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Tips, tricks and creative inspiration from 2021 BUFTA winner, Ryan Thwaite

Ryan Thwaite standing in front of a screen at BUFTA Awards.

The Bond University Film & Television Awards (BUFTA) is one of the premier film competitions for High School students around Australia. BUFTA gives Year 11 and 12 students the chance to win a full scholarship to study a Bachelor of Film and Television at Bond University.

2021 BUFTA winner Ryan Thwaite draws inspiration from cinematic greats like Tim Burton, science fiction films and relatable characters fighting their way out of dystopian societies. A creative at heart, and with Bond's Bachelor of Film and Television on the horizon, Ryan is looking forward to diving into the creative subjects woven through the program in the new year.

We sat down with Ryan to hear all about his experience of creating his award-winning original animation Veronica while completing Year 12, and what challenges he overcame to apply for BUFTA.

How did you hear about BUFTA and why did you decide to enter the competition?

I took home a couple of booklets after we had a university presentation day at school. I knew I wanted to do something creative and was leaning towards film the most. The booklet recommended to apply for scholarships, and I found BUFTA through a Google search.

What inspired you to explore film?

Film encompasses everything I like about English, design and art and there just seems to be so many fields within it, which I think would make every workday new and exciting. It’s important for me to find a job that I enjoy.

What was the most rewarding part of the BUFTA experience?

The most enjoyable experience was meeting all the teachers and students. They were so nice and welcoming, and they really made the process enjoyable.

What is your favourite film genre and why?

I enjoy science fiction films like Interstellar, Resident Evil and The Hunger Games. I like this genre most as it doesn’t feel too far from reality. I enjoy seeing how technology and governments could go bad, and watching people fight themselves out of bad or dystopian situations.  

Executive Dean of the Faculty of Society & Design Professor Derek Carson, 2021 BUFTA Winner Ryan Thwaite, and Director of Film, Screen and Creative Media Dr Michael Sergi

What was the inspiration behind Veronica?

I admire the style of the scary stop-motion films made by Laika and Tim Burton. As opposed to other animation companies, they use puppets, and make all their props and settings by hand; you can tell a lot of artistic thought goes into every little element. I took inspiration from these films to create the overall look of my animation.  

How long did your film Veronica take to make from start to finish?

I started in the middle of April and finished at the start of September. It didn’t seem like that much work when it was spread over a long period. I would just slowly chip away at it for a few hours each day, where I would usually be on my phone or watching TV. There was an entire month I barely did any work on it, until I realised the deadline was coming up — that’s when I panicked and had to knuckle down and get it done. The sound took a long time too because I tried to match a sound effect to every little movement.

What challenges did you encounter producing the film? How did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge was editing in iMovie – when I hit a certain number of video files, the app would crash. I worked around this, however, when I started adding sounds the app overloaded and every single sound fell out of sync. I ended up spending $50 to get a better app called Lumafusion which improved the quality of the film, allowing me to add effects like steam and mist, and to adjust the saturation and brightness of colours.

Besides the technical problems I faced, a big issue was also the time restraint, and that I had to complete the workload entirely on my own. I got faster at animation as I went along by using the technology to its greatest potential and finding innovative shortcuts for each stage in the process.

Do you have any advice, tips and tricks for future BUFTA entrants?

Yes! Once you’ve finished your film, get your family and friends to watch it and give you feedback. Make sure they can follow what is happening, and that everything makes sense as parts you think make sense may not translate to the screen. Try to make your film short and concise. Cut down the overall time at the end by finding moments audiences may get bored. These were the areas my film fell short and with hindsight, could have fixed.

What are you most looking forward to about starting at Bond University?

I’m excited to have electives that are completely design, art and film oriented, as opposed to high school where you do a broad range of subjects. I want to try everything and see what I like the best.

What is your ultimate career goal?

My ultimate career goal would be to help design and build the settings, props, and costumes on live-action films. I think it would be rewarding to conceptualise things in a studio environment and then to go out and build them for real, seeing the ideas come to life. I’d like to be outside a lot, travelling to different places and seeing different things. At the same time, I’d love to stay in Australia. Hopefully the Gold Coast will become a film hotspot, and there’ll be job opportunities at places like Village Roadshows in the same studios they created sets for movies like Aquaman and Thor: Ragnarok.

Interested in exploring film and television?

Dive into Bond's Bachelor of Film and Television program.

Learn more


Bond University Film & Television Awards (BUFTA) is a short film competition that attracts hopeful young filmmakers from schools around Australia. 

Previous winners have gone on to have their short films selected for the famed New York Shorts International Film Festival, as well as working on renowned films such as Avengers: Endgame (2019), The Bureau of Magical Things (2018), Beauty & the Beast (2017), Dr Strange (2016), and The Great Gatsby (2013).  

Learn more about BUFTA

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