Meet Raef

Raef In a few weeks, Big Stories will be making our first venture across the Bass straight for our residency in Queenstown. One of the filmmakers at the helm is Raef Sawford who has previously worked with in the small town in the central west of Tasmania, creating incredible site-specific photography installation pieces for the annual Heritage and Arts Festival. He is keen to get back to the community and work with the locals again:

Past experience tells me that engaging with rural communities through these types of projects is one of the most rewarding, enriching, educational and soul expanding experiences that can be had.


Raef grew up in Tasmania, and ‘fell into’ making documentaries while studying at Art School in Hobart:

I came across the video department. It was this strange dark place full of analogue video equipment that I had no idea about. Under the guidance of Leigh Hobba I learned enough technical skills to start experimenting and I suddenly realised I had found my calling! This led to working with Steve Thomas at Roar Film where my raw enthusiasm was honed into the craft of story-telling through various documentary projects. I owe a lot to both of those guys.

We are very lucky to have Steve Thomas of Roar Films working with us in Queenstown, too, and can’t wait to see the fantastic work that Raef and his mentor will produce. Each of our residencies are shaped by the filmmakers, their particular film style and community interests guide the process, which is extremely exciting as each film, each photo, each residency produces vastly different content, which helps to unveil the individuality of each community across the country and the region. So what kind of content can we be expecting from Raef and the Queenstown team?

I’ve always been excited by strong narrative cinema and documentary, particularly when the boundaries are pushed through experimentation and bold innovation. I also find the spatial aspect of gallery-based and site based film exciting, and enjoy working between these forms, allowing them to bleed into each other.The beautiful materiality of Tacita Dean’s 35mm multi-channel work and the large-scale spectacles of Doug Aitken spring to mind. I also respond to the slow, meditative and durational films of Chantal Akerman and Andy Warhol; the authenticity and experimental form of Lars Von Trier.

Authentic, site-specific, spectacular filmmaking: Raef’s style lends itself wonderfully to presenting a genuine portrait of a community. And he has been very successful in doing so in his past projects (check them out here). For all those aspiring filmmakers out there who want to follow in Raef’s footsteps:

My advice would be to get a solid understanding of all aspects of the production process whilst refining your particular passion. Whether that be storytelling, editing, shooting, sound recording or all of the above! Understanding the process will help improve your contribution to the end result.

As well as understanding the filmmaking process, Raef also understands the regional lifestyle as he spent his primary school years in a rural area and ‘loved every moment – so much freedom and exploring to be done!’ Now, grown up and with a family, Raef harbours a ‘romantic dream’ to move to a small country town, but knows that the city is more suitable for him ‘at this stage of life’.

This is a major issue in Australia: some small town populations are dwindling as young people move away to find work in the cities. However, Raef has a very hopeful outlook:

There will always be some rural industry that requires communities in those areas … and technology can actually open those areas up, rather than closing them down by bringing industries that can function remotely

Couldn’t have said it better ourselves. This notion that technology has the potential to connect individuals across communities, and to connect industry to small communities, in order to facilitate self-expression and growth is at the heart of the Big Stories philosophy.

Queenstown, here we come!

Queenstown, here we come!

We are very excited to be working with a filmmaker who connects with our goals, and understands the dynamics of small town living. Our team will be in Queenstown from October 27 – November 21, come and say Hi if you’re in town, if not, keep an eye out for  photos and films shared across our social media.


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