Alumni News Articles

Give it a go

13 April 2015

Give it a go

It's National Youth Week and the theme for 2015 is 'It starts with us'. Genevieve Clay-Smith, 2015 NSW Young Australian of the Year, saids 'changing the world doesn't look like one person changing the lives of millions of people".

"It looks like millions of people changing one life at a time. Changing the world starts with each of us thinking more broadly about how we, as individuals, can make the world a better place in our immediate spheres of influence. 

No matter what industry you are in, you can change someone’s world, you can make a difference.

I came from humble beginnings, raised by a single mother in working class Newcastle, I had no intentions of becoming a filmmaker or a social entrepreneur. I didn’t think I was capable of much, in fact, I vastly underestimated my potential. In fact I didn’t know what I was capable of until I tried stepping out and taking risks.

For me, I wanted to change my industry, the film industry, simply through including people who wouldn’t otherwise, have the opportunity to participate in filmmaking. I found out that I didn’t have to be special or talented to do this, I just had to give it a go and not listen to other people’s opinions or my own self-doubt.

While I was at University I found work as a documentary filmmaker for Down Syndrome NSW and while working in this capacity, I met Gerard O’Dwyer, a young man with Down Syndrome, who’s dream it was to become an actor. When I first met him, he made it very clear, he didn’t greet me with hello, he greeted me with “…But soft what light through yonder window breaks, it is the east and Juliette is the sun…” and the rest.

Through Gerard’s life he had been vastly underestimated, who was going to help him achieve his goal of acting? As I pondered this question, a bright idea entered my heart,  a miracle, why don’t I make a film?

So I did. And on this journey of making a short film starring Gerard, I was ethically driven to also include people with disabilities in helping to make the film too.  I believed the process of making the film, was just as important as the end result. If we were making a film about a person with a disability, it needed to be made with people with disabilities too. So, I held a filmmaking workshop in my friends lounge room, for five people with disabilities who then fulfilled crew roles on the film. 

That film was Be My Brother, it won first place at Tropfest in 2009 and Gerard walked away with best actor. It was the first time that a film made by people with disabilities, about people with disabilities had won a mainstream film festival competition.

Out of this success, I co-founded the not-for-profit organisaiton, Bus Stop Films, and since then, then, we have made 6 inclusive films, all made with, for and about people from marginalised communities. We hold weekly filmmaking workshops, provide work experience and employment opportunities for people with a disability in the film industry.

It just took one leap of faith to make a film,  and the rest is history.

My message to all young people with an idea, is give it a go,  you’ll never know what you’re capable of until you try". 

2015 National Nominee Young Australian of the Year

Genevieve Clay-Smith

Film maker and social entrepreneur

While other young filmmakers chase fame and fortune, Genevieve Clay-Smith uses her skills to help people facing barriers to inclusion.  Through her not-for-profit organisation, Bus Stop Films, which ...

View Honour Roll profile for Genevieve Clay-Smith