Recent Bellingen High School graduate Blaise Borrer describes himself as a “storyteller“, but it is his own story that is so captivating and will definitely prove worth following into the future. Eighteen year old Blaise has a swag of filmmaking awards already and has been selected to film the 2018 Screenwave International Film Festival (SWIFF). And only this week he attained a ‘top achievers’ award on the ‘NSW HSC Student Honour Roll’ for placing third in the state in Music 2 and Music Extension 1. Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Blaise has already become a voice for “reshaping society’s perceptions of Autism and removing the negative connotations of the word Disability”.
We decided to interview this very humble local achiever, whose life story is really only just beginning.
What ignited your passion for filmmaking?
I’ve always had an interest in writing and telling stories. This began with me writing short stories in primary school, writing music and eventually my passion for stories led me to filmmaking.
When did you make your first film?
There isn’t really a clear moment when I made my first film… I started making lego stopmotion videos and videos with friends towards the end of primary school.
Has Bellingen High School (or any particular teacher) been supportive of your filmmaking pursuits?
Bellingen High School has been very supportive of my filmmaking pursuits. I’ve had two teachers who have really helped me in this area. In year 7, I remember talking to the former head of the Creative and Performing Arts department, Steve McNeil about my interest in filmmaking and he encouraged me to enter the annual Bellingen High School Clapper Awards (a showcase/red carpet night of student films). Then the following year when he left, the new drama and film teacher, Lynda Lane further encouraged and supported my pursuits throughout the rest of high school.
Have you had any local mentors in your filmmaking pursuits?
Not really… I mean, I have attended local short courses such as Camp Creative where I’ve had many great teachers but I’ve never had a consistent mentor. I have mostly been self-taught.
How has the Rec Ya Shorts Film Festival (Screenwave initiative) impacted on your filmmaking? Do you see this type of initiative as valuable to any young filmmaker?
Rec Ya Shorts Youth Film Festival is an amazing initiative! I wouldn’t be where I am without it. I always knew I wanted to be a filmmaker but the festival helped me gain the confidence to further pursue my dream. I recommend this to any young filmmaker. Just to have your film screened at the festival to such a large audience is amazing and there are heaps of opportunities they provide.
You received the top accolade for your film this year at RecYa Shorts- can you describe your film and your inspirations?
It was an honour to be awarded with Best Director and Best Scriptwriter for a mockumentary I made about a boy band called ‘Boyz Banned: 2 Hot 2 Handle’. The film follows the decline of the band through the manager’s perspective as he tries to contain egos and a blossoming relationship within the band. My inspirations for this were Chris Lilley’s mockumentaries such as ‘Summer Heights High’ and ‘Angry Boys’, ‘Spinal Tap’ was also an influence as well as ‘That Thing You Do’.
You won the NOVA Employment Choice Award at the 2017 Focus on Ability Film Festival for your short film ‘Life Without Limits’. I understand this film is based on your own experiences with autism. Can you describe the film and your personal journey in a life without limits?
Last year I was invited to speak at Bellingen Public School for Disability Awareness week about my experiences, having been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Noting the high number of children in the audience diagnosed with Autism, I decided to tell them about how having Autism has helped me throughout my life and how I’ve been able to achieve everything I want if I work hard enough for it, not in spite of my condition but because of it. After the heartfelt reactions of students, teachers, and parents of children with Autism I decided to make a film that reshaped society’s perceptions of Autism and remove the negative connotations of the word ‘Disability’.
Winning a car (Kia) and receiving the top award must be a life highlight to date- can you describe the moment when you won?
It was very unexpected to say the least! We were seated in one of the very back rows. As the night unfolded and the awards were handed out, I noticed that all of the recipients were in the first 3 rows. I had entered in the ‘School: Documentary’ section which was one of the first few categories to be announced (I didn’t win). Then the night continued to go on and I started to come to terms with the idea that I definitely wasn’t going to win – I honestly didn’t expect to win anyway. Then the last category was announced and I can still remember the moment he called out the winner and it was my name. It felt really surreal, almost like a dream. I don’t think it really hit me until a few weeks later that I had actually won this award!
You are also a very talented musician, having received an Encore nomination as a result of your performance in the recent Music HSC performances. Can you describe your performance?
I played the trombone in this performance. My first piece was called ‘Benediction of the Whales’ where I had to imitate the sound of whales with my trombone. The next piece, ‘D. L. Blues’ was a relaxed, bluesy piece and the final was a fast-paced Salsa.
The Bellingen High School music department is notoriously excellent. Have the music teachers at Bellingen High played a large role in your musical development? Have you got any particular musical mentors?
Ever since primary school, I have had the privilege of learning from Ann Phelan and playing in the many ensembles she conducts, such as the Bellingen Youth Orchestra, Bellingen High School Concert Band and Bellingen High School Jazz Band. She has always been very supportive of my creative endeavours and done everything she could to allow me to develop as an artist.
The gang at Screenwave has asked you to film the 2 week SWIFF this next January. This must be an enormous honor. I can imagine you will also have the opportunity to meet some filmmaking legends. What are you most excited about or is this a nerve-racking prospect?
It’s a tremendous honour, that’s for sure. I guess it’s a mixture of nervousness and excitement really. It’s nerve-racking because I have a really important job and I want to make sure I do it perfectly for Screenwave, but at the same time I am very excited to have the opportunity to be able to interview these filmmaking legends and hear about their filmmaking processes.
Where to from here Blaise? – Any major plans on your horizon for 2018?
In the 2016 Rec Ya Shorts I was given the opportunity to attend a short course at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS). Early this year when I attended, I was blown away by the resources and opportunities at the school and was inspired to pursue my studies of filmmaking there. I recently got accepted into AFTRS and will be studying a Bachelor of Arts Screen: Production. I will also hopefully be able to join some ensembles in Sydney to continue playing my trombone and will continue to compose music.
Blaise Borrer’s award winning films to date- click to view:
NOVA Employment Choice Award at Focus On Ability Film Festival – 2017
Best Music Video at REC Ya Shorts 2016
Storytelling Award and Industry Award at REC Ya Shorts 2015
The prize winning film from 2017 Rec Ya Shorts cannot be released on-line yet. Blaise has entered this film in several film festivals. So watch this space!!! We are predicting that Bellingen’s Blaise Borrer is one well worth following.