracoorte, South Australia, in 1966. Rhys studied at Prince Alfred College and went on to achieve a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art/ Visual Art at Uni-SA in 1987. Rhys has received accolades and won awards in State and National photographic exhibitions. He has a passion for nature, landscapes, and exploration, spending most of his youth living at Skye in the Adelaide foothills. He would photograph walking trail explorations around the falls at Morialta and the Flinders Ranges. He has had many opportunities during his working life filming documentaries experiencing amazing landscapes in central Australia, photographing regions such as Lake Eyre in flood and the Simpson Desert.

Rhys shoots primarily on film, as well as astrophotography/ cinematography and time-lapse exposures to produce his pieces. He has worked on around 40 Documentaries and commercial ventures including the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Canal +, ‘Our World’ - Nine Network Australia the Discovery Channel, and others. His passion for nature and discovery has taken him to many destinations in the world in pursuit of knowledge, beauty, and a perspective of life in the world through photography. The documentations he has made of his explorations have made him realize that any moment in time can be fleeting. Landscapes can change and a view you could take for granted can be altered or even lost forever. Each moment is rare and through photography can be captured to transcend time.

Rhys processed black and white photographic prints since 1977 and entered state photographic competitions winning a “BEST PRINT” award in1983. This saw his work go to Sydney and win National Photographic Merits.

Rhys is a third-generation astronomer whose grandfather was the president of the South Australian Astronomical Society twice. He and Rhys’ father built the most powerful homemade telescopes in the southern hemisphere, one of which Rhys used throughout his university astronomy degree whilst photographing Comet Halley on its 1986 return. Rhys has practiced target shooting since a young age along with his family and has been accredited with 30 / 30 vision by two optometrists in recent years.

Rhys attained his Bachelor of Arts in Fine/ Visual Arts studying Black and White Photography, Film/ Video and Sound Production, Colour Photography as well as Astronomy and Energy Studies at the University of South Australia in 1987. In his final year at University Rhys was filming documentaries under contract for the Nine Network Australia. Rhys has worked as Director of Photography, Location Sound Recordist, Film/ Video Picture, and Sound Editor for over thirty broadcast documentary films also corporate and television commercials for national and international television campaigns.

Memorable achievements in the field were the Simpson Desert crossing wherein 1987 Rhys walked from Alice Springs in the Northern Territory through South Australia to Birdsville in Queensland across over one thousand, one hundred foot high red sand dunes with only camels to transport food, water, and film equipment. It took one month to take this journey, not done since the early explorers in 1936.

Rhys covered the flooding of Lake Eyre in 1989-1990 for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and has also been photographing landscapes throughout and ever since.

In 2012 Rhys traveled from Adelaide to Cairns in a four-wheel drive, to attend the ‘Eclipse Music Festival’ approximately 200km north of Cairns. Rhys was also filming a documentary on the Environment, Sovereignty, and Sustainability. His landscape photographs represent a special insight into this part of Australia during the Total Solar Eclipse phenomenon. For 6 months he traveled from mid-north South Australia, Tasmania, to the far north reaches of Queensland. Most of Rhys’ photographs are single exposure 35mm film negative and printed on photochemical metallic paper.

Rhys as Producer has completed a 90- minute feature documentary 'Tarkine Together' in 1080p - 16 x 9 (1:1.78) with 5.1 stereo sound DCP ready. Also, a 60-minute television version is available for distribution.

How did you start making films and what was the first film project you worked on?

I started processing and printing Black & White photographs in 1977 when I was in 6th grade and was inspired by Gorge Lucas' Star Wars by compositing spaceships in the foreground of landscapes. Aside from some early super - 8 movies, I went to the University of South Australia to study my Bachelor of Arts in Visual Arts majoring in Film/ Video Production and Photography (Art/ film school). I made a short clay animation on 16mm film that won 'Best Animation' at the South Australian Young Filmmakers Awards' in 1984. What was the inspiration behind the making of your film? I had an early interest in Landscape Photography and was inspired by Peter Dombrovskis' large-format wilderness photography of the North West Tasmanian 'Tarkine’ region (takayna' is the official Australian Tasmanian aboriginal name) and its cool temperate rainforest. I collected his images published by the Australian Wilderness Society diaries and calendars in the 1980’s and 90’s.

When I was DJ-ing at a music festival in Tasmania in 2012, one of my crewmembers met a tour guide at a Tarkine photographic exhibition in an art gallery opening in Hobart. The Tarkine region is a remnant of Gondwana one of the last cool temperate rainforests left in the world under increasing threat from logging and mining. This threatens rare and endangered species such as the Tasmanian Devil which is the only tumour free area left in Tasmania for these iconic largest living carnivorous marsupials in the world. We were interested to make a documentary film showing the raw beauty of the ancient rivers, rugged roaring 40’s coastline and rainforest area, spreading awareness to try and save the Tarkine and other old-growth forests from destruction and their fragile eco-systems including flora and fauna around the world from extinction.

What is the most challenging aspect of being an independent filmmaker in the film industry?

Raising finance is the most difficult aspect of independent filmmaking. Sometimes it is possible to get crew and personnel for free or to pay them remuneration once distribution and sales are made. Then there are often flights, vehicles, transportation, accommodation, food, camera equipment to rent or buy, stationary, web services with monthly or annual fees such as vimeo accounts and other film industry subscriptions, etc. This all requires money to keep your business and film afloat and unless you can secure an investor then you may have to pay for the production costs yourself by borrowing money, equipment or services and doing other work to keep the dream alive. This however can reduce the time you are able to give justly to your film production. How difficult is it to fund indie short films?

William Goldman in ‘Adventures in the Screen Trade’ I’m sure said to effect, that if there is a subject or event imminent you think is worthwhile filming or documenting and there is no finance available at the time, then take it on and produce it by financing it yourself. A senior cinematographer I once worked with said in the day of film celluloid: “All you need is a camera and a roll of film”, now all you need is a digital camera and an SD card! There is no need for expensive photochemical film processing or printing, transferring to broadcast videotape, off-line and on-line editing all with several technicians in laboratories or post-production houses at great expense. Now one just needs a computer at home with editing software and you can render a finished high-resolution video file or Digital Cinema Package ready for distribution and exhibition in cinemas from a hard drive or USB thumb drive.

After covering the first trek on ‘Tarkine Together’ ourselves, I spent a year trying to secure funding for subsequent shoots and post-production from Screen Australia. I made it to the final round where the board said that the film had created much discussion and debate amongst the staff. The project was put forward for green lighting and had to get final approval from the Australian government ministers for relinquishing of funds. At that time in 2015, the right-wing Liberal National Coalition government wanted to log and mine the Tarkine and not save it thus denying us the funds to go into production. We saw our then Prime Minister Tony Abbott with the Chinese President serenading around Hobart at the time of our initial shoot trying to sell the northwest Tarkine region to China for mining tin and other ore deposits.

I worked as a lighting and video technician part-time on all the major concerts such as The Rolling Stones, Adele, Roger Waters (from Pink Floyd), and Queen to help pay for equipment and the bills to keep the production rolling.

Please name three of your most favourite directors. How have they been influential in your work? Steven Spielberg, one may go to a Spielberg movie to see marauding sharks and spaceships with aliens, but the viewer is drawn into an emotional often-harrowing story of human experience and relationships. An experienced director/ cinematographer once told me that there is a formula for a film documentary, which is Thirds: one-third Landscape, one-third People and one-third Politics. I can't just show pretty pictures of trees in the landscape but the audience relates to a subject through the people in it and their experience. Peter Jackson, Our New Zealand cousins to Australia used repetition to extend action creating suspense notably in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, as did Spielberg with the Indiana Jones movies. If there is a good moment I have learned to make the most of it and extend and explore a scene as a sequence rather than one superficial shot adding value to the viewer’s experience. Michael Apted as well as directing big cinema features such as James Bond made the documentary series ‘UP!’ about seven British school children from varying socio-economic backgrounds on a range of subjects and how they view the world and their life’s prospects. The BBC film crew visited the same children every 7 years since 1964 over nine episodes until ‘63 Up’ in 2019 when Michael died. We see their development into adults and their trials and tribulations, successes and failures. I have learned from Michael to have tenacity and patience as a film project can take several years to complete achieving a worthwhile outcome in that psychology and counseling students are required to view the ‘UP’ series today for their degree studies.

How did your film go into production and how did you finalize the cast and the crew? We on hearing of a Tour Guide ‘Darvis’ in Hobart who was taking a group of landscape wilderness photographers through a 14-day trek up the rugged Tarkine coast and through the cool-temperate rainforest, decided to cover the trek by funding the shoot ourselves. I saw the journey as the main thread of the film and the people in it. ‘Darvis’ who has been guiding people from all walks of life and from across the world for over 15 years through the Tarkine was a wealth of information like an on-screen narrator. I stuck by him filming him closely cinema v’erit’e style with a hand-held camera and he became the main character. Lisa Gormley is an English-born Australian acclaimed actress and is best known for her lead role as Bianca Scott in the long running television drama ‘Home and Away’ which has a large fan-base worldwide. Lisa grew up in Tasmania and is a National Institute of Dramatic Arts graduate who is a passionate advocate for trying to save the Tarkine from needless destructive logging and mining, having spoken in support at the former Greens leader Bob Browns’ campaigns. We were fortunate to secure her valuable time to join us on the trek and experience the Tarkine’s ancient rivers, rugged roaring forties coastline and cool temperate rainforest through her eyes on location and her subsequent narration. How was the film received by your audience and film festivals and what is your plan for further distribution of the film? I printed posters and put them on display in the participating cinemas' foyers and window displays with flyers distributed one month before the screenings. I also paid for advertisements and promotions on Facebook for screenings in Hobart and Adelaide. I edited a cinema trailer and it was screened in the Adelaide cinema as well as online. I received sold-out screenings with rapturous applause so I had to book several more screenings to fulfill demand. Lisa has proven to be a favourite part of Tarkine Togethers Fan Base being popular amongst the people who have seen the limited sold-out 90-minute feature documentary cinema screenings, but the real ‘star’ and drawcard is the landscape itself.

I have entered the 8-minute version of Tarkine Together into seventeen film festivals over the last several months and have received Qualifying Selection in Two thus far: Docs Without Borders Film Festival and Montreal Independent Film Festival and look forward to the rest of the notifications throughout the year. Now I am putting a call out for international distribution of the 60-minute television version of Tarkine Together. For a full private vimeo link and proposal my E-mail address:

What do you recommend to other filmmakers regarding the making and the distribution of independent short films? By approaching major film distributors, many don’t accept unsolicited scripts. I suggest entering as many film festivals that are relevant to your production as you can globally. Once you upload your film to platforms such as FilmFreeway then that gives you access to over four thousand film festivals worldwide. Even if your home country does not accept your film in a local film festival, another country may as in I have had success in qualifying in North America but not thus far in my home country of Australia. A short film version is often more affordable to produce and enter than a feature or longer version in film festivals, however, this may lead to interest for a distributor to buy a longer version of the production suiting their needs and format or financing and distributing your next film. What is your next film project and what are you currently working on? When I was having a short break trekking up an incline in the Tarkine forest, I looked up at the enveloping ‘canopy’ of tree branches and leaves above surrounding us. I had seen several IMAX films around the world and in my hometown of Adelaide South Australia giving an insight into other parts of the world that you may not otherwise get to experience first hand. I realized that the Tarkine rainforest would look impressive to exhibit to an audience as a Giant Screen IMAX film, which could give justice with a realistic impression of what it is like to experience this forest environment with the high-resolution imagery and immersive sound of IMAX production. I had spent two years on pre-production writing, preparing a budget, signing on crew such as my Director of Photography Malcolm Ludgate ACS who has three IMAX credits to his name including ‘Antarctica’, ‘Australia: Land Beyond Time’ and ‘Hidden Universe 3D’ Solido (filmed and projected at 48 Frames Per Second.) I was finalizing the budget through state government agencies ready for a February/ March 2020 start shoot commencement date when the global Covid-19 pandemic struck Australia including northwest Tasmania where we were to film. The production was in hiatus for the last year but now there is little covid in Australia and I have been busy promoting ‘Tarkine Together’ in the UK, Italy, USA and also in Canada. I hope to secure distribution and finance in Canada as the IMAX format was largely developed in there and this may lead to contacts within the industry. Canada has a substantial population and many IMAX cinemas with infrastructure, which would be beneficial to help make my film ‘GONDWANALAND IMAX 3D’ a reality. I hope to make contact with IMAX financiers and distributors in Canada who could read my synopsis and script proposal for GONDWANALAND IMAX 3D and take it to the next level and am hereby putting out a call for investors: My E-mail address: Why do you make films? I make films to entertain, engage, and to show ‘off the beaten track’ locations most will not get to experience first hand. Cinema is a bit like a ‘virtual reality machine’ transporting a viewer to another location or time to experience. Films can educate people by raising public awareness about issues that matter such as climate change and species extinction. A film can be a global platform to inform and incite change for the betterment of humanity’s future and the earth’s environments to keep healthy for all inhabitants and species to share and enjoy.

Tarkine Together trailer:


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