Film Ledge Gillian Armstrong Has Directed Straya’s Biggest Crowdsourced Film

Released on YouTube today, “The Inspiring Story Of Us” is Australia‘s biggest crowdsourced film ever to support the Australian of the Day initiative.

Directed by Aussie film legend Gillian Armstrong, of Little Women and Oscar and Lucinda fame, the 23-minute documentary shows Aussies from far and wide, from all walks of life, doing incredible things for Australia.
We spoke with her about the making of the film and how it all came together.
“Out of the blue, Commbank came to me and asked if I would be interested in making a film from crowdsourced material on these wonderful Australians,” she said, calling the project an “honour” to work on. “I went to the website then and looked it up and I was overwhelmed by the diversity and by how many fantastic stories there were, and I thought it was a really wonderful project.”
“It was actually quite risky,” she shared.“We were asking people to volunteer, and it’s a big deal to try to shoot your life and answer your questions while you’re busy at work. In the end we had 120 people send stuff in, and over 40 hours of footage.”
Describing the process of selecting footage as “unbelievably taxing”, Armstrong recalls the many technical challenges she faced while editing the hours of crowdsourced footage. In the end, she says, the footage that made the final cut was all about trying to show the most diverse reflection of Australia and its people.
“It was very hard when it got down to the line,” she acknowledges, recalling that she was forced to cut “three or four” people who “had great stories and did great things” due to time constraints.
“It was about trying to have diversity; to have young people and old people, from the inner city and the country, and people of every colour and creed. So part of the process of cutting it back was like ‘okay well we can’t have three gardening stories or three recycling stories’. My brief was a 15 minute film, and I did manage to stretch it to 23, but it probably could’ve been another 15 minutes.”

Stating that she felt for the people who went to a lot of effort to only have “one or two shots” make it into the final edit, she concedes: “it just goes to show how many inspiring things people have been doing.”
Speaking about her vision for the doco, the big question behind it was where these people found their motivation.
“These are people who are doing things that are inspiring, and for me, it was like ‘why? What makes them do it, and why aren’t we all doing it?’” She shared. “Once you get into that – why you do what you do – it actually becomes quite an in-depth, philosophical look at what makes a good life, and what makes you happy.”

“I think the thing that comes through [in the film] is that if you actually do something – no matter how small – for others, you’re the one who actually benefits the most. I hope that comes through for viewers and that they’re inspired. I’m not saying everyone should quit their corporate jobs, but maybe they go and volunteer once a month.”
The thing that ties all of the contributors together, Armstrong says, is the Australian sense of humour. She recalls being surprised that the feedback to the documentary was “oh, they’re so Australian!”, as she was trying to get the best mix of people from all walks of life who call Australia home.
“I think it’s actually that they’re so self-deprecating. They’re actually quite low-key and humble about the things they’re doing, and they laugh at themselves. There was one question: ‘Have you ever felt heroic?’ and the reaction from contributors around Australia was so funny. You cannot say that word to an Australian! And I said, ‘Well, that is so Australian, isn’t it?’”

And as for whether there were any stories that resonated with her more than others, well, don’t even think about asking Armstrong to name them.
“You’re not gonna try to make me name favourites!” she exclaims with a laugh. Check out The Inspiring Story Of Us, below.
This year’s Australian of the Year will be announced on Australia Day, next Tuesday.