/News 31.07.23


To celebrate NAIDOC Week, Cutting Edge discusses the release of their latest collaborations on films telling Indigenous stories. 

Wow! Can you believe we are halfway through another year? 

We are entering the second phase of the year as we prepare for the sprint to Christmas. July has been an important month for us. It is the month we take stock and celebrate our cultural identity and Indigenous history during NAIDOC Week.

This year the celebrations were held from July 2-9, and Cutting Edge honoured the occasion by shining a spotlight on three Indigenous documentaries they recently worked on. Wash My Soul In The River’s Flow, produced by Enigma Machine and Shark Island Institute, as well as First Weapons produced by Blackfella Films and Inkey Media, and The Dark Emu Story, produced by Blackfella Films, are all essential viewing documentaries with an important story and message grounded in Australia’s Indigenous communities, culture and history.

To say the team at Cutting Edge was proud to collaborate on these three documentaries while working alongside their respective Production and Creative teams is an understatement. The calibre of all three documentaries is extremely impressive, and projects like these make the Cutting Edge team excited to be a part of the Australian film and television industry.

Kicking off the celebrations is the much-anticipated feature documentary The Dark Emu Story. And what a celebration it was! Premiering in Official Competition at the Sydney Film Festival (SFF) in June 2023, the feature documentary received a well-deserved standing ovation. And for good reason too!

Further diving into the popular 2014 book by Bruce Pascoe Dark Emu, which encourages Australians to rethink the historical representation of First Nations Australians, the feature documentary puts Bruce Pascoe front and centre and unveils more revelations about the ancestors of Indigenous Australians. Told through Bruce’s perspective and backed with thought provoking interviews and world-class cinematography, it is a captivating watch.

Bruce Pascoe, The Dark Emu Story. Photo by: Michael Fairbairn

Cutting Edge was first approached to work on The Dark Emu Story in 2019 by stalwarts of indigenous content, Blackfella Films. Their creative team were meticulous when bringing this story to the screen and spent four years carefully capturing and crafting it.

While it had been on Cutting Edge’s radar since 2019, picture post officially began in May of 2023. With a fast-paced post schedule of 5 weeks from picture lock to its premiere at SFF, Cutting Edge was eager to get underway but wanted to guarantee that both creatively and technically, they were putting their best foot forward. Despite the deadline, Cutting Edge had something working in their favour; their longstanding relationship with Blackfella Films.

Over the years, Cutting Edge and Blackfella Films have established a mutual trust and respect. This, in turn, has led to a shorthand and common creative understanding, which both parties were able to capitalise on during the post-production of The Dark Emu Story. Representing the 16th collaboration between Blackfella Films and Cutting Edge’s key Creatives, the feature film posed an exciting challenge for Cutting Edge. The trust built between the organisations served them both well when delivering a high-calibre project with tight deadline pressures.

We have always valued our relationship with Blackfella Films and are proud of the content we can create together. 

Blackfella Films have established themselves as integral storytellers in the Australian industry with their well-crafted documentaries and scripted projects that entertain and educate audiences in Australia and around the world.

To deliver the calibre of projects, with the craft and storytelling Blackfella Films bring, to work alongside and grow with them for the past 15 years has been an honour. 

–   Marcus Bolton, Head of Features and Television, Cutting Edge

Cutting Edge provided picture post services on The Dark Emu Story, facilitating conform, grade, online, QC and delivery. The brief received from Blackfella Films was to keep the documentary cinematic. 

The Dark Emu Story. Photo by: Michael Fairbairn

Commissioned by the ABC, Blackfella Films made the unique decision to keep the documentary as a 2.39 Letterbox finish. They had successfully done this previously on other projects, including Deep Water: The Real Story for SBS, to great results. 

The cinematic tone was thoughtfully planned out from the very beginning, with Cutting Edge helping to determine the best post-production pipeline to achieve the cinematic look they envisioned. Utilising Baselight and Flame were the obvious choices for this style of film. The pre-existing relationships with the senior creatives and Blackfella team were brought into the mix and were a crucial part of the puzzle. This included senior colourist Dwaine Hyde and senior online artist Jo Spillane. 

One of the biggest hurdles Cutting Edge faced was ensuring the project was set up correctly from the outset and spent adequate time in the Conform to bring all the elements in and where they needed to be.

Like many documentaries showing a subject’s history, several different cameras, codecs, timelapse, archival and stock footage were used to tell the story.

 We did a great deal of work in conforming the project to have everything resized, racked and fluidly presented in the 2.39 letterbox aspect ratio.

–   Stewart Dean, Senior Post Production Producer, Cutting Edge

During the grade, Dwaine Hyde worked closely with the Director of Photography, Simon Morris, to establish the correct tone for the documentary. Luckily, Dwaine and Simon had collaborated previously on Deep Water: The Real Story and In My Own Words (also 2.39) and developed a good understanding of each other’s work. Keeping the cinematic tone throughout, they had much to work with, from beautiful landscape aerials, bold time-lapses, archival material, and the visually bold black-and-white interviews.

Heavily involved throughout the post process were Producer Belinda Mravicic and Blackfella Films Post Supervisors Bonnie Faulkner and Michelle Kaszai. They worked with Producers Darren Dale and Jacob Hickey and Director Allan Clarke and Editor Mark Atkin to creatively and technically oversee the completion and delivery of the documentary. Giving clear direction throughout, they were pivotal during online ensuring the tone set in the grade and with the titles and GFX were being carried through, and the documentary was cohesive. 

When The Dark Emu Story was selected for Official Competition for the Sydney Film Festival we knew that the pressure to complete the film in time would be immense.

Fortunately we were able to draw on our long history of working with Cutting Edge, and knew that we could count on their experience and the professionalism of the team. It was down to the wire but they really came through for us – as we knew they would.

– Darren Dale, Producer, Blackfella Films

The Dark Emu Story wasn’t the only Blackfella Films project Cutting Edge had the pleasure of working on in the last six months. First Weapons is a 6 x 30-minute factual series for ABC TV. Produced by both Blackfella Films and Inkey Media the series explores the innovation and science of traditional Aboriginal weapons. A groundbreaking series, First Weapons, premiered on ABC TV as part of their NAIDOC week slate. 

Phil Bresiln throwing Long Spear, First Weapons. Photo by: Julian Panetta
Phil Bresiln with Wartilykirri, First Weapons. Photo by: Eamon Dimmitt

Like The Dark Emu Story, Cutting Edge had the privilege of providing picture post services for the series, including editorial hire, conform, grade, online, QC and mastering. Based from Cutting Edge’s Brisbane studio, the team welcomed the opportunity to work with some familiar faces from production, Producers Dena Curtis and Darren Dale, and Director Dean Gibson. Their expertise on the series was invaluable and made for a seamless process. 

While First Weapons is an innovative factual series, the sophisticated use of cinematography throughout the series gave it a cinematic feel. Thanks to the skillful eye of Director of Photography Mark Broadbent ACS, the carefully orchestrated shots gave Cutting Edge another dimension to consider when approaching the grade. Presenter-led interviews, dynamic landscape aerials and scientific experiments were all tied together in the grade, giving the series its own style.

It’s been another fantastic process working with the team at Cutting Edge. 

Their expertise and support creates a seamless and smooth postproduction experience right from ingest to delivery, achieving the high-quality program we wanted to produce.

Dena Curtis, Producer, First Weapons

Another unique element of this series was the reliance on graphic elements to support the scientific explanations of the weapons. Graphic elements were used heavily throughout the series and became an integral part of the online process. Provided by Kinetika, Cutting Edge worked closely with Dena, Darren and Dean in Online to ensure all graphics were accounted for and accurate.

With the guidance of Dena, Darren and Dean, working on First Weapons was a rewarding experience for the Cutting Edge team. While many elements needed to be curated, having their expertise was invaluable. 

Having the opportunity to work on versatile Indigenous content with leading Indigenous filmmakers in Australia is extremely valuable to us. 

The Cutting Edge team understands these documentaries and factual series’ importance in the world and wants to contribute the best we can to get them to a broader audience. 

–   Marcus Bolton, Head of Features and Television, Cutting Edge

Last but certainly not least, Cutting Edge was proud to collaborate with Producer Kate Hodges, Archie Roach and Producer/Director Philippa Bateman on the feature documentary Wash My Soul In the River’s Flow

Ruby Hunter & Archie Roach (AC), Wash My Soul In The River’s Flow. Photo by: Sandy Scheltema. Courtesy of Enigma Machine Pty Ltd

Celebrating the life and work of First Nations Singer-songwriters Archie Roach (AC) and Ruby Hunter, Wash My Soul In the River’s Flow is a powerful and inspiring theatrical documentary that delves into the lives of these iconic Australians and celebrates their profound love story, their moving music and triumphant survival.

Having been officially selected at Australia’s most prestigious film festivals, including Melbourne International Film Festival and Sydney Film Festival, Wash My Soul In the River’s Flow won top prize at AIDC for Best Feature Documentary in 2023.  The film was the top ranked documentary in The Guardian’s Ten Best Australian Films of 2022 and Bateman was also nominated by the ADG for Best Direction – Debut Feature Film.  Continuing its momentum, the feature documentary recently screened on ABC TV and is currently available on ABC iview.

Having previously worked with Producer Kate Hodges, she presented the opportunity to work on the film with Cutting Edge back in 2021 during Covid. Cutting Edge was very interested in this film as Director Philippa Bateman had captured original footage from a 2004 concert Archie and Ruby had done with Paul Grabowsky and the Australian Art Orchestra. It was unique and culturally significant.  

Philippa had a beautiful poetic and artistic vision for the film. A style well suited to senior colourist Adrian Hauser and senior online artist Claudio Liucci. Both are veterans in their field and approached the project carefully, ensuring Philippa’s vision was executed. This included working with various formats such as Mini DV, Digital Betacam, 8mm and archival material, and making it both technically sound and creatively treated so it would sing on the big screen. The breathtaking landscapes Cinematographer Bonnie Elliott had captured complemented the visual style. 

In addition to treating the visuals in grade and online, the film had many text and graphics layers. The use of intertitles and quotes in the Ngarrindjeri language was an important aspect of the film and something Cutting Edge spent a large part of online perfecting.

Kate and I had a great experience working with Cutting Edge.  They were involved early, supportive and made everything work – even during the difficult challenges of COVID lockdowns!  

They were sensitive to the vision and artistic ambitions, and everyone we worked closely with at Cutting Edge lifted the quality of the final film. They care and they listen, which is what you want.  

Working with Jo Tankard, Adrian Hauser and Claudio Liucci was a joy and meeting of like minds. It was also fun and exciting to see it come together on a big screen with every detail in focus.

Philippa Bateman, director/producer, Wash My Soul In The River’s Flow

Fortunately, even though post-production was scheduled during Covid, Cutting Edge was able to get Philippa and Bonnie into the Cutting Edge Sydney facility to work alongside the Cutting Edge team to help drive the creative process. This meant that reviews could happen live in the Cutting Edge theatre, allowing Philippa and Bonnie to see their vision on the bigger screen. This attention to detail is evident when watching Wash My Soul In the River’s Flow, as the visuals perfectly complement the enchanting story of Archie and Ruby. 

Cutting Edge is excited for all three projects to receive the recognition they deserve. What a perfect way to celebrate NAIDOC Week! If you would like to watch any of these documentaries, you can check them out on ABC iview.