First Day’s Julie Kalceff and Evie MacDonald on Diverse Media Representation


Janine Kelly
2 Apr 2019

Our work in the ACTF Education team is always interesting, but the virtual learning events we hold for students are a definite highlight of the job. Our live webinars enable teachers and students Australia-wide to connect with industry professionals and expertise, regardless of their school’s location. In our most recent video conference, students from around the country met First Day writer / director Julie Kalceff, and lead actress Evie MacDonald.

 

 

The short film First Day follows main character Hannah (played by Evie MacDonald) as she begins her secondary schooling. Hannah’s first day of high school is also the first day she will wear a girl’s school uniform and go by her chosen name, rather than the boy’s name she was given at birth. Upper primary and secondary students who joined last week’s webinar were eager to learn more about this award-winning film, careers in the media, and the importance of diverse media representation.

One of the most valuable aspects of our virtual learning events is that the conversation is largely student-led. Participating students send us their questions in advance, and these shape the content of each webinar. Year 7 student Ruby from Brisbane’s Mary MacKillop College composed the following thoughtful question for Evie and Julie: “What do you hope the audience might change about themselves and the way they view stereotypes as they grow up?”

Image: Mary MacKillop College

Ruby’s school was able to ask this question live, and Evie gave a wonderful response: “I think a majority of people think that trans people are different to everyone else, but we’re not: we’re just like everyone else. Hannah went to school like everyone else. She had to go through the first day, she had to meet friends, and that’s what everyone goes through.”

When asked why it is important for us to see diverse characters like Hannah in the media, First Day director Julie Kalceff responded:

I think screen stories are extremely powerful, and if we don’t see ourselves reflected on screen – or if we don’t see diverse characters and diverse stories and reflected on screen – that our world view becomes very narrow. It’s important for us to see ourselves, and that’s something that I realised when I was growing up: that I didn’t see myself reflected on screen. This is one of the reasons behind making the content that I do.

If we’re able to see ourselves on screen, it makes us feel as though we are accepted, and we are part of society. Otherwise, people start to feel as though they’re ‘the other’ and they’re left out. When we see a range of different experiences, we realise the fundamental human truth that we’re all the same, and that we have more in common than we have that’s different. Some of the only exposure we have to people that aren’t like ourselves is on screen, so we need to see more representation. We need to be able to tell stories that people can watch and realise that we’re all pretty much the same.

We greatly enjoyed the opportunity to interview and learn from Evie and Julie, and positive feedback from schools assures us that participating students felt the same. Teacher Karyn Chapman from Mary MacKillop College says the content of the webinar sparked a lot of conversation among her Year 7 and 10 students. Karyn now plans to use First Day in an upcoming unit on how the media can be used for positive social change.

Image: Mary MacKillop College

Teachers who couldn’t make it to the live webinar are invited to register here for the on-demand version of this compelling conversation: we will send through a link when the edited resource is available to view. Interested teachers are also encouraged to download the free First Day Teaching Toolkit for further information about this important film and its relevance to the classroom.

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