News 21.03.22

FIRST NATIONS SPOTLIGHT: DAMIEN WANGANEEN, MAYA COOMBS AND ADAM GALEA

The South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC) is committed to supporting the upskilling of First Nations screen creatives as part of the agency’s First Nations Screen Strategy.

With the support of the SAFC, South Australian First Nations crew members Maya Coombs, Adam Galea and Damien Wanganeen are gaining their first feature film credits as Heads of Departments on award-winning director Rolf de Heer’s upcoming feature film The Mountain.

Here they talk about their career aspirations, their love for screen and their experiences working on the film as first-time HODs.

Maya Coombs

Age: 25
Country: Yankunytjatjara
Role on The Mountain: Production Designer

How did you get started in the screen industry?

After completing my Honours degree in film at Flinders University in Adelaide, I was given an opportunity for work experience on SBS’s The Hunting, which was created by South Australian production company Closer Productions. This role allowed me to be properly introduced to the industry as well as highlight my love for the Art Department. The job really opened my eyes to where my career could take me and where I wanted to go within the department.

What do you love about working in the screen industry?

Honestly, it has to be the creativity of it all. Working in the Art Department specifically allows me to create hands-on, different props, sets, graphics and more. We get to create all the fantastical worlds that all these stories are set in, and that is something hard to find in other industries.

What has it been like working on Rolf De Heer’s The Mountain?

Working on a Rolf de Heer production was a completely different experience than other film and TV series that I have worked on in the past. After growing up with a lot of his films, to be asked to work on one was certainly a big surprise! His attention to detail and his effort to collaborate with each individual crew member is truly something to be admired.

How have you found the transition into a HOD role?

Taking on a Head of Department position will always have its challenges and with it being my first time, I knew that there were going to be obstacles. However, being a Production Designer allowed me to explore all the avenues available to me. I got to work creatively, problem solve and work with others to help create The Mountain. To get offered this position was honestly a dream and I am so glad that I was able to be a part of this team. I am so thankful for the opportunities that have been given to me and excited to see what is to come after this.

What was your biggest highlight working on The Mountain?

It has to be a blend of work and culture. It has been so long since I have been out on the lands that to be able to mix my work with my connection to culture and land was a dream. The biggest highlight by far would be setting up a set, working barefoot in the red sand with the help of the crew. Simple, but that is something that will stay with me for a long time.

Who do you look up to in the Australian screen industry, and why?

Production Designer Melinda Doring (Stateless, Storm Boy). I’ve had the pleasure of working with her in the past but just her nature, how she handles her team as well as her skill as a designer blows me away. She is honestly a true talent and I would love to work with her again.

Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years’ time, I would like to see myself happy with ongoing work. At that stage, I would like to have worked on a number of unique projects from different genres and different people, and hopefully, develop my skills in multiple areas within the department.

What’s your favourite Australian film/TV series, and why?

The Babadook, is a must-watch for those who haven’t seen it and love horror.


Adam Galea

Age: 23
Country: Kaurna 
Role on The Mountain: Sound Recordist and Sound Designer/Editor

Role on The Mountain: Sound Recordist and Sound Designer/Editor

How did you get started working in the screen industry?

I studied a Bachelor in Screen and Media at Flinders University in Adelaide, graduating in 2019

What do you love about working in the screen industry?

I love working with amazingly talented people! It’s really cool to work with people who put so much work into their craft, not just directors, writers and DOPs but designers and people who make things. Plus on top of that, I’m always blown away by the process; everyone puts their all into their craft, but film is really unique in the way that working with others forces you to understand and think about how what you’re doing fits into the process overall. It’s the creative compromise that keeps things interesting.

What has it been like working on Rolf De Heer’s The Mountain?

It’s been amazing! Rolf is really generous with his patience and his time which makes it such a joy, not many situations where you can go to a director and say “I’m not sure if I want to do it this way or that way, what do you think?” It’s also been really great working with an experienced producer like Julie Byrne, who is also South Australian.

The Mountain represents your first feature film credit as a Head of Department – what does this mean for you and your career?

It’s such a different film that it might not be representative of larger more mainstream productions, but what I do know is it is worth a thousand short films and small credits in terms of learning and experience.

How have you found the transition into a HOD role?

It was a challenge because there was no one on set that knows your job better than you, so if you get stuck it’s up to you to work it out, which is a blessing and a curse – you learn from mistakes daily!

What was your biggest highlight working on The Mountain?

The highlight was working with a mix of talented people; a few others were first-time HODs, so it was great working with other people sharing the same experience. It was also amazing to work with such a small team, people like South Australian cinematographer Maxx Corkindale have so much experience and just working so closely with people like him is invaluable.

Who do you look up to in the Australian screen industry, and why?

The people I look up to are the people who have helped me the most in my sound career, such as South Australian sound creatives Pete Best, James Currie, Laurie Chlanda and Tom Heuzenroeder. These people have just been so generous with their time and knowledge.

Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years?

I’d love to be doing both location sound and post sound. I think in 10 years I might have to choose one path or the other, but if I’m doing both by then, I’ll be stoked.

What’s your favourite Australian film/TV series, and why?

It would have to be something like Wake In Fright, Razorback or Mad Max 2. These films nail what makes Australian cinema amazing, nobody can mix that kind of deranged, violent humour like we do.


Damien Wanganeen

Age: 40
Country:
I am of Narungga and Kaurna background
Role on The Mountain:
Head of Grips and Gaffer

How did you get started working in the screen industry?

In 2019 I worked on South Australian made ABC TV series Stateless as a grip attachment.

What do you love about working in the screen industry?

Meeting and connecting with different people, travelling and seeing different places and learning from other Aboriginal peoples and people from other countries.

What has it been like working on Rolf De Heer’s The Mountain?

Seeing other movies directed by Rolf De Heer, I felt it was an honour to work on this production especially coming in as Head of Grips and Gaffer.

The Mountain represents your first feature film credit as a Head of Department – what does this mean for you and your career?

It’s a privilege to be in a role where I can be a role model to the young ones in my community so they can see they’re able to work in the film industry. More opportunities will now open to work on more sets and meet more people.

How have you found the transition into a HOD role?

As a first time HOD, I found the role both rewarding and challenging. It comes with a lot of responsibility, but with a good hardworking team, it makes things easier.

What was your biggest highlight working on The Mountain?

The biggest highlight was travelling to, and working in Tasmania and seeing a new place.

Who do you look up to in the Australian screen industry, and why?

All Aboriginal actors, especially David Gulpilil. He was an icon and role model I grew up watching.

Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years?

Owning my own Aboriginal-owned film production company and offering opportunities to people in the community to get into working in the film industry.

What’s your favourite Australian film/TV series, and why?

Mortal Kombat (2021), which was made here in South Australia. I grew up playing the game at the arcade, so being able to work on the set of the film and then watching the final cut was a really cool experience.