Starring roles behind the scene

Fun behind the camera ...
Fun behind the camera ... 

Being creative in film and television doesn't have to mean taking centre stage, writes Melinda Ham.

While the glittering trappings of performance appeal to many kids, others - who may be just as creative - would rather take a role that's not in the glaring spotlight.

Instead, they would be happier behind the camera filming the movie or TV episode, writing the script, composing the music or creating the make-up, hair or costumes - all integral parts of any production.

Dieter Knierim is a case in point. From about five years ago, when he was 12, Dieter and his younger brother, Liam, have been making short films. Dieter is always the director, camera operator and does most of the editing, while Liam is the journalist.

"I never go in front of the camera because I get stage fright," Dieter says.

The brothers started by chronicling their own lives - such as when a tree hit their house in a mini-cyclone - but have moved on to in-depth documentary interviews with people such as former Somali hostage Nigel Brennan, former prime minister John Howard and trumpeter James Morrison.

When asked why he makes films, Dieter responds: "It's just me. I love doing it.

"It is so beneficial. It teaches me something about the world, about the lives of the amazing people I film."

To master his camera and editing techniques, Dieter has taken several holiday programs at the Australian Film Television and Radio School, including the Real Filmmaking Workshop.

 "The course taught me how to work in a team and also about using professional equipment and composition [as well as] how to get the perfect shot - that it's better to get short nice grabs, instead of long motionless shots, so your audience doesn't get bored," he says.

Now Liam and Dieter, both students at Newington College, have their own website - - and YouTube channel, detailing more than 50 films. They also have clips on the Sydney Opera House website that they made for the Festival of Dangerous Ideas.

Another promising young filmmaker is 12-year-old Lucas Hempton, a student at Sydney Grammar School, who entered his film Contagious at this year's Tropfest Junior.

"Juice was the theme of the festival," Lucas says, "so our film was about how drinking this special orange juice had the side-effect of teleporting you randomly into places like the ladies' bathrooms." He made the film with a group of five friends at a holiday program at Metro Screen in Paddington. "We learnt about what goes into the film, the technical stuff and all the behind-the-scenes," Lucas says.

"The whole group does the script-writing together and then we split into jobs like directing, filming and acting. I did quite a bit of the filming and I also acted in a few scenes."

Inspired by his favourite film, The Avengers, Lucas has taken five Metro Screen courses, held almost every holiday in the past 18 months, and continues making films at home.

For children not into filming, composing the musical score for a film or TV show is another creative avenue. The two-day Song-writing, Creating Words and Music class, at the Ku-ring-gai Arts Centre in Roseville, could be ideal.

"Each student gets to write their own song and set it to music," the class tutor, Neville Kaye, says. "I teach them free word association and get them to come up with verses and a chorus."

Kaye has developed a "sure-fire method" and promises that within half an hour, all the students will have written their first verse.

The class is not limited to a specific musical genre but the kids need to play an instrument that could range from voice to piano, guitar, violin or clarinet.

Rthna Rana Gill is the mother of 15-year-old Thnvir, a student at Killara High School. She was delighted with how the class affected her son.

"It opened a different world for him," she says. "He received such positive feedback from his teacher and it is such a tribute to his good teaching that Thnvir got up and performed at the end of the two days."

Thnvir admits he was shy when he started the course but the class imbued him with confidence to compose and perform.

"I've now formed my own garage band with three friends who play the bass, lead guitar and drums and I play rhythm guitar," he says.

"I write all the music and by now I've written more than 18 songs."

Ku-ring-gai Arts Centre
Phone 9424 0310
Cost $100 for two-day course

Phone 1300 065 281
Cost $695 for week-long course

Metro Screen
Phone 9356 1818
Cost $345 for three-day course