Michael Johnston never imagined that the film he created during his studies at RMIT – telling the inspiring true story of a Sudanese refugee poet – would go on to be an award winner.
But the Bachelor of Communication (Media) 2014 graduate is already basking in the glow of early industry success.
His film, To Be a Poet, was awarded Best Short Film at the fifth annual Breath of Fresh Air (BOFA) Film Festival in Launceston last year.
Entries in the festival were assessed on film-making skill as well as the quality of storytelling relating to a personal, community or global challenge, judged by a national panel of film enthusiasts.
Mr Johnston said he was both thrilled and taken aback by the unexpected win.
“I was really excited to be given the Best Short Film Award; I didn’t expect such a short film to do so well,” he said.
The three-minute documentary tells the story of Sudanese immigrant Abraham Nouk, from illiterate refugee to award-winning spoken word artist and poet.
The idea of creating a short film centering on a spoken word performance emerged after Mr Johnston read one of Mr Nouk’s poems and watched him perform the autobiographical piece.
“The way Abraham is able to articulate his beliefs, values and emotions is incredibly inspiring,” Mr Johnston said.
“It was such a beautiful poem that I decided to use it as the foundation of the short film; therefore the documentary became a poem in itself.”
RMIT film and TV production lecturer Paul Ritchard said staff and students from the School of Media and Communication were very pleased with the win.
“It is always thrilling to see a film made in our production courses be selected for competition in a festival, let alone winning it,” he said.
For Mr Johnston, studying media at RMIT allowed him to develop more than just his basic editing and technical skillset.
“The RMIT media program has taught me that there’s more to making a film than simply knowing how to use the equipment,” he said.
“The benefit of doing the Bachelor of Communication (Media) has extended far beyond gaining basic media skills; it has challenged me to think about and reflect on my work and the work of others.”
Mr Johnston is currently in the process of pitching the idea of a longer form documentary, following Mr Nouk’s refugee journey from Sudan to Egypt and to Australia, to potential broadcasters and distributors.