A Message from the Directors
Australia is one of the few places in the world which has Gondwana-era forest and is home to some of the oldest and tallest trees in the world. We began making this film because we were horrified that our precious ancient forests – already decimated by the fires – were still being logged for wood pulp and turned into toilet paper, despite so many native species dependent on them being on the brink of extinction. Along the way we spoke with numerous activists and scientists – the more we knew, the more we were convinced of the urgency to save our ancient forests, not just for the trees, but the future of humankind. Our fates are intertwined.
Protection of our native forests is the easiest way to combat the extinction crises and climate change and it’s something that we can do today. Forests are immeasurably precious to human for their ability to store carbon, promote water cycles and water security. They also provide homes to our beloved native animals such as the critically endangered Swift Parrot, the Tasmanian Devil, the Greater Glider, black cockatoos, the koalas – they and their forests have a right to exist.
The story of Bob’s life tells us that everybody can contribute something to protect our planet and combat climate change – THE GIANTS is our contribution. It’s a story of natural beauty and wonder, of caring and defiance and of optimism in the face of adversity.
In the course of making this film we fell in love with these extraordinary trees – we hope you do too.
BEHIND THE SCENES
FILMING THE FOREST
CINEMATOGRAPHER SHERWIN AKBARZADEH
Filming a forest is a challenge because trees simply don't move around that much compared with, say, an animal or a person. So the question for us was how do we make the forest feel alive on screen? Also, many of us are familiar with the hyper realism of say, a beautifully shot David Attenborough documentary, but we wanted to present the forest in an unfamiliar way, one that would help people connect with the forest. So the second challenge was how do we film the forest in a way that makes people look twice? We worked with Sherwin Akbarzadeh, an ACS accredited cinematographer based in Melbourne, to develop a visual language for the forest. Our approach was to eschew precision in favour of impression – we filmed the forest as though we were creating a painting.
SHOOTING THE GIANTS
THE TREE PROJECTS
The challenge with filming a giant tree is that it is impossible to get the entire tree into the frame. We worked with Tasmania-based outfit the Tree Projects to help capture different points of view from within the canopy. The Tree Projects consists of climbing scientists, Steven Pearce and Dr Jen Sanger who worked with General Strike to locate our tree subjects and rig the cameras 80m up in the canopy. They were assisted by arborist Shaun Green.
3D FOREST SCANS
THE GIANTS team worked with Arko Lucieer and Leonard Hambrecht at TerraLuma, the Spatial Data research unit at University of Tasmania to conduct 3D Forest scans for the film that were subsequently animated by Alex Le Guillou.
TerraLuma used ground 3D laser scanning as well as aerial drone scanning to capture point cloud data of the three protagonist trees and their surrounding forests.
The forestry industry uses laser 3D scanning as a tool to calculate timber volumes ahead of logging. It is also widely used by the construction industry. We wanted to subvert this tool and use it for the opposite purpose – this time to capture the beauty and diversity of our ancient forests as well as to reveal the hidden life of trees – and inspire their protection.
ANIMATING THE FOREST
ALEX LE GUILLOU
For THE GIANTS France-based motion designer Alex Le Guillou, created immersive point cloud animation of the forest from 3D forest scans provided by Terra Luma, at the University of Tasmania. Alex began working with forest imagery as a personal creative project but he was used to the relatively tame woodlands and rural landscapes of Europe. (Australia is one of the few places that still has extensive primary forest – only fragments of ancient forest remain in Europe.) When he received the data he literally could not 'see' the trees – the data was so dense. As the film shows old growth forests are very complex and densely populated areas, so took a lot of work for Alex simply to isolate the individual trees – and then animate them into characters.
THE BOB BROWN ARCHIVE
RECREATING THE PAST
Archive was a key componant in making THE GIANTS and we drew on numerous sources to recreate Bob Brown's 50 years of activism as well as his early childhood. Materials ranged from family photo albums to amateur footage, news footage, video and more recently, social media assets. Sources included Bob Brown's personal archive held at the National Library of Australia in Canberra, the ABC News Archives, The Wilderness Society's photo collection and the National Film & Sound Archive in Canberra. There was a wealth of material to choose from – often overwhelmingly so! So our key challenges after locating material sources was breaking it down into manageable quantities, and eventually making our final selections. Read on to hear some more details.
AURORA'S 'THE SEED', BY MELBOURNE INDIE VOICES
The idea that plants and humans have so much in common is beautifully evoked in The Seed, by Norwegian singer/songwriter AURORA. This song, which brings a moment of magic to THE GIANTS' end credit roll, was an early source of inspiration for us. This stunning version was arranged by Phia Exiner, Artistic Director of Melbourne Indie Voices choir (MIV), and sung by around 200 people at the Forum with MIV’s Josh Teicher accompanying on electric guitar.
FILMING THE FUNGI
Catherine Marciniak & Stephen Axford
Catherine Marciniak & Stephen Axford are the duo behind Planet Fungi and passionate about all things forest and all things fungi. They produced the stop motion animation, film and stills of most of the fungi you see in THE GIANTS. In a happy coincidence they were travelling to Tasmania just as production began – so were able to film fungi in the actual Tarkine/Takayna rainforest for THE GIANTS. We were astonished by the diversity and beauty of the imagery. Catherine and Stephne are documentary film makers in their own right, so do check out their website and Youtube channel to delve into the extraordinary world of the 'Fifth Kingdom'.
WHAT DID YOU DO?
The Poem by Drew Dellinger
Hieroglyphic Stairway by the American poet, writer and ecologist Drew Dellinger brings a powerful moment of reckoning to the film. 'What did you do?' is such a simple question with such profound implications. Drew's question inspires us to self-examine our contribution to the planet and calls on us to stand up and take responsibility. Everybody wants to leave the world a better place for future generations. Asking ourselves 'What can we do?' is a great starting point because when we ask this question we find answers, resilience and a path forward. You can hear the poem in its entirety in this video – and learn more about Drew Dellinger's poetry and ideas at his website.
Composer James Henry & Various
THE GIANTS soundtrack contains music from a mix of sources, from original compositions by Melbourne-based composer James Henry to various international artists. One piece that's particularly moving is James' re-mix of the song milaythina nika performed by Tasmanian musician Dewayne Everettsmith in palawa kani, the Tasmanian Aboriginal language. The song celebrates the Tasmanian Aboriginal people's connection to Country, and is used to illustrate Pakana woman and indigenous elder Theresa Sainty's segment about Takayna/Tarkine and its significance for Tasmania's indigenous community. Watch this video to learn more about the original song – the performance by Dewayne starts at 8:55.
writer / producer / director
Laurence (she/her) is a co-founder of Melbourne-based creative studio General Strike. In 2001 she founded Lonely Planet Television and executive produced dozens of TV shows for domestic and international broadcasters. Hit TV series included Lonely Planet Six Degrees for Discovery and Going Bush, featuring Cathy Freeman and Deborah Mailman travelling across Aboriginal Australia, for SBS. She was the first Producer ever to secure original commissions from US digital platform Hulu and Al Gore's Current TV. Laurence also executive produced hundreds of online videos for Vice, i-D, Hulu, Babelgum, Facebook Live and Youtube. After several years overseas, Laurence moved back to Melbourne to establish General Strike and pivoted to directing the films she produces. The first full-length film she directed, FREEMAN, which premiered on the ABC TV, was the most watched documentary of 2020 on Australian TV.
writer / producer / director
Rachael (she/her) is a co-founder of General Strike and the studio’s head writer. Rachael has over 20 years’ experience as a writer and journalist, having written for television, online and print. She has worked as a writer/researcher for television series, such as Lonely Planet Six Degrees(SBS, Discovery) and Family Footsteps(ABC). She has scripted and produced around 100 short form videos including the Webby award-winning series Freewheelers. She spent several years in Paris where she oversaw editorial and community for Silicon Valley news app Flipboard in France and curated news coverage of events such as the Paris terrorist attacks, the World Cup and COP 21. Most recently she acted as Script Editor for FREEMAN (ABC TV).
Helen Panckhurst (she/her) is a Matchbox Pictures founder and Head of Production for the company, supervising production of the entire Matchbox slate. Recent titles include long-form series Stateless, Safe Harbour, Secret City, Seven Types Of Ambiguity, Wanted, Barracuda, Glitch, The Family Law, Deadline Gallipoli, the serial The Heights, and children’s series Nowhere Boys and Mustangs F.C; and Laurence Billiet’s documentary FREEMAN.
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