Mel Visits Melbourne Documentary Film Festival!
October 03, 2017

What was the whole experience like?

It was very exciting and I felt very proud too. When I first started doing the course, I was like, ‘I hope this isn’t a waste of time!’ I wasn’t full of optimism. I thought it would be at the very least, something to talk about with artistic friends of mine. But the course was amazing and blew my expectations. Then, to get the opportunity to represent the film at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, was an incredible opportunity and totally unexpected!  Usually when you do a course, you learn a few things and that’s it, but this experience is continuing, it’s been over a year since we made the film through the Bus Stop course and we’re still going to film festivals.

Behind the scenes: fellow participants, Izaak Love and Joel Webb on the set of Gratus!

What was one of the most fun aspects of going to the festival?

Travelling interstate was fun, as I love flying and Barbara Beinart Pashut, who was also one of the filmmakers from the course,  joined me too. I had a friend to share the experience with, which really doubled the fun.

What was a highlight from the festival?

The director of the Melbourne Documentary  film festival, Lyndon Stone and Simon Foster, the festival’s film reviewer came to see us,  they were really  impressed, and said they were blown away by the film and that they really loved it. They both  thought it was a professional production and loved the way it flowed. The feedback from audience members was also phenomenal. A lot of people were surprised that none of us, except for Izaak Love (one of the filmmakers), had acting experience! I explained that everyone in the film are people overcoming mental health issues, telling their stories, I said, “these are real people!”

To have people like the director of the festival, see our film and go “WOW that is amazing”, was brilliant. To have validation from people who don’t know us or Bus Stop Films, say “this Bus Stop Film is awesome”, that’s incredible. So that was a real highlight, to hear how well received it was.

What’s a highlight from being involved in Bus Stop’s film studies program?

I’ve made  lots of connections and I’ve met great people. I’ve also done some on set nursing which I never thought I do. For me, the timing of it all was just perfect. When I started the course, I was at that place of ‘what am I going to do next in my life that has real meaning ‘. The course was a catalyst for gratitude and positivity, moving forward. You can get really stuck in a negative spiral, words can ring in your ears like “I’m stupid and useless” I’ve got uni degrees and a decent career in the past, but it doesn’t change those thoughts sometimes.

I hadn’t worked for a while as a clinical nurse, so to have someone tell me I could be an onset nurse and help with the first aid on set, really helped my self esteem in general. To be acknowledged in a  professional capacity was huge and appreciated; I’m not just a mental illness, I’ve got skills.

There were some people in our group, that  I wouldn’t  normally go out of my way to make friends with, a variety of people and wellness levels, and yet everyone was able to work together regardless of their mental health . It was a project where everyone could participate and everyone was kind, and it was the best working environment.

Our Bus Stop Films tutor, Sarah Jane Johnson was a knock out tutor who made everyone comfortable and she effortlessly got the best out of each student. The classroom supporters, Ash Meeraiya and Susan Trent from Bus Stop, were able to get everyone to collaborate well too. The whole team facilitated everything brilliantly and it just worked. It’s something every one of us can  can be proud of.  I was grateful to 3 Bridges Community for getting Bus Stop to put their program on locally in the St George region, it was great working with Rachael Henderson, the program manager from 3 Bridges. Rachael is a powerhouse and was really passionate about the project.

What was the best thing about the course, for you personally?

Having been involved in a project that I’m proud of.

I don’t publicise that I have a mental health issue, but to do something under that umbrella and have it be such a positive experience, made me feel confident to talk about it more openly. It’s a great ice-breaker with new acquaintances because I can talk about the film and if appropriate, lead into discussion about mental health advocacy.  Instead of me feeling embarrassed or ashamed, I feel more  comfortable to talk about mental health and to be an advocate. Having a disability is not the full definition of who you are. Now I’m  proud to be an advocate and create positive change with my experiences. I’ve got new friends to back me up too. A complete win-win.

Barbara Beinart Pashut (left) and Mel Travis (right) celebrating Gratus at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival.




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