Karla Hart is a WA filmmaker, actress and radio personality with an acclaimed career to date, acknowledged with Perth’s NAIDOC Artist of the Year in 2009 and 2017, a WA Screen Award, a Deadly Award and the Aboriginal Award for West Australian of the Year for 2021. To date Karla’s film credits are over 90 full length episodes on television, with her producing, writing and directing credits including sports entertainment show Yokayi Footy, documentary series Family Rules and On Country Kitchen. Now Hart will feature in Flickerfest 2022 for her new short drama Tooly, as one of several WA filmmakers selected in the Best of Australian Shorts programme showing on the Opening Night of the annual Short Film Festival at Camelot Outdoor Cinema on Thursday, February 24. BRAYDEN EDWARDS caught up with Karla Hart to find out why she is passionate about sharing her culture with the world through film.
Congrats on the release of Tooly and its selection for Flickerfest 2022. How long has this one been in the works for and how does it feel to now be sharing it with the world?
I wrote this story as a play in 2014 and was successful in developing the script at the Yellamundie Playwriting Festival at Carriageworks in Sydney in 2015 and since then have had conversations on and off regarding the script for theatre and had it in my back pocket. It is based on a family story and when I heard about Screenwest’s Elevate initiative I decided to convert the script for film and was in 2019 blessed to be selected to go into production.
To be sharing it with the world means so much, to be reminded of my childhood memories and cultural world on film is just such a wonderful thing for my heart and spirit.
Where did the idea for the story come from and did it change much from how you originally imagined it?
The story is based on parts of my childhood and cultural world and the process of bringing all the elements together for this film has enabled me to drive and lead the way it has been told, which I am very happy with.
You must have done some research around the ideas and themes conveyed in the film. What did you learn about your own culture in the process?
The ideas and themes conveyed in the film are things that I have lived and my close family has lived, I like to tell stories that I know and that are mine. What I learnt was so many of the things I took and take for granted of my childhood, living with my grandmother in the country and spending so much time in bush and my strong cultural connection has set me up for an incredible base and backbone as a storyteller in film.
And what was it that got you interested in making films in the beginning? Do you remember a time when you first felt like films were going to be a big part of your future?
I have always dreamed of going to Hollywood as a little girl and watched TV and movies with the passion in my mind that I wanted to be a part of this culture. Luckily my grandmother always told me I could do anything and I believed her. I think after my second series of Family Rules I did feel like I was settling into it being a big part of my future and now with over 90 episodes of television under my belt, I am dreaming of storytelling through drama and making a piece of work that will resonate universally.
It’s great to have the stories of First Nations people and particularly women told through film. What do you feel is unique about these stories and how can they be powerful on both a personal and societal level?
I think for so long so many of our stories have been told by either non-Indigenous production companies or without Indigenous people as key creatives driving the story or the way it is told, and now we are in these positions, we are protected by protocols set in place to make sure this happens and now is the time people will see really raw, authentic and unique stories told in a way they have never been told before. This excites me and makes me so happy as only when it is told to our truth and our heart is when audiences may be able to really get an understanding of our people, culture and history.
And how about Tooly in particular? Is there a particular theme or message you would like audiences to take away from the film?
I want young people to spend more time with their old people, to learn more culture, language and song and for people to be reminded that technology – despite many negative influences can be a good thing. I would give anything to have film or videos of my grandmother or mum and many of my other old people but I never grew up in that time.
What’s next for you for the rest of 2022 and beyond? Any more projects we can look forward to in the future?
I have just wrapped production for my next drama Wirnitj with Komixx Entertainment and am working on post production now and am also pitching some new projects which I will also develop more this year. I will also be executive producing Yokayi Footy again this year for NITV and the AFL which I am really happy about.