The Bond University Film & Television Awards, also known as BUFTA, attracts hundreds of creative entrants from high schools all over Australia each year. In 2022, budding filmmaker Jamali van Heerden, from local Gold Coast school Emmanuel College, was one of those students – taking home the Jury Prize for his documentary film A Swell State of Mind.
Now, Jamali has commenced study at Bond University on the Jury Prize scholarship, and is a semester into the Bachelor of Film and Television (CRICOS 063066E). We caught up with Jamali to learn more about the process of creating an award-winning film, why he chose surfing as the focus of his submission, and what’s next now that he’s officially a Bondy.
How did you hear about the Bond University Film & Television Awards, and why did you decide to enter the competition?
I first heard about BUFTA in mid-2021 when my film and TV teacher, Mr Murphy, told me about the upcoming competition. I immediately uploaded five of my most recent films in hopes of getting one in. That year, one of the five films I submitted – The Art of Fire – was shortlisted.
However, as a Year 11 student, I didn’t take home any awards, which ultimately left me motivated and eager to create an even better film in 2022, when I would be in Year 12 and would have a chance at winning one of the major prizes, a scholarship to study at Bond University. A year later, I found myself wrapping up a documentary called A Swell State of Mind. This got me into BUFTA for the second time, where I made the top 24.
What inspired you to pursue film and television?
As a child, I was obsessed with remote control planes, helicopters, and drones – I was addicted to flight, and would find a way to get my hands on anything that flew. This led to an interest in drones and their cameras. I began making cinematic edits of locations and places using drone footage, started compiling films, and eventually, got stuck into the world of cameras.
From there, my passion grew and grew. I began a traineeship at my parents’ business, making promotional content for them. This helped me to really cultivate my skills and opened up further professional opportunities, such as making content for influential social media personalities. From here, it’s my goal to branch more into filmmaking, where I feel as if I can freely tell stories and have a more profound impact on people.
What was the inspiration behind your film A Swell State of Mind?
The film is about surfing, and my best friend Guy and his father, Mike Latsky, were the ones who taught me how to surf. I am eternally grateful for this, and so the inspiration behind this film was to thank them – especially Mike – for the incredible gift they gave me.
How long did your film take to make from start to finish?
A Swell State of Mind took me six months to make. It was by far the most time-consuming project I’ve undertaken to date. Between countless early mornings in the ocean and a ridiculous number of late nights at my computer, this film is both my greatest headache and my greatest achievement.
What challenges did you encounter in producing the film? How did you overcome them?
Making a surf film posed many challenges. From narrow shooting windows at sunrise to unpredictable winter weather, the freezing water, and fast-moving subjects, you could definitely say I ran into my fair share of difficulties.
What was the most rewarding part of the BUFTA experience?
I’ve been able to really refine my abilities and gain new skills through the BUFTA experience, especially as I participated two years in a row. I’ve also realised that although I’ve built a lot of knowledge, I still have so much to learn – which is the most rewarding part of the experience by far.
What is the most important thing you learned from the BUFTA competition and process?
The biggest lesson I learned from BUFTA is that you must always deliver on the requirements of the brief… but never forget to add your own personal spice.
What is your favourite film genre and why?
Documentary is definitely my favourite film genre! As someone who enjoys and focuses more on the camera side of production, I like to leave storytelling to the subject, and interpret their story through my lens.
What is your ultimate career goal?
At this point, my career goal is to live life behind a camera and shoot all over the world, capturing everything from the beauty of our natural landscape to massive Hollywood productions. However, I’m at Bond to learn and build on my skills, and so, I’m open to whatever life throws my way – and will welcome what does.
Do you have any advice for future BUFTA entrants?
My advice is to find your niche. Discover what you’re passionate about most, and refine that skill – become so good at that one thing that it allows you to stand out from the crowd. I’d rather be a master of one than a master of none!
What are you most looking forward to about studying at Bond University?
Above all, I’m so excited to get my hands on the professional equipment, to hone my abilities as a camera operator, and to learn the art of cinematography.