The Byron Bay Film Festival (BBFF), which started 11 years ago (much like the town itself) has grown up a bit since then. Today, it spans across 10 days at six venues, featuring over 175 independent films and attracting filmmakers and film lovers from all over the world.
This year, the festival is celebrated by a two-minute short film that pays homage to the unique area that bears its name.
The promotional film Byron was created by acclaimed commercials director Justin McMillan of Goodoil Films (himself now a Byron Bay resident) and written by adman and poet David Nobay, the founder and creative chairman of Sydney-based creative agency Marcel.
For both men, it was clearly a labour of love:
“I’ve been bringing my family to the area every Christmas for over a decade,” Nobay said.
“Although I spend a huge amount of my time overseas on jobs, Byron remains the most precious spot on the earth for me. It’s utterly unique. I always walk away wanting to stay forever. There’s something in the light here, regardless of the season that breathes creativity back into me.
“It’s where I wrote the poem Byron. It’s where Justin and I stood on Belongil Beach and dreamed up the idea of seeing my words realised through his pictures.”
But for McMillan, a director best known as the co-director of the hit big wave film Storm Surfers 3D, this project was made all the more special because it was so local.
“Byron is my home,” he said. “It’s where I built a life for my family. It’s where I surf every morning. It’s where I feel most secure personally, yet most inspired creatively.
“Funnily enough it was BBFF that brought me to the area six years ago when I was invited up to do a talk about documentary film making after a screening of Storm Surfers. We all fell in love with the Bay that weekend and three months later we moved here.”
The resulting film is a luscious, rich and mercurial two-minute romp through the entire Byron landscape; from hinterland to ocean. McMillan even leveraged the recent bush fires that raged close to Coffs Harbour to capture incredible footage of the smouldering embers.
In all, the shoot took several days, and used up every one of McMillan’s local mates and favours. As the director recalls: “The one thing I love about the Bay is that the locals are keen to help out if you’re putting something back into the community – and the film festival is something we’re all proud to host.
“I’m really happy that Glen Cassey, Dustin Hollick, Steffan Jose and the few other locals around town all pitched in to make this film happen.”
BBFF festival director J’aimee Skippon-Volke said: “I was familiar with Justin’s work and so welcomed the opportunity to collaborate. It’s such a gorgeous piece, both visually and at the core of its message.
“We previewed it to a room of long-time locals and a few got just a little bit teary watching it. The heart of Byron I think really resonates with how so many feel about this very special place we call home.”
Byron will be screened at all film festival venues in the lead up to and throughout the festival, which runs from Friday 6 October to Sunday 15 October. Additionally, the poet and filmmakers will be holding a Q&A and masterclass at the festival. Dates and ticketing information are to be confirmed.
Client: Byron Bay Film Festival
Festival director – J’aimee Skippon-Volke
Creative agency: Marcel Sydney
Poet – David Nobay
Executive producer – Holly Alexander
Production company: Goodoil Films
Director – Justin McMillan
Director of photography – Tim Tregoning
Director of water photography – Stefan Jose
Executive producer – Glen Casey
Executive producer – Sam Long
Producer – Justin McMillan
Production manager – Dustin Hollick
Editor – Andrew Holmes
Head of production – Aborah Buick
Producer – Amy Jarman
Creative director – Garry Jacques
Grade – Greg Constantaras
Design – Kyra Bartley
Sound house: Nylon Studios
Sound – Simon Lister
Composer – Michael Yezerski
Voice – Lee Perry