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Film lecturer by day, screenwriter by night

Jesse Laurie is a Senior Lecturer of Film at SAE Perth, a successful screenwriter and a coach at East Fremantle Football Club.

Jesse caught up with us to share what teaching film at the Perth Campus is like, and how his script for feel-good film Raising Thunder got nominated for the prestigious Monte Miller Award and received WA Government funding.

You describe yourself as a ‘film lecturer by day and screenwriter by night with an insert of football (AFL) when the two meet at sunset’ – is this still the case?

Pretty much, though I’ve stepped away from playing and am now in a coaching role at East Fremantle Football Club. I work alongside the leadership group and with the defensive line of the development group.

What do you enjoy about your role as a Senior Lecturer at SAE?

I’m in a managerial role where I assist the Perth Film Department Coordinator and Film course Chair, Magali McDuffie. Similar to the coaching role I have in football, I communicate with the other film lecturers to make sure everyone’s on the same page and moving in the same direction.

I love to create and deliver a unit that fits in the middle of a film degree; seeing how that puzzle piece sharpens the overall picture for students when they come around to doing their final projects.

And you’re a member of the SAE Film course Committee. What does that entail?

Essentially it gives me greater insight into how the film faculty function at a high level; what we do influences student learning. There’s a great blend of people on the committee with varying levels of experience. I like to offer a unique insight through my sporting background, which a lot of people don’t have.

What did your students think when they heard your script for Raising Thunder was nominated for the prestigious Monte Miller Award and had received WA Government funding to go into production?

I’m not one to broadcast my own success. A few know, including graduates who I now mentor, and they’re excited by the news. In this industry, it’s one thing to lecture, but being able to walk the walk as well brings far more credibility to what you’re teaching the students.

Do you think your success externally acts as a source of inspiration for your students?

The more I can be involved in the industry gives me opportunities to provide clear and current insight to students in regards to the processes.

Some of the graduates I mentor are in the process of applying for the funding that I was able to get from the WA Government. It’s been beneficial for them because I’ve been able to give feedback and guidance on the application process.

Can you tell us about Raising Thunder?

It’s a short film concept, which we’ll turn into a feature film. It’s about a young farm girl named Kayla who finds an infant cloud. She has to raise it to maturity to capture its thunder in a bottle, so she’s able to reignite her grieving father’s initial spark.

It stems from the idea that Kayla’s lost her mother, and her father has lost his wife and it’s that notion that when grief strikes, a part of you dulls or is taken away from you. In order for Kayla to safeguard her future, she has to bring her father back from the grief that’s consuming him, so they can be a family again.

Will animation or CGI be used?

It’s going to be a cross of live-action and CGI and animation for the cloud. We were lucky that one of the animation lecturers at SAE Perth, Steven Teune was able to provide some of the proof of concepts for the cloud, which allowed us to gain the funding we needed from the WA Government.

When does filming begin?

We’re still in the development period at this stage. We’ve got two weeks to get the final script over to Screen West and then we’ll go into pre-production which will be up to three months. Filming will take us around a week, and then we’ll spend between six to ten months in post-production. Overall We’re expecting it to take 12-15 months before the film’s ready to be revealed.

Which director or filmmaker would you love to step in the shoes of for a day?

In the animated realm, it has to be Andrew Stanton or Pete Docter – who have both worked on some of Disney and Pixar’s most successful films. If I had to choose a director in the live-action genre, I’d have to say I’m a big fan of Richard Curtis and his films Love Actually, and Notting Hill.

So you like romantic comedies?

Yes, my wife and I had Love Actually playing in a blow-up cinema at our wedding. It was really really good fun!

Interested in studying Film?

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