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When silence says so much


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Focus and motivation have already started to pay dividends for student Henry Thong who recently travelled to the US to receive the International Prize in the 2014 International Youth Silent Film Festival.

Since winning the award, doors have opened for the local film student, who completed Year 12 this year at Glenunga International High School, taking three film subjects while making his winning film LEAP as part of his studies.

Thong has since been offered a scholarship to Bond University, visits to the Walt Disney Animation Studios and Paramount film studios in Los Angeles, an introduction to the producer of The Voice and already has a job with local production company SnapMe Media.

“I was introduced to film in Year 10 at school, but visual story telling has always been interesting to me,” explains Thong.

“For a long time I have been a comic collector and drawing has been a long-time hobby.

LEAP is about a boy who develops superhero powers after being bulled at school.

“I always wanted to make superhero film,” says Thong. “I wasn’t personally bullied, but I have a lot of friends who have been. There was one friend in particular who was essentially going through what you see in the film.

“The actors in LEAP are all personal friends and drama students at school.”

Henry discovered the International Youth Silent Film Festival last year, when he was in Year 11.

The festival has been running in the US since 2009 and was inspired by a live theatre organ concert and as a way to revive the dying art of silent movies by aspiring young filmmakers who may not have access to the equipment necessary for audio production.

A regional competition was only run for the first time in South Australia in 2013, sponsored by the Capri Cinema at Goodwood which houses the last remaining theatre organ in the state.

“The festival encourages young film makers aged 20 and under to enter a three-minute silent film,” explains Thong.

“I entered The Girl in the Camera, a romance film, and I was lucky enough to win the SA regional award in the 2013 competition.

The Girl in the Camera started off my film career. Since then I have made a bunch of other films.”

Thong’s documentary Urban Exploration about the hobby of trespassing and exploring unused urban environments won Best Documentary at the Bond University Film and Television Awards (BUFTA) last month. He also picked up second gong with LEAP winning the People’s Choice Award at BUFTA.

“I want to make a career out of making films,” says Thong. “I want to get into the Australian or US film industry as a director or a cinematographer. I want to make every kind of film; drama, comedy, superhero, neo noir …”

Thong attributes his success to the support he has received at school and at home.

“We have a very large media department at school,” he says. “There are about 20 other people in my class making films.

“Andy Mewett, my film teacher for three years, is the best teacher you could hope for. He’s supported me with everything including personal and social hurdles. He’s my support network at school, but it was my Mum who suggested that we go to America for the festival, which was so beneficial.

“I got to spend a couple of days with Tom de Santo who produced X-Men and Transformers, Steve Oster who produced the TV show Grimm, Michael Curry who won a Tony award for his production design on The Lion King (Broadway), and Laurri Hammack, who is the president of Laika (US animation company). I have kept in touch with them.”

Equally, it sounds like Glenunga International High school has much to thank Thong for.

“Glenunga is known for its success in mathematics and the sciences, but my successes have put a spotlight on my school’s arts department and it’s now getting the attention it deserves.

“It’s actually helped them get funding for new media department.”


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