Storykeepers is a celebration of an extraordinary individual, Boori Monty Pryor, who throughout his life has risen against the odds to become a celebrated author and storyteller.
Growing up as an Aboriginal kid, dodging the cops in Townsville, Boori was asked by a school teacher what he wanted to do when he grew up; ‘stay alive’ was his response. When his brother Paul chose to take his own life, Boori cast aside his own deep anguish, and took on the work his brother had started as a cultural storyteller, performer and teacher. Three decades later Boori has worked with more than a million children in classrooms all over the country and written a bunch of award winning books. His books, including the biography Maybe Tomorrow, have moved the hardest of hearts, and wherever he goes Boori meets his audiences with humour, love and inclusivity.
Storykeepers goes on the road with Boori to see him at work and play, performing in front of thousands of people around Australia. Spiraling deeply into the stories and sharing the heartbreak, love and humour that sit behind them, Storykeepers takes viewers into the heart of the man and the heart of the country, in new and groundbreaking ways. In watching Boori share his stories we are constantly asking what it means to be Australian. As Director Hayden Layton observes, “As a white young man, I was surprised to find we have such a large wealth of beauty to be proud of, so much waiting for us all to love, celebrate and to be proud of in this country’s culture. Where were was this when I was growing up?”
With unfettered access to Boori, his family, the schools he visits and the people he works with, Storykeepers is able to delve deeply into the stories and their source. We hear about the barefoot kid with seven sisters who grew up in the mangroves and we see the man that he has become – a multi award winning author and storyteller. We see also the profound impact the stories have on audiences of young and old alike, we see the hunger for people to connect experience and culture through story and Boori’s extraordinary ability to facilitate this.
While Storykeepers explores concepts that are often highly politicised and can be confronting, we endeavour to approach a conversation on our national Identity in a open and inclusive way. Rather than constructing a traditional didactic piece with many talking heads, this documentary will be playful, energetic and creative. It will move through time, space and form mixing up fly-on-the-wall accounts and intimate reflections artfully spliced with interviews and 20 years of unreleased writing and spoken word poetry alongside animated and live action sequences. It will appeal to a broad audience and spark a desire in people creatively embrace a new identity. We hope to this documentary will start conversations between the young and the old, the recently arrived and the people who’ve lived here for over 40 thousand years.
How does the project meet the aims of a philanthropic foundation?
Storykeepers is an ideal project for philanthropic foundations to support because of its unique focus on process as well as outcome. While telling a remarkable story with innate social and cultural value, Storykeepers is being produced by one of a kind social enterprise, Youthworx. Youthworx is a youth media social enterprise that trains and employs young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in creative and commercial media production. Since commencing on the ground in 2008 with a supported partnership model Youthworx has established an ongoing accredited training program of certificates II and III in Creative Industries, developed a multi-faceted workshop program, run a number of large funded participatory media projects for marginalised young people and established a production company Youthworx Productions, that offers employment to graduates of the training and delivers professional media services to a broad range of clients.
Youthworx has had an ongoing collaboration with Boori including producing the award winning short film Brown Paper Bag (Best Indigenous Film St Kilda Film Festival 2017) and Storykeepers is being directed by one of our young Filmmakers Hayden Layton who over a 7 year period has developed a unique relationship with Boori. The team behind Storykeepers brings together experienced practitioners working alongside marginalised young people who gain both invaluable cultural and industry experience on a project of this nature. So not only is this documentary production telling an incredibly important story with national cultural significance, it is also modelling an inclusive approach to filmmaking.
What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film and how will you measure its impact?
Aims & Objectives
By making this film we hope to achieve a number of objectives both in relation to the finished ‘product’ and the process of making it. Some of the objectives are as follows:
Promote Boori’s personal story/ability to overcome extraordinary odds to become a celebrated author/storyteller
Promote Boori’s inclusive approach to culture/story that connects all Australians to a shared sense of our history
Shine a positive light on indigenous Australia that challenges stereotypes
Contribute to debate about our National Identity
Employ margnialised young people in key creative and technical roles and provide them with unique industry experince/credits
These days it is becoming less relevant to measure a films success by the income or number or viewers and more important to use the audience’s engagement with the core issues as the key metric.
While we are still developing our impact strategy we already know that engagement with youth will be our core priority.
We want young people to understand their country a little better and to grow up with a confidence in their identities that is connected to respect for our culture and land. We want all people to have more complex conversations about Australia past, to have a deeper understanding of the impact colonisation has had on our country and to develop an appreciation for Aboriginal Australian people’s wisdom. A wisdom that comes from surviving for over 40 thousand years.
Rather than catalysing a polarising national debate, we want this film to invite introspection and conversations about, learning, teaching, creativity, and community.
This documentary’s impact will be measured by;
how many young people get to view the film in their schools and have a conversation about our national identity after
how many communities invite us for screenings and
how many people Boori and the crew get to speak to about the film’s concepts.
We will use engagement with the film on social media as an indicator of which audiences to target when doing the national tour. We will also appreciate that festival invitations and media interviews can be a catalyst for conversations about the themes explored in the film.
The film also aims to raise the profile of Boori as an iconic Australian and immortalise him and his life achievements.
Further to this, we hope to demonstrate that given the right support people form marginalised backgrounds can make incredibly beautiful and powerful films.
What is your education and outreach strategy?
We are lucky that our key character, Boori Monty Pryor, is a storyteller that has been travelling around schools in Australia for 30 years and already has a huge network of educators and other supporters.
As Boori comes to the end of his career as a performer, the film will become a resource that can be used in classrooms to continue his work. The documentary tour will be a transition period where the filmmakers can share scenes from the film, supporting videos and animations and Boori can help explain and bring them to life.
We are hoping our distribution will look something like this;
Premier at highly regarded appropriate festival
Additional festival screenings
Local broadcast screening
Mainstream theatrical release - Aim is 350 screens
Aus TV broadcast
Followed by Aus Cinema on Demand for 8 weeks
We are yet to begin discussions with broadcasters or distributors as one of our core objectives is to allow the young people at our organisation the space to tell the film they want to tell.
During the post production stage we will develop classroom resources for years 7 and up. We are hoping to partner with Cool Australia to help distribute the resources. However, we can use our own network to help with distribution too. We have budgeted for education advisors to help with this process.
We are confident that this film will appeal to the whole family as we have a broad age group of people working on the film and we have a complex theme, yet beautifully simple story to tell. With the right about of funds raised to support us we can ensure the film gets enough coverage that it will begin to sell itself ;)
Not only is Youthworx a professional film production company capable of producing a high quality documentary, but we also run our own film school so we are in touch with young people's interests and how to keep them engaged.