Colour Box Studio Director and filmmaker Amie Batalibasi will be facilitating the Night Photography – Painting with Light workshop at Colour Box Studio on 27th November. Read below for more information about how she got started with her own creative practice.

Amie Batalibasi - Founder and Director of Colour Box Studio photo credit by Rachel Main 01
Amie Batalibasi – Photo credit by Rachel Main.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
I’m Founder and Director of Colour Box Studio – this is a volunteer role.  Aside from Colour Box Studio, I am a documentary filmmaker, media trainer and creative producer.  My own creative practice centers around storytelling, community and culture and using film as a medium to create discussion, empower communities and encourage the sharing of stories and culture.

How did you start your creative business and why?
After studying photography and documentary filmmaking, I left uni and went through what I’ve heard some people call: “film school hangover”. When you study creative arts, it’s really fantastic because you’re surrounded by your peers and other creative people, you’re given deadlines to motivate you to produce work and you have access to mentors and all of the tools and equipment you need. When I finished uni, it was really hard to find my feet, get access to equipment and actually find paid work – I did a lot of volunteering (which I recommend doing) but it was a struggle to make an income – and I think a lot of people find this as emerging artists.

The thing that kickstarted my creative film practice was doing the NEIS course through Centrelink and also receiving an ArtStart grant through AustCo. This was essential in gaining some business skills, making a business plan and it gave me an opportunity to put some finances into setting up a business. When I was at uni I never thought I’d be going into business but that’s essentially what I had to do if I wanted to make a living from doing what I loved. The other thing that I did was lots of networking with the organisations and people I wanted to work with. I did some cold calling, applied for lots of grants, I volunteered and took up every opportunity that came my way. After about 2 years I started to find my feet and develop my own creative practice.

Tell us about your past projects. What has been your most rewarding project?

Pacific Stories DVD Cover. Film Still from 'This is My Culture' by Ranu James.
Pacific Stories DVD Cover. Film Still from ‘This is My Culture’ by Ranu James.

I left uni in 2007 and I have been fortunate to have been involved in some truly amazing projects since then with wonderful people and great community organizations. I always feel that it’s a privilege to do what I do and people are always so generous with sharing their stories. One project that stands out is Pacific Stories – a project exploring Pacific identities through film ( In 2011, I was able to produce this project with a dear friend and collaborator, Lia Pa’apa’a, and we had a wonderful team of 8 participants from different Pacific backgrounds who came to filmmaking and storytelling workshops facilitated by Lia and myself over a period of 7 months. By the end of the project each person had learnt the skills to write, direct and edit their own short film. The results were creative, inspiring, tear-jerking and the stories they told are timeless – a testament to the participants. Although each film is a very personal story exploring Pacific Islander and Indigenous perspectives, the films speak about identity, culture, spirituality, connection to home, diaspora communities – universal themes that a lot of people can relate to.

It was an epic project and the films premiered to a crowd of over 200 people through the Emerge Festival in Melbourne. Last year we presented the Pacific Stories films to a largely Pacific Islander audience at the Festival of Pacific Arts in Honiara, Solomon Islands – that was pretty special, showing the films in my Island Home. Now the films have been acquired by SBS for broadcast on NITV in the near future – so that’s pretty exciting. Also, some of our participants have gone on to do more filmmaking.

Although I do make my own documentary films, the teaching side of my work is really important because I believe that sharing my filmmaking skills enables others to tell their own stories and hopefully, in the end empowers them and their community.

What is your current project?
I am currently working with the Colour Box Studio Management Team and volunteers to put together the Summer Pop Up Program – the Pop Up Shop, Creative Workshops, Public Art and Events. This is our last program at this premises so we’re hoping to go out with a bang!

March to Remember, Brisbane August 2013. ASSIS Event.
March to Remember, Brisbane August 2013. ASSIS Event.

Coming up next in terms of my film practice is a project in partnership with the Australian South Sea Islander Secretariat (ASSIS) – a group that works to be a representative voice for the descendants of 62,000 Pacific islanders who were brought to Queensland and NSW in the late 19th Century to work on the cotton and sugar cane fields as laborers. Next year, we will be working on a multimedia project exploring identity, family, history and heritage through film and photography. This one is a big project because a lot of people don’t know about this part of Australian history and it will be the first of it’s kind for the Australian South Sea Islander community.

Where do you find your inspiration?
I find inspiration in the people and communities around me. Also, I love to travel and experience different cultures – but I can pretty much do that in Footscray just by walking down the street! I love that about Footscray…

Where do you feel most creative?
I am not sure where I feel creative but in terms of ideas – I constantly have ideas – most of them aren’t good ideas… haha! But I have had half-decent ideas when I wake up in the middle of the night or sitting on public transport or driving – random places!

What can visitors to expect to see from you at Colour Box Studio?
Ooooooooo…. The Night Photography – Painting with Light workshop is going to be fun! It’s the 3rd time I have run it at Colour Box Studio. Anyone at any level can join us and it’s more of a practical hands-on session. Expect to be jumping up and down with sparkler, torches and various light emitting devices in the dark, to create awesome creative photographs! Painting with Light is a technique I learnt on a photography camp back in the day and when I am traveling I love taking long exposure shots. Once you learn this skill, you have it forever and you can keep experimenting with it in different ways to create different results. You’ll be hooked!

Where can we see more of your work?

Night Photography – Painting with Light Workshop:

DATE: Wed 27 November 2013
TIME: 7-10PM
PRICE: $80 per person (please bring own digital camera), Limited places.