A series of short films highlighting exceptional stories and people from the Shellharbour area has received international recognition at a film festival in the US.
The ‘We Are Shellharbour’ campaign received the top award in the Best Online Video Series category at the Better Cities Film Festival in Detroit, Michigan. The event celebrates productions focused on making better cities, towns and neighbourhoods right across the globe.
Shellharbour Mayor Chris Homer said he was “astounded and excited” by the accolade.
“This is in the USA, the home of storytelling, the home of Hollywood, and if they deem the ‘We Are Shellharbour’ series as the best online series in storytelling and using that platform to inspire communities and civic leaders across their country and across the world, I just think it’s an extraordinary outcome,” he said.
Shellharbour City Council’s manager of community life Bonnie Hittmann said the campaign, which was created at the peak of the pandemic, was initially going to be centred around safety messaging, but the team soon realised that it was not what the community needed most at this time of social upheaval.
“We then turned our attention to what can we do to try and showcase and celebrate the great people and the great places of Shellharbour and bring a good news story to what was a bit of a doom and gloom situation,” she said.
The five short films were brought to life by local filmmaker Phillip Crawford, highlighting themes like friendship, support, resilience and leadership.
“What he has done is create a selection of short films that really capture your attention through the story, the characters and the visuals of the beautiful setting of Shellharbour, and it came together beautifully, so I was over the moon with the outcome,” Ms Hittmann said.
“They’re all beautiful, they’re all unique, they all evoke a different emotion, in some there is laughter, some there is sadness.”
“I was inspired, and I was delighted and I took my hat off as a regular person and went ‘I live in a great city, I live with great people and my community is inspiring and resilient and it’s helping to fulfil what the Better Cities is all about,” Cr Homer said.
It’s a particularly special moment for the Mayor, who was one of the selected subjects of the film as he went from community activist to the council’s top position.
“It was an absolute honour and one of the reasons that I enjoy telling my story in particular and being involved in this is because I’m trying to be a great leader myself, but I also think a great leader creates other great leaders,” he said.
He said the recognition at the film festival is also helping put Shellharbour on the map for all of the positive things it has to offer.
“Shellharbour is on a journey of standing on its own two feet, and sooner or later when we go to places around the world or interstate when we say ‘I’m from Shellharbour’, people are going to know exactly where that is,” Cr Homer said.
“I think we’re getting there and I’m really proud of that.”
Although Shellharbour is at the centre of the campaign, the themes are resonating far and wide.
“I think they are characters and experiences that humanity over the world can relate to,” Ms Hittmann said.
“You don’t have to know Shellharbour, you don’t have to know the characters personally to recognise in your own life someone who has been through adversity that is showing great resilience or walking through life with great passion and pride, or great neighbours and beautiful people in our neighbourhood.”
“I’m not surprised that people can relate to it on the other side of the world.”
The council is committed to continue showcasing these great things on offer and is asking the community to share their own stories or nominate a local hero.
“If people have got suggestions or ideas for new films we’re always open to it or their own stories of great people achieving great things in our community,” Ms Hittmann said.
“Whether we continue to share these stories through film or other means, we continue to want to celebrate the great people and places of Shellharbour.”
To watch the ‘We Are Shellharbour’ films, visit the Shellharbour City Council website.