It’s no secret that any positive change usually happens from the groundroots up. Within the creative community, especially, these changes are always pushed forward by a few enthusiastic collaborators in film, music and the arts and are often funded from the shallow pockets of young creative leaders out of a want to change the course of a system cemented in nepotism and, dare I say it, white-oriented representation.
Shaki Prasanna, a Sri Lankan filmmaker based in Melbourne, has recently unveiled a set of micro-documentaries titled ‘HEATWAVES’. Through two to three minute films, the collection focuses on the un-sung stories of POC creatives in Melbourne – anyone from woodcarvers, to shoemakers to poets, dancers, and visual artists. Its aim is to bring together communities looking to find belonging in their art as well as shine a light on the diversifying nature of creative networks. He also wants to inspire.
“That’s essentially what this whole project is about: bringing these underdogs [into the spotlight] and people will be like I had no idea we had these creative cats in Melbourne,” says Shaki.
“The second motivation of HEATWAVES is to inspire people to bring change in their lives whether it be because they’re in between careers or they’re feeling unmotivated about life or they’ve been pondering about this idea of wanting to do something but they’ve just never done it but they watch this and they’re like ‘okay cool, if that guy did it surely I can as well’.”
The first round of films focuses on three subjects: Melbourne-based woodblock carver, A.Kid, South London footwear designer Tim Gleig and Japanese muralist Aki Yaguchi. Each episode is directed by a different director, with each head bringing a different tone in delivery: Shaki himself, Jack De Bomford and Eren Besiroglu.
Eight years ago, Shaki moved to Australia. Not knowing any people of colour in the film world, he asked “how am I gonna get a shot?”
“These cats have been here for so long and English is their first language, they have connections. I’m not going to get that nepotism,” he said.
“I have to be 300 time better just so make an impression to be like ‘I’m worthy’. But in the creative scene even that’s times 100. And I was like I need more people of colour.”
Shaki was especially interested in a report put out by Screen Australia that depicted the slow-moving diversification of not only actors on the screen but also the film crews behind the camera.
“So I thought ‘I need to do something about it’,” he says, “I want to be able to support these creative cats who are coming up while young and emerging. I want to harvest a space where we can create this film world where there’s more people of colour that you can see visually on a platform.”
A few weeks ago Heatwave was unveiled to a sold-out audience at The Sun Theatre in Yarraville. Shaki’s vision came to fruition as the crowd – filled with creatives galore – listened to his story and witnessed the debut screening of him and his film crew’s films. It was evident that this was not only a presentation of the diverse underdogs of the Melbourne creative scene but a chance for Melbourne makers to come together to meet and instil a sense of community. By night’s end the audience was on the street networking.
“I want it to be like ‘let me share this knowledge with you’. And that’s the same essence I want in HEATWAVES,” he says, “When people watch it I want them to know that they can actually approach people and be like, ‘Hey, by the way, I’m thinking about this can you help me a bit more?’”
Shaki and his team are now working on a larger screening in January in Footscray.
“We’ve got people for the next season,” he says, “We’ve got a shortlist. Season two is just on hold, I want to see how Season one kicks off. I want to see if investors are interested in investing.”
Even if investors don’t come to fruition, Shaki hopes the roots of his project will grow deeper into public consciousness, eventually creating a broader change across the creative industries.
“Now I don’t have to wait to pick up an award and see a room full of white people and be like ‘yo, where are the other people of colour?’” he says, “We’ll just make our own. And that’s why we started HEATWAVES.”