Interview with Kyas Sherriff: the next wave of Indigenous practitioners and content
Kyas Sherrif is leading a revamped Indigenous Unit at AFTRS. We caught up with Kyas to talk about her recent projects, and how AFTRS will approach Indigenous representation both in front of the camera and behind in the industry.
You have worked across feature films, documentaries, TV series, shorts and as an integral member of Screen Australia’s Indigenous Department, now that you are working as the Head of the Indigenous Unit at AFTRS, what do you hope to achieve with the next wave of Indigenous filmmakers?
What a question! Honestly, creating pathways and accessibility to deep learning and craft that will produce industry ready practitioners.
The initial program for 2016 will include the Black Talk series (similar to AFTRS Friday on My Mind), can you tell us what to expect?
The Black Talk series; big stories, big hearts an open dialogue about Australians Black Cannon. It’s a place to listen to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander professional filmmakers and their industry peers having a relaxed chat about what’s current in the industry and their craft.
Across the AFTRS curriculum, there will be an increased academic focus on Indigenous representation on Australian screen. How will that be achieved?
So many fabulous Australian stories and films have been created with significant Indigenous content or with Indigenous filmmakers in key creative positions. There is an opportunity to bring in more Indigenous industry professionals to lecture and speak at the school. AFTRS is the place for robust creative discussions and learning.
You are also after running a program to develop skilled Indigenous cinematographers with Blackshot, can you tell us a bit about it?
Through the AFTRS Indigenous Unit we will be holding a high level cinematography talent lab. It’s all about embedding craft and sharing a passion for Cine. Blackshot is an opportunity to bring a group of mid-career Indigenous Cinematographers together. We hope this will open doors for some significant placements in the months that follow.
Who have been your female role models? Have you had female mentors or yourself mentored younger women coming through?
My female role models have been family members and sporting heroes. I do have some fantastic strong industry women across screen and theatre who have mentored and continue to mentor me. I have and continue to pay it forward and mentor the next wave of rising creative people where I can.
You have also had a role in Black Comedy. Can you tell us about working on the show?
I had a bit part in series one. The Racecard segment written by Nakkiah Lui, aired at a good time. It was a blast as Murray Lui was one of the DOP’s, David Tranter on Sound and Beck Cole Directing. The whole crew and team behind the series were dedicated and a great bunch of people.
Black comedy has been plugged as a “show by blackfellas … for everyone“. Why do you think it’s been received so well?
This was originally conceived from the Indigenous Unit at ABC. This series involved working with amazing talented Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers, comics and performers. Producers Kath Shelper and Mark O’Toole along with Sally Riley allowed what was risky to be at the fore and not shy away (they know comedy). It sits well for our community, the younger viewers and the broader online audiences. It was a calculated risk on content that paid off.
Miranda Tapsell has spoken on the lack of diverse roles for women of colour in the industry, how do you think the industry can improve?
The conversation is the first step. The next step is action. Already Screen Australia has opened funding doors to support women in key roles. We need to promote and nurture stories from and about people who do not look the same as ourselves.
If you had one piece of advice for Indigenous women trying to get into the industry, what would it be??
Tread your own path. If you are the first in your family to enter the industry, go for it. Improve your craft through study and by listening to those around you who have skills. Grow into your own voice.
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