Veronica in a documentary A Woman's Calling, near her house at Doomadgee, Queensland.
Veronica in a documentary A Woman's Calling, near her house at Doomadgee, Queensland.

Filmmaker stars with documentary screened on SBS

HAVING his documentary screened on SBS meant more to Forest Glen-based filmmaker Fisch Rasy than fame or funding.

It proved to the world that his model of storytelling, which focuses on “the why” of a story — the human motivation — had universal appeal, and was not just for filmmakers with corporate clients.

A Woman’s Calling is a six-minute documentary that explores the topic of period poverty, following the story of Veronica and a group of women from the remote community of Doomadgee, in Queensland’s northwest.

The women look beyond the struggles of their own community to help women living in extreme poverty in Papua New Guinea, where menstrual pads are not available and personal hygiene is difficult.

Filmmaker Fisch Rasy, of Sunshine Coast-based start-up Pluggas.
Filmmaker Fisch Rasy, of Sunshine Coast-based start-up Pluggas.

The Doomadgee women create washable menstrual pads and send hygiene kits through Moon

Sick Care Bags to PNG communities.

The women on the receiving end were so grateful for the Australian gifts that when Veronica met them, on film, she was treated like a sister.

In a moving climax, Veronica expresses hope that more Doomadgee women, including troubled youth, become involved in the project and use it to find purpose.

Fisch and his wife and business partner Sabrina Dervis collaborated with an international team to create the award-winning documentary, which will be on SBS On Demand streaming service until Friday.

It was named best short documentary in the Changing Faces International Film Festival, and has been nominated for several others, Fisch said.

The film is about purpose, and passion, which is apt, as its success has allowed Fisch to follow his.

A former member of the Australian Army’s special forces unit, Fisch left the army in 2013 and he and Sabrina moved to Spain where they studied flamenco guitar and dance.

“I just wanted to do something different outside that army spectrum,” he said.

The pair was keen to invest in a business but ended up losing money and returned to Australia to discover their next move.

“We came back from Spain with a kid on the way and $15,000 in debt,” Fisch said.

“We moved back in with my parents (in Bundaberg) … and at the time we had no idea what we wanted to do. I just knew I didn’t want to go back to ‘working for the man’, you know?”

“I didn’t want to do something … boring and mind-numbing.”

They owned a broken Canon 60D, a digital camera that could shoot video but didn’t focus properly, and a friend who owned a cafe agreed to let them do a short clip about his business, to post online.

“We just made a story about his cafe, and that story had 17,000 views on it within the first week,” Fisch said.

Bundaberg’s population was only 93,000 at the last Census count three years ago.

“That’s almost 20 per cent of Bundaberg — they’d all seen this film,”

Fisch and Sabrina then started making short videos for businesses all over town — one per week for a year. They did it for free.

“They were little inspirational pieces to help other people in the community continue on in business … because it’s tough, right?,” Fisch said.

Word started to get out about the fledgling filmmakers, and by the end of their company Pluggas’ first year, prospective clients were approaching them.

At the start of last year, the business had been running for two years when Fisch pitched the documentary to Empowering Women Empowering Communities founder Yolande Entsch, who became Pluggas’ partner in the six-figure project.

The confidence to pitch a major project had come in large part from being validated by a four-month intensive course he did with Emmy-winning Muse Storytelling in the US.

While it was novel in Australia, Fisch said, storytelling that focused on “the why” had a huge following in the US.

“They really narrowed in on character development, and emotional impact, and engagement through … emotional connection,” he said.

“For us, that was super powerful, because at that time we sort of had doubted our abilities to be filmmakers — we thought we were just making random content that we liked.

“But we realised our content fitted almost exactly to their storytelling model.”

With the success of A Woman’s Calling Fisch and the Pluggas team have firmed their position as talented Australian storytellers.