On Black Saturday, 7 February 2009, townships north-east of Melbourne were engulfed by fire-storms. Considered our worst ever natural disaster, these fires resulted in the highest loss of life peacetime Australia has ever known. After the horror of immediate losses, people embarked on various journeys of repair and recovery. The Blacksmiths’ Tree was one of them.
Designer and metal artist Amanda Gibson gathered a team of seasoned blacksmiths from around the world to create a life-size stainless steel and copper gum tree. This happened within a community traumatised by the Black Saturday Fires. The Blacksmiths’ Tree would not be without its challenges, but what it became for the people involved is something no one could have imagined.
The Blacksmiths’ Tree was an instinctive response to the devastating effects of loss and the inspired flourishing of life that followed. Forged from Fire charts the valleys and peaks of this heart-warming project. It documents the remarkable social history of a tragic but important moment for Australia and its people.
How does the project meet the aims of a philanthropic foundation?
FORGED FROM FIRE is a community led, participatory documentary produced and directed by Andrew Garton in collaboration with The Blacksmiths’ Tree Project. The concept for the film grew out of the need to pool together and coordinate the numerous efforts made to document the creation of The Blacksmiths’ Tree. Garton's unconventional production model relies on a mix of amateur and professional footage, the collation of photos and videos shot by the public on mobiles and other devices alongside testimonials and interviews with project leads and volunteers.
With up to 400 hours of both professional and amateur footage already shot and a 10 minute pilot (Our Tree) produced from these source materials we are seeking financial support to complete post-production, outreach and distribution of the full length documentary, FORGED FROM FIRE.
Reaching audiences will require unconventional means as well. We are seeking to take the film and other resource materials direct to the public, to be screened within communities in collaboration with Country Fire Authority members, the Uniting Church and local government. Both models, from production to distribution do not follow the requirements of conventional state nor federal film funding bodies.
It has been our understanding that philanthropic support generally acknowledges works that not only follow unconventional production and distribution models, philanthropists are known to make significant contributions to both social change and discourse around issues relevant to our times. FORGED FROM FIRE is both a documentation of a creative process born of loss and grief and the transformation that has occurred as a direct consequence of it. That it does so whilst skirting the perilous impacts of climate change with an emphasis on collaboration and community well being, we believe it a perfect fit for philanthropic support.
What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film and how will you measure its impact?
Aims & Objectives
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, applauds and tears.
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.
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 on contributing photos to the documentary.
What is your education and outreach strategy?
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 Blacksmiths' 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.