Shaki redefines Melbourne’s diverse art scene with Heatwaves

As the creative mind behind micro-documentary series, Heatwaves, Shaki Prasanna has not only put a spotlight on Melbourne's diverse arts scene, but inspired a new generation of young people to see their creative futures.
Man using film camera on train tracks

In the bustling heart of Kuwait, Shaki dared to dream differently. Brought up in a Sri Lankan family of artists, Shaki discovered his creative calling following a chance encounter with a DSLR camera during his high school years.

“There was a point when I was in high school and a kid came in with a DSLR camera – it just blew my mind,” Shaki said. “Soon after I was doing a small assisting job for a photographer where I got a taste of the creative industry.”

This experience ignited his passion for filmmaking, and propelled Shaki on a journey from Kuwait to Melbourne, where he pursued the Bachelor of Film degree at SAE.

“I wasn’t the most academic person, and that was the whole reason why I studied film at SAE Melbourne, because it was practical and hands-on,” he said. “I got to learn more about film theory, which I had no idea about, and that ended up becoming my favourite subject.”

Among his experiences at SAE, Shaki recounted the screening of the 1960 French film, Breathless, a moment that forever changed his perspective on filmmaking. “Ever since I watched that film, I look at films in a totally different light. Now when I pick up a camera, I’m always trying to bring meaning and value to what I’m creating as a filmmaker.”

“I met all my best mates at SAE, and we still make films together – I don’t know where I’d be now if I hadn’t gone there and made all those connections.”

Since graduating, Shaki has developed his skills and experience further, scoring jobs at ICARUS Creative and Finding Figaro, to more recently at content creative technology company, ATOMOS. As the Creative Collaborations Director, he connects with creatives worldwide on projects.

“Every day is never the same here,” he enthused. “I work closely with creatives around the globe and hear about how ATOMOS’ equipment plays a part in their world and shapes the stories they want to tell.”

Shaki’s project, Heatwaves, reflected his passion for diversity. Motivated by his early experiences as a migrant in Australia, Shaki aimed to reshape the narrative of Melbourne’s arts community. The self-funded project celebrated the diversity of the city and offered a platform for underrepresented creative voices. The first three in the micro-documentary series featured woodstock carving artist, A.Kid; footwear designer, Tim Gleig; and illustrator, Aki Yaguchi.

“Heatwaves was a big risk, as it was an independent production, but it was all worth it due to the reception it received,” he said. “When I first arrived in Australia, I felt like a minority. What I wanted to do with Heatwaves was alleviate that experience for migrants coming into this country, and re-paint this picture of what Melbourne is like, as it is so diverse. I want to inspire the younger generation, where they can see people of colour and think this is what they want to do for the rest of their lives.”

SAE General Manager, Dr Luke McMillan commented on how SAE takes pride in supporting diversity and fostering talented creatives like Shaki. “I am excited to watch Shaki’s bright future unfold – it is a testament to his dedication and the solid foundations laid during his time with us,” Dr McMillan said. “At SAE, we are fortunate to have a diverse and passionate collaborative community of creatives who inspire and support one another on projects while studying and once they graduate. Our experienced lecturers empower our students so they can shape their futures through education and innovation.”

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