Through his film The Bentley Effect, filmmaker Brendan Shoebridge is offering up his expression of what went on with the recent and impressive Northern Rivers environmental social movement. The film will launch with a world premiere screening at the Byron Bay Film Festival next month. Following is what Brendan told us about his journey:

Brendan’s report:

Documenting a social movement means lots of footage and lots of stakeholders. It is an extremely complex issue so this film has to work on so many levels. The Bentley blockade was the tip of the campaign iceberg and happened because of country and community. I am in awe of what the organisers did to keep it all together and manage all the passion and energy behind this campaign.

This all began for me early March 2011 when I turned up at a NO CSG rally in Lismore and realised that no one was filming it. I could see where this was likely to lead so I grabbed my camera from the car and got some valuable footage. Now five and a half years later we are scrambling to get it over the line for the world premiere at the Byron Bay Film Festival.

brendan-filming-at-bentleylowresFor me, making The Bentley Effect has been a full time job since the build up to the Bentley Blockade began early 2014. Once that unprecedented win was in the can I knew it was time to get cracking. I spent a year looking for funding to get started on making the film and, given the story I was sitting on I thought funding would be relatively easy. Unfortunately not.

I was thinking, ‘these stories are rare and precious right? And there needs to be more of them surely?’ So I pulled in everything I could to make sure the film did justice to the story of this amazing social movement and all the brave protectors. Unfortunately, every avenue I tried led me to dead ends. I continually pitched the idea and regularly got interested parties really fired up and interested in supporting, then there would be lots of meetings and months would slip past and the promising funding avenues gradually went off the boil or somehow evaporated.

In the end it was decided we had to crowdfund. I was grateful to Susie Forster for coming on board to help get that happening. We received some great support from the community and raised $50k to get us started on the offline edit. We intended to use that funding to get to rough cut stage and have something to show to potential funders. The goal was to attract new audiences to the issues raised in the film and to elevate the conversation as well as paying all the contributors properly.

Our greatest challenge with making The Bentley Effect was that from the very beginning this project was on an enormous scale – something big was happening every month. A social movement itself inherently involves hundreds of events and a cast of thousands. By the end of the Bentley blockade, with the help of some great local camera folk who I now regard as some of my dearest friends for showing up when it counted, I had amassed an ocean of footage. Then after the edit commenced in July last year I began getting interviews with key characters and started cutting enormously long assemblies. I had created a mountain of work and felt like I was just dog paddling through a 40TB sea of data. I was drowning and I knew I needed help.

The project shifted up a few gears early this year when it secured the talents of executive producer Anne Delaney and editor Harriet Clutterbuck but unfortunately the funding frustrations continued. The pot ran dry about four months ago and the team is has just been surviving on a strong sense of purpose and sheer determination to see it through. I’m incredibly grateful.

dc-drew-hutton-and-uncle-kevin-yilla-bs-01lowresAfter long hours of trawling footage and refining assemblies plus the inevitable life lessons of course(!) we eventually turned a huge corner when the edit ran 2 hours and the whole project could sit on a 2TB backup drive. It now sits at a punchy 84 minutes and the relief of getting it to this stage was huge! Once again I felt enormous gratitude toward all the people who had supported the project and had such a positive influence on the film.

As soon as it seemed coherent and ticked the many hundreds of boxes it had to, we submitted it to the BBFF and very quickly got the nod from J’aimee to launch it in this, the festival’s 10th year.

I’m hoping it will have an effect – that it captures the magic of this amazing local story and preserves it well. If the film demonstrates what can be done when committed and passionate people band together and if it leaves audiences asking the question ‘what is truly valuable?’ – then it’s job done.

Do please spread the word and come check it out. Hope to catch you at the festival – should be fun !

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