The Tunnel Vision documentary tells the story of the community that stood up against an $18 billion toll road, undermined a government spin campaign, challenged vested interests, engaged public interest, excited mass media, confronted police...and won.
Interview with Producer Bessie Byrne
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
We (Ivan, Marion and I) made this film because it’s not everyday that a diverse slice of the population comes together to fight a mega infrastructure project and wins! We felt that it was really important to document the momentous campaign and to capture why so many people were opposing the East West Link and how they managed to stop it from destroying the fabric of Melbourne.
We wanted to show the audience that we as people have control over how our cities develop and what values are involved with that process. It was also important for people to be able to grasp how massive these projects can be. Occasionally mega mining projects are stopped but they’re usually in remote places and it can be hard to understand their scale. The East West Link was literally on people’s doorstep. It would have taken at least 10 years to finish and would have reached peak capacity 8-12 years later. The more we investigated it the more we realised it made absolutely no sense for Melbourne.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
The planned East West Link toll way project was, and still is, one of the biggest political issues and media events Melbourne has seen for decades. The issue really divided Melbourne and at first many people believed what the project would fix Melbourne’s transport problems. Tunnel Vision was filmed over three years and takes the audience on the journey of how the movement grew. In the beginning a small group of people who were directly affected started studying the project and sharing their apprehensions.
All of their concerns were slowly exposed to be true and as the greater public started to question the logic and ethics of building another toll road the movement snowballed. You wouldn't think that a road would grab so much attention but this battle really was about the rich vs. the poor, the government vs. the people, politics vs. community needs, big business vs. the environment. Not everybody can afford to buy and run a car, and not everybody wants to, so by prioritising public transport we’re saying that a person without a car is just as important.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
It was tricky for us to decide which people should be the central characters of the documentary.
We knew that if we simplified the story and followed one or two characters it would be a more transportable film. But from the start we were very clear that our mandate was to tell the community's stories. We grappled with this for a while and ended up having about a dozen key interviewees. There were a diverse collection of community groups and people were fighting the project for a number of different reasons. Some people were losing their family homes and others were long time political activists who were fighting for equality and a bigger perspective.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
We were surprised at first to realise just how universal the fight for equitable, sustainable cities is. In Perth there was a huge campaign to stop a similar project and the Labor Government has just said they won't build it. Sydney is fighting an even bigger and more destructive project and the NSW government has more fascist tendencies than Victoria. We’ve been in touch with people all over the world who are really thankful for the project and who see it as a useful blueprint for activism. We’ve also had super encouraging responses from a variety of educators who want to be able to use the documentary as a teaching resource. However as we haven’t been able to pay off the fees to use the news footage; this is not yet possible.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
The only reason I’m surprised is because we haven’t had one skerrick of negative feedback. I think people realise that we have a micro budget and we’re doing the project with only love and passion to keep us going. Ivan did a really fantastic job of compacting a multifaceted, complicated plethora of issues into a digestible story.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
One of the main reasons we made this documentary is so that the campaign is not forgotten and so that people can learn about participatory democracy and be inspired by the key message that ‘we can all make a difference’. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to pay off the rights to use the TV news footage and archival footage. We still need to raise around 15K (if 750 people give us $20 bucks we can do it!) Until we can pay this off the film can’t be seen outside of festivals and fundraisers. You can donate via the Documentary Australia Foundation www.documentaryaustralia.com.au/films/3938/tunnel-vision
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
We’re looking for executive producers to help us with fundraising. We’re also interested in creating a webdoc resource for students. We would consider getting a distribution company on board too. If anybody has any ideas for fundraising please let us know.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
We want everybody to understand that they can make a difference. There are so many simple ways we can help create a movement. The current geo-political forces are really strong. Are we too far down the line now for individual focused actions to make a difference? We need people to stand together. It is only when we stand together that we have the power to make a positive difference.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
So they’ve stopped one road, but there will always be another one…how does this film change anything?
What are the key creatives you are developing or working on now?
Ivan has just adapted a play written about the early life of indigenous actor, Uncle Jack Charles. Bessie is establishing her own production company and is working on a few documentaries including one about the global cement industry called ‘Your Dream – We Will Build’.
Interview: July 2017
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
Stand Up, Be Heard, Make History
Length: 58 minutes
Director: Ivan Hexter
Producer: Bessie Byrne, Ivan Hexter, Marion Crooke,
Writer: Ivan Hexter
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): All of them.
Social media handles: @tvdoco
Other: Documentary Australia Foundation - https://www.documentaryaustralia.com.au/films/3938/tunnel-vision
Funders: Crowd funded
Where can I see it in the next month? Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, EKOTOP Film (Slovakia), CinemAmbiente (Italy). Canada and Colorado (USA) It has already played in Barcelona and we might have a few more festivals to announce.