Before Struggle Street premiered on SBS, writer-producer Marc Radomsky expected some controversy from its depiction of the hard scrabble lives of the disadvantaged residents of Mount Druitt.
Even before the three-part documentary went to air, Radomsky says he wasn’t prepared for the extreme “level of vitriol” from right wing commentators, the tabloids and other critics.
Radomsky will speak about his experiences at an Ozdox forum, The Ethics of Documentary Filmmaking, chaired by director/producer Rod Freedman at AFTRS Theatre on July 9.
Among the other participants, Jennifer Peedom will reveal how she felt dealing with unexpected and foreseen deaths in her films Sherpa, Solo and Living The End
I Am A Girl’s producer/director Rebecca Barry, who is completing her thesis on the process of consent for documentary filmmakers, will speak about a life-threatening duty of care decision she faced.
Blue Lucine will talk about her film A Thousand Suns, which tackled the subject of children being held in detention.
Radomksy was hired by Keo Films Australia head of programming David Galloway to write and produce Struggle Street, which was inspired by Skint. Produced by Keo Films UK for Channel 4, the first series of Skint examined the long-term unemployed in the former steelworks city of Scunthorpe and the second focussed on the denizens of the fishing port of Grimsby.
SBS and Keo Australia chose to film in Mount Druitt, Radomsky says, as an area that typifies the Struggle Street that can be found “on the edge of every city and community in the country.”
As the program made clear at the outset, the producers did not set out to portray the whole of Mount Druitt as a troubled area.
“We looked at a disenfranchised community, people who are doing it tough,” he tells IF. “We built up trust and we were welcomed. People there wanted to tell their story.
“We wanted to show what people go through every day, but they do it with dignity and stoicism. It’s quite amazing.
“We knew it would be controversial but we never expected that level of hype and noise and vitriol, especially from people who had not seen the show but were getting angry about it. As soon as it went to air the balance of the show spoke for itself.”
He felt fully vindicated when the three episodes reached a total of 3.275 million people nationally on SBS.
At the Ozdox forum Radomsky, who was an anti-apartheid campaigner in his native South Africa, will also reflect on his 2011 ABC documentary series Outback Kids, which followed traumatised white and indigenous youths undergoing a radical behaviour modification program at a rehab facility south of Darwin.
He expected that program would be even more controversial than Struggle Street proved to be, and attract high ratings, but he was wrong on both counts.
One reason may be the remote location of the facility and its patients, compared with the metaphorical Struggle Street which, he says, “is just around the corner from everyone.”
He concludes, “I see my job as a storyteller/activist who tries to find common humanity.”
OZDOX: THE ETHICS OF DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKING
WHEN: Thursday July 9 â€¨6pm refreshments – 6.30pm forum starts.
WHERE: AFTRS Theatre, Entertainment Quarter, 130 Bent St, Moore Park NSW (Discounted parking after 6pm.)â€¨
ENTRY: Suggested donation $10 / $5 Concession