Geraldton filmmaker writes new script in art
For filmmaker Zac Bruce, calling himself an artist has not been an easy task.
Despite winning the top gong at this year’s Mid West Art Prize with his dreamlike short video The Wunder Years, Bruce still struggles to use the A-word.
“The hardest thing about being an artist is calling yourself an artist,” the 29-year-old said.
“I never would have thought of myself as an artist, and for most of my life I’ve recorded music.
“But I never released anything. I was always too self-conscious.
“And I can’t paint or draw to save my life.”
Growing up in Margaret River, Bruce and his cousin would make silly home videos inspired by their favourite movies and shows.
But aside from the occasional bit of video work at university, becoming a professional filmmaker never crossed his mind.
That was until his best friend, Ellen Broadhurst, was commissioned to make a piece of video art for the Fremantle Arts Centre two years ago.
“I’d been teaching for a year out of uni and we both quit our jobs and moved in with our parents,” Bruce said.
“(My parents) were a bit hesitant to embrace that, but they’ve always been really supportive — especially allowing me to move home at 27 and basically become a teenager again just to make some art.
“I’d never made a video before but the fact she was so sure of herself emboldened me enough to think of myself as an artist.”
With a new-found desire to create art, Bruce and Broadhurst were eager to sink their teeth into a new project.
It wasn’t long before they jumped in a car and headed to the Principality of Hutt River, a micro-nation in the heart of the Shire of Northampton.
“We thought there was something haunting and peculiarly Australian about Hutt River,” Bruce said.
“And it was really inspiring how different it was from anything we’d come across in the bush.
“It’s taken us up until now to figure out what the film is going to be, but we’re revisiting the project and exhibiting a film about it at the Geraldton Regional Art Gallery in May.”
Bruce’s award-winning film, divided into three parts, explores how pop culture and cultural myths influence who we are.
Describing the process as “autobiographical purging”, Bruce wanted The Wunder Years to be honest and relatable to any audience — whether they were fans of art or not.
Although the filmmaker is drawn to creating conceptual art, Bruce said he did not want viewers to be left scratching their heads.
“The part of art I find alienating is when it’s difficult to understand,” he said.
“It’s important if you make something that you give people the tools to connect with it properly.
“Making art is a healthy and therapeutic thing to do as well.
“It’s a chance to get stuff off your chest or say things you don’t have any other way of saying.
“Day-to-day life is repetitive, but to make something you feel is worthwhile lifts you up out of everyday life for a while.”
Living in Geraldton for almost two years, Bruce has found the city the perfect place to explore his creativity.
Six months ago, he stopped teaching and poured his energy into his filmmaking.
“Geraldton’s been a surprisingly good place to pursue those things I’ve always wanted to pursue,” he said.
“It’s a place that’s small enough that it allows you to flourish and I’ve had opportunities that I’d never get in the city.
“I can’t see myself going back to full-time teaching — maybe when I’m an older man and I’ll feel the need to do something less selfish.
Bruce plans on making a feature film within the next year.
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