Filming 'Stories Beneath the Vale' in the times of COVID


Pictured (left to right): Grace Egan and Emily Egan

Melbourne based Phunktional Arts have helped to make a community-led film, titled Stories Beneath the Vale in the rural Victorian township, Robinvale.


A community-led film project, the film features Kutcha Edwards, Denise Scott, Stephen Curry, Nazeem Hussain and Steph Tisdell, and has come about through the participation of Elders and youth in the Phunktional Arts programs over a four-year period.


Working with leading creatives, the project has worked with the diverse communities of rural Victorian township Robinvale, for an exciting and extraordinary film project.


Led by Phunktional Arts Artistic Director Gerard Veltre and local area coordinators and a mix of local and nationally recognised artists facilitated workshops with the young people of the Murray River township, has led to their vision that has driven the development of the storyline, script, scenes and choreography of the work.


Currently being shot under strict COVID restrictions, the storyline spotlights the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island and First Nations Pacific Island youth. Aged between 12 - 21 years, they have been supplied with equipment and are filming their own scenes with support of director, Oriel Guthrie and other creatives from Melbourne via live video chat.


Pictured: Grace Egan plays 'Angel' who heads up the Girls With Attitude Dance Crew, on location at the Robinvale store

Uncle Kutcha Edwards, proud Matti Matti man has recorded the film’s opening track, with Denise Scott, Stephen Curry, Nazeem Hussain and Steph Tisdell, also involved in the project.


Stories Beneath the Vale is the story of a young Aboriginal dancer and choreographer Annette, played by Emily Egan, finding power within her art and her relationships and speaking up when it matters.


“Community organisations, leaders and Elders in Robinvale had identified their young people as being at increased risk of social isolation, education and work disengagement and bullying both online and offline”, said Veltre.


The eSafety Commissioner has shown that some forms of online bullying increased up to 235% during COVID lockdown conditions.


“As we were about to embark on pilot filming, COVID-19 hit. During this time of uncertainty, disruption and social restrictions, it was impossible to continue the project as originally planned, but the need for young people in rural Victoria to connect to culture and to experience creative health and wellbeing activities were more important than ever”.


Pictured: Emily Egan plays lead character 'Annette'

Together with the project participants, narratives and scripts have been adapted to reflect the current challenging circumstances as well as the creative process with the Director, Choreographers, Sound Designer and other artists, connecting and collaborating online.


Stories Beneath the Vale's pilot episode will premiere online in October and it is hoped a further four episodes will be shot in the near future, once COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed and normal filming can recommence.


Laid out over five episodes, the mini-series is funny and fresh, with a booming soundtrack that features original, local music. The COVID-era production will focus on regional stories, told through innovative filming techniques, authentic dialogue and deadly dance scenes.


Stay tuned for more information on the release of Stories Beneath the Vale!