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Coming of age thriller wins global awards

We caught up with SAE Sydney grad, James Rutkin to chat about his film, The Lumberjack, which is delighting audiences around the world. The film has won 11 global awards to date - including three for Best Student Film.
Man in striped tshirt leaning on a tree.

The story is set in the 1880s and is based around Adeline, who on her 18th birthday is inducted into the world of a lumberjack by her father.

“Unfortunately Adelaine finds that she’s not physically able to keep up with the demands of being a lumberjack, and this leads to her having intense nightmares, and her mental health deteriorating quite quickly,” James said.

The Lumberjack was shot in 2019 prior to the pandemic, and during that period James had to navigate several other challenges.

“The day before we started shooting I went through a relationship breakup; it was difficult to deal with and a challenge to stay focused.

“In addition we went to Cooma and shot during the bushfires. There was a lot of thick bush and smoke where we were shooting; it really was quite an anxious time!

“We already had to delay filming because the bushfires were too dangerous – that affected the film massively in terms of the overall production.

James added this included filming one of the film’s most critical scenes, where a fireplace is used. “We had to replicate a fire in post production through the use of CGI, which took a lot of time and money.

Looking to the future, and James is expanding his horizons in 2022. “I’ve got a new short film that I’m writing that I’m hoping to be making towards the latter part of next year, which I plan to self-fund and make independently – The Lumberjack is just the start.”

The Lumberjack has been recognised with 11 global film awards to date:

Cannes World Film Festival – 2021

  • Best Student Film

Los Angeles IndieX film Festival – September 2021

  • Best Student Short of the Month
  • Best Student Director (Male)
  • Outstanding Achievement Awards for Drama
  • Outstanding Achievement Award for Actress
  • Outstanding Achievement Original Score

Thrills and Chills film festival – November 2021

  • Best Student Film
  • Best Director
  • Best First Time Director
  • Best Cinematography
  • Best Original Music

SAE General Manager, Dr Luke McMillan congratulated James on the production and success of the film.

“The international acclaim that James is receiving for his film, The Lumberjack, is richly deserved. In addition, it illustrates the world-class filmmaking that is taking place at SAE and how students like James are industry ready, even prior to graduating.

“With thousands of jobs being made available through a $400 million incentive from the Federal Government over the next seven years to attract film and television productions to Australia, it’s an exciting time for newcomers to the industry.”

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