Why this book needs to be an animated movie?

Via – the literary edit

Trent Dalton. The most heartfelt, talented, and remarkable writer I have ever read in my 19 years of reading. The most beautiful thing about his work – it comes from Brisbane – his insight and knowledge into the Australian psyche, the idiosyncrasies of people and fundamental belief in love is something truly unmatched. You’ve probably heard about his debut book Boy Swallows Universe (now being made into a Netflix series!) or his most recent (and my favourite) book Love Stories, but I would like to pitch a case for his second book: All Our Shimmering Skies, and why in my opinion, it would make a fantastic animated movie.

The plot and its themes

A supernatural, mystic adventure amidst the backdrop of World War 2 and the Australian outback; the plot of this book translates onto the animated screen so well it is crazy. The protagonist of the story, Molly Hook, reminds me of so many strong female leads in animated movies like Coraline (in Coraline), and Chihiro in Spirited Away, who overcome immense struggle through finding themselves in a world that is actively pitted against them.

Both of those films would make a great template for the sort of movie this would be – a beautifully animated, dream-like mystery where the young main character finds themselves through a long and perilous journey, exploring themes of history, family, grit (quite literally), passion and hope.

Animated movies, like Up, Inside Out and Soul, all work on an emotional level because the medium enhances their messages, accentuating their themes of love, self-discovery and realisation through exaggerated, larger than life animations and characters. This would be perfect for All Our Shimmering Skie’s protagonist Molly, who develops and changes immensely throughout the novel, from a frightened girl to a strong and brave young adult. As well as this, with many different sublots intertwining throughout the narrative, the books’ non-linear structure works well for the animated medium as it allows for jumping around – being able to delve into backstories, past trauma, family and dreams without sacrificing continuity, similar in execution to something like Coco.

“Hearts don’t turn to stone, Molly,” Greta says. “But they do turn. One day your heart is filled with nothing but love and then something gets inside and mixes in with all that love and sometimes that something is black and sometimes it’s cold and feels just like stone because it’s heavy, and sometimes it gets so heavy you can’t carry it inside you no more.”

The Land

As we all know, the land is the fundamental jigsaw piece in the puzzle we call Australian existence. It provides us with culture, spirituality, language, law and identity – a tenet in Indigenous Australian culture – it is the place we all stand, love, and act. In the book All Our Shimmering Skies, Trent’s description of Australian landscape is stunning alchemy of light, colour, history, emotion and vigour, traversing the bomb exhausted streets of Darwin to mysterious deep caves in the heart of scrub and bush. It is honestly some of the best descriptions of landscape I have ever read, and I think it would translate beautifully onto an animated screen, something unachievable in the realm of live action.

“Purple sky with streaks of pink and red, streaks of fire. Three wanderers moving under and over sandstone ledges, around freestanding rock outcrops. A shifting landscape, stone country turning to brief rainbow-coloured of clusters of orchis and banskias…”

The choice of art-style to bring this to screen could go many ways. Personally, I think something like Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox and Isle of Dogs is a good starting point, as they project beautifully rich, romantic and meticulously crafted landscapes to life, and you can tell genuine care and effort has been put into every frame.

Likewise, movies such as Fantasia, Kubo and the Two Strings, and pretty much anything Studio Ghibli are all great starting points to explore the vast expanse of the empty Australian outback through virtue of emotional thematic and aesthetic association.

Something Australian

Australian cinema is on the rise, which is fantastic. But alongside this rise should also come a focus on animated movies, and I think we can do better than Blinky Bill’s Outback Adventure. As the narrative is deeply entrenched the Australian mythos, the film would provide foreign audiences an insight into Australian culture; an homage to our way of life and what makes us tick. But most importantly, All Our Shimmering Skies pays its respect to First Nations history and culture and does so in a way that is not in your face or forceful – as I said, the land is a pivotal character within itself.

“…he said the land gives you all you need if you know the right way to ask for it.”

The exploration of Indigenous culture is something that can be done beautifully through the lens of film, and I believe adding an animated picture to the increasing amount of great Indigenous Australian movies would be an incredible milestone for our country. Stories provide all cultures with information about people, values and truth telling. If steadfast and committed to its visual style, All Our Shimmering Skies would be a visual tone poem beyond language, connecting to the spiritual ancestors of the land in a stunning visceral way whilst also paying homage to a momentous time in our nations history, and something I believe all Australian Audiences need to see.


The Art of Visual Storytelling – Telling good Travel stories

Stories are the crux of every universal language. They take on many different meanings; providing a window into other people’s experience, their truth, and all help us figure out what the hell we are doing, because let’s face it, we are all just as unsure as each other.

Likewise, visual storytelling is one of the most powerful tools a filmmaker can use, I mean after all, a picture does tell a thousand words.

So, it came as an undeniable shock and blessing for an 18-year-old filmmaker struggling to make his first big video on YouTube, when I received a discounted scholarship to an online visual storytelling course from two of my favourite filmmakers – Johnny Harris and Nathaniel Drew.

For those of you don’t know, Johnny is one of the most renowned journalist and filmmakers working today. Johnny’s dedication to fact-based and impartial journalism is a breath of fresh air in the swamp of Murdoch media that poison social media feeds today. He is the creator of the Vox series Borders, and his increasingly popular YouTube channel creates high quality and professional explanation videos on just about anything – from travel, the war in Ukraine and why McDonald’s ice cream machine are always broken.

Nathaniel is another one of those rare talented YouTubers working today. His creativity, intuition and genuine passion for what he does bleeds into his videos about life, philosophy, the universe and living abroad.

So, without giving too much of their course away for free, I thought I would compile together a summary of everything that I have learnt from their course, and how it has helped my filmmaking.

Beyond Instagram Photos and Hashtags – Use Your Visuals to Engage

More and more people travel to places to take the same cliché Instagram photos. And while that may work for them, if you want to tell good, meaningful and memorable travel stories, Johnny and Nathaniel propose something different: tell stories that explore an idea, a personal theme, and do so in an artistic and creative way. I’m talking about utilising the sound of crunchy food, the architecture of a building, the motion of traffic – different visual moments to immerse your audience in your location.

Just from 60 seconds of watching this video, you feel as if you were in Switzerland.

Graphical user interface

Description automatically generated with medium confidenceThis is infinitely more interesting than a cliché picture of the Sydney Opera house, or a mindlessly dull TikTok with cool visuals.

For my own story, I didn’t want to just do a visually engaging montage of my road trip, but rather tell a story of my ups, downs and lessons I learnt from travelling by myself. I am so glad I did this, as it meant I told a much more engaging story.

Film absolutely everything and anything

This is definitely a lesson I wish I took in sooner: that is, you are infinitely better to have captured the moment than to capture nothing at all. When you are travelling or filming anything, you often get that voice at the back of your head saying “ah, I’m not going to bother with filming that.” Even if you point your camera random things, it is infinitely better to have quality B-Roll to work with than nothing at all, because you never know when you are going to use it. So shoot close ups, establishing shots, action shots, low depth of field, grab all the details and put aside your expectations and self-judgments, and just film, remember to just keep going and focus on capturing.

Show Don’t Tell

Ah yes, we have all heard this one before, but this is a crucial element of telling great visual stories. If you have emotion you want to convey, a lesson, or any piece of dialogue, see if you show it, rather than tell it. This provides the audience an opportunity to use their brains; it respects their intelligence and their ability to recognise patterns and feelings within visual information. For myself, I actually went back and cut down around 30% of my dialogue and simply replaced it with visuals – this made the pacing quicker, more engaging and moved the story forward a lot better than my rude head blabbering away.

(This photo encapsulates how I went from Rock Bottom – to quite literally being on top of a rock. Funny how that worked out)

Stay organised

This one is mainly for post-production but goes so well for being on foot too. If you organise your folders to have specific categories for music, b-roll, a-roll, sound effects ect.. you get into a habit of staying organised and on top of all your work, which makes workflows so much easier and helps you locate the perfect shot for the perfect moment. When you’re on foot, Johnny and Nathaniel recommend equipment that helps you be nimble and functional – so a small camera is probably better. When you are capturing beautiful imagery, you want to have gear that is light and at the ready when possible. When you are on your trip, or on site for filming, you are hunting for visual evidence – pretend your eyes are the camera and immerse yourself in the moment.

Be nice to yourself

Developing a skill takes time, like anything. So, one of the biggest takeaways of this course is to be kind to yourself, and most importantly to be kind to yourself in the process of capturing visuals and creating a story. It is important to bring your personality into your work, it may be embarrassing but it gets easier, and I think it is more important to do what you love and get laughed at than miss the opportunity all together.


I tutor high-school English, and one of things I constantly say to my students is that your essay/story/body of work is like a ball of clay. It doesn’t just become a beautiful pot but takes time through constantly shaping and moulding it. Likewise, stories don’t naturally become masterpieces, they take constant re-adjustments and shifts until you finally create something beautiful. What you initially envision in your head never becomes the final product, and that is the beauty of it.


Why Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the most beautiful in the series

Harry Potter is my favourite film franchise. I would even argue that it is the best film franchise of all time. While Star Wars is always a classic, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe is fun, we all got to grow up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and I think that is something purely magical. The Prisoner of Azkaban, a turning point in not only the development of the characters, but the whole franchise, is also in my opinion one of the most beautiful movies ever made. And here’s why.

Stuff like this isn’t made today

Green screens, studio executives, cash-grabs and ‘soft-reboots’ all plague the modern cinema landscape – audiences are spoon-fed entertainment like they are Dudley Dursley scooping out chunks of Harry’s 11th birthday cake.

But not this film.

From start to finish, you can tell that the director Alfonso Cuarón has poured his heart and soul into the production of this film; carefully planning out every little detail so that it services the story and not the Hollywood hegemony.

Take the opening shot – a dim light flickering in the distance, revealed to be Harry learning how to cast the spell “Lumos Maxima”. For a film with deep psychological undertones, about Harry’s journey to finding his inner strength, finding the happiness, the love and the light that lays inside of him, so he can fight off the Dementors – a physical symbolism of depression – this opening shot reveals the entirety of Harry’s forthcoming arc.

Visual Storytelling

This dichotomy between light and dark permeates throughout the rest of the film’s narrative in a striking and dreamlike way. The thing I love about Cuarón’s direction is that he often foreshadows events and themes of the film through his visual storytelling. For example, take Dumbledore’s famous quote: “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if only one remembers to turn on the light.”

Notice how he gently waves his hand over the candle – a man with a tormented past, yet a man who whole-heartedly believes in the power of love, in his mind, the strongest magic of all.
Now look at Harry as he learns how to cast a Patronus, repeating the same shot as before. Similar to Dumbledore, his past is filled with pain and torment. Unlike Dumbledore, he still has to find his inner strength and embrace Dumbeldore’s quote in order to defeat the dementors.

And this isn’t the only instance.

Where is you know who?

What also sets this movie apart from the others, is that there is no real villain. While you could argue Worm-Tail, or the threat of Sirius Black could be villains, the real threat are the dementors – a pervasive, destructing force that continuously reminds Harry that the way to win this battle is through finding the light inside of him.

And this scares Harry.

For much of the film, he is often pictured isolated, in a black hoodie (not too dissimilar to the black hoodie dementors wear) and as alone and afraid.

This marks a turning point for Harry, and a change from the light-hearted fantasy adventure of the first two films, to something far more raw, dark and relatable. Where no longer is he fighting a reincarnation of Voldemort, but his own demons and trauma.

Lonely specs of starlight that glitter against the eternal black canvas of space.

I can’t help but think Rowling looked to the stars when writing this story. Having suffered from depression herself, the symbol of light at the end of the tunnel is a beautiful and heartfelt reminder that love always wins out.

Take the character Sirius Black. Sirius is also the name for the brightest star in the sky, and black, well that is pretty straight-forward. For a character, who has lost almost everything, to still hold on to the love he has for his friends, and the love he has for Harry is something truly profound.

During the climax of the film, where Harry sees Sirius’s literal soul being sucked away by the Dementors, he only has one choice, and that is to cast Expecto Patronum. This one scene in my opinion is the best in the entire franchise. It encapsulates Harry’s growth from boy to a man as he realises that nobody is there to save him, not his Dad, not Dumbeldore, but only his pure inner strength and his appreciation of the love his parents gave him.

John Williams’s score echoes throughout this scene like churchbells in The Vatican. The music builds together in a climax, with a pervasive ticking in the background, reminding the viewer that Harry is running out of time. Until finally, he advances his leitmotif of “A Window to the Past” as Harry fights off hundreds of cloaked incarnations of death in a bad-ass fashion. I also love the pulsating effect they gave to the Patronus charm in the movie – it reminds me of a warm heartbeat. I can’t help but get chills every time I watch this scene.

As humans, we have an innate negativity bias, and it is often a struggle to remember the good. The idea of losing yourself in a happy memory, finding your inner strength and believing in love is something that carries across from the screen and into our lives.

As Trent Dalton put it: “Love is a complete mystery. Love is our most important mystery. Love is the answer to every question.”


Following your passion

The Alchemist Book Summary

“Man, who follows passion, always richer than man who follows money” – Mr Miyagi. 

One of my current goals in life is to read all the classics. I’m talking the “To Kill a Mockingbirds”, “The Catcher in the Ryes” and “The Great Gatsby’s” of English literature. Why? Well as a wanna-be writer and filmmaker, and having had so many professors/teachers tell me that these books would change your life, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  Most recently, I checked out Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist”, a book widely regarded as ‘life-changing’. The story follows a young Sheppard boy who goes on an epic journey to find his personal legend – a quest in which the author believes all people must follow, where they follow their soul’s passion and find ultimate fulfillment and happiness in doing what they are passionate about.

Now it may sound a bit cheesy to some people, but I really connected with this book. As someone who has so many creative goals in mind, whether it be starting a YouTube channel, writing a screenplay, or traveling the world and making it into a movie, it can be tough to fully realise these goals. With constant ‘head-noise’, distractions such as social media, and the echo of people’s stupid downgrading opinions in the back of my mind, it can be difficult trying to do what I am passionate about 100% of the time. It is easy to adopt the mindset that you don’t care about what other people think of you, but deep down we are all innately social creatures who do care about being judged, made fun of, and criticized – it is an intrinsic part of being human. However, what I think is most important, is the ability to push forward, move on, take the hits, and accept that you are going to cop shit, but keep doing what you are passionate about because it is what you are passionate about and it is what makes you happy. At the end of the day, who wants to live a life where you aren’t doing something that makes you happy. So, I really commend Frazier for making this website, because I think I speak for all people who are trying to express themselves online, whether that be making music or movies, that it can be a very daunting task. Anyway, I thought I would summarise 3 of the most important things I learned from reading “The Alchemist” without delving into spoilers, and how this can be translated into making movies, achieving goals, and ultimately doing what you are most passionate about.

  1. Live a life of intention

“And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.”

One of the main messages of “The Alchemist” is that the only person that can bring the Sheppard boy to finding his purpose is himself. And it is so true. If you have a goal in mind, whether it be grinding the gym, making a movie, or writing a book, the only person that can get you there is yourself. Paulo Coelho believes that if you are passionate about something, the entire universe, people, nature, and the God’s, will help you get there. It is totally up to you if you want to believe that, but it is a nice thought to have at the back of your head in my opinion. One of the biggest problems in today’s culture is that we can so easily live a life of complacency, I mean, think about how much time we spend just mindlessly scrolling, on TikTok and Instagram – we just shut our brains off and let our devices take charge. Now I don’t want to act like I am not a culprit of this, because I am. I have spent hours where I have wanted to write stuff and get creative, but I just wasted my time scrolling on social media. I do believe though, that if you put your phone down and take charge of what you want to get done, you can see great success. If you do all of your tasks with an intention, not viewing them as a mere obligation, they become far easier.

“What is the world’s greatest lie?” the little boy asks. The old man replies, “It’s this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate.”

2. Seek Discomfort

“The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”

A good lesson that I learnt whilst at film school was that limitations are your friend. Think about it, when things go wrong, don’t work, and fall out of place, you are forced to think on your feet and that is when creativity sparks. An example of this is in the movie “Jaws”, where the robotic shark used in the film wouldn’t work. Steven Spielberg was forced to think on his feet, and he opted to show far less of the shark in the film, creating a visual unease and exponentially sparking fear in the minds of the audience by tapping into their fear of the unknown. When going to create something, or follow a pursuit, things are going to go to shit. Nothing ever works out the way that you want it to, but that is also a good thing. As you keep trying new things, experimenting with different stuff and learning from your failures, what you are creating gets better and better, just like in “Jaws”. I can think back to when I made my first proper short film about male mental health titled “Boys Don’t Cry”. Everything I did seemed go wrong. I tried doing stop motion animation – it failed miserably. My printer broke. I got ink all over my hands and the cardboard I was using. My microphone sucked, so I had to borrow my mates and teach myself how to use Garage Band. I was so close to giving up, but I kept pushing on, with little sleep and no energy. I had to constantly improvise, which sucked at the time, but it actually taught me so much about the film-making process, and some things worked out for the better. An example of this was when I couldn’t find any good music for my short film, I was freaking out – with no music the whole vibe would’ve been killed. Luckily, I reached out to my friend Aubany who provided a beautiful soundtrack – far better than any copyright-free music I would have found online. Anyway, the film ended up making the final 30 of a Bond University short film competition, weird how things work out in the long run. I’m going to quote from another book here, “Think and Grow Rich”, but this is honestly one of the best things I have ever read related to this topic, and it is that “one should never give up when presented with temporary defeat.”

3. Experience is one of the best teachers

“Every blessing ignored becomes a curse.”

As Frazier mentioned in his review of the book “Rebel without a Crew”, it is not about ‘movie experience’, but instead ‘experience in movies.’ When following a creative passion, it takes time, it takes making a hundred shit movies, writing a hundred shit articles about books, and just letting everything out of your system. While it may seem crap at the time, everyone has to start somewhere, and the only way you are going to learn is by actually giving it a crack. Slowly, but surely, you learn new things along the way until you become a master of your craft. Personally, I look back at the Volleyball Promo’s I made in Year 11 and cringe at how bad they were, but I then also I look at the Senior Video I made almost two years later, and I can see how much I have learnt about film-making. So as explained in the above quote, take the opportunity to cultivate gratitude for everything that you create, because one day you’ll look back on it and realise how much you have grown.

I’ve decided to not really delve into the plot of the book in this article, because I think the whole purpose of this book is that you have to read it for yourself. Everybody has different goals and passions in mind, and it up to you to realise them.

“It is the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”