Adelaide filmmaker Henry Thong is turning heads for all the right reasons. Passionate and focused, this young creative has been gaining momentum since he began producing film and video content five years ago.
“I’ve always enjoyed visual storytelling,” Henry tells me, explaining how as a kid he collected Marvel comics and loved to draw his favourite superheroes; “The house was perpetually covered in doodles and sketches.” In high school, this interest developed further as Henry delved into various online content. “TV shows, films or YouTube videos were my modern day lullabies – to both the dismay and amusement of my parents.” Henry explains that over time, the medium of film became integrated into his day-to-day life, and was a constant source of inspiration. A high school film class cemented this passion, as Henry recalls, “I realised that Film was what I wanted to be my life’s work.”
After high school, Henry took his filmmaking education into his own hands. “All of my technical skills (as well as much of my knowledge about film theory) I learnt by studying my favourite filmmakers’ practices and processes”. Using a combination of YouTube tutorials, guidance from other filmmakers and creation of his own content, Henry gained a plethora of skills; “I learned how to operate a camera, use different lenses, light my scenes, and edit and process my films.” He also admits, “the audience feedback is another harsh but appreciated teacher.”
Henry then tells me about his YouTube documentary series, Makers Who Inspire. Having always been passionate about art and the creative process, Henry explains that the series stems from his love of creative expression, and that it “just made sense” to produce a documentary series focused on art, the creative process and those who practice it.
At the heart of Makers Who Inspire is the hope that it raises awareness about the inherent value of art and creativity. Henry wants the series to highlight the fact that “art in all its shapes and forms can and should be considered an invaluable part of our daily lives. So often these days you hear skepticism about art’s value in our society.” Henry is clearly passionate about this cause, telling me about the disheartening budget cuts that are occurring across Australia and the US. “Funding cuts to organisations that support and showcase the creation of art are happening more and more.” Henry understands that simply seeing a piece of art can be “too abstract of an experience” for some, and so he introduces the artist behind the works in Makers Who Inspire. By sharing the stories of artists, Henry believes he helps people “appreciate, understand and connect” with the artist and their processes.
Henry feels truly lucky to have worked with some of Australia’s most fascinating and thought-provoking artists in the series, including Peter Drew (the genius behind the Real Australians Say Welcome poster installation that you’ve no doubt seen around town), contemporary painter Ellie Kammer, mural artist Lisa King and theatre director Geordie Brookman. For Henry, the artists he works with in the series are a major source of inspiration. With every episode he produces, Henry “learns something new about being an artist and living the creative process. It’s really inspiring to find and work with other creators who are also striving to achieve their dreams and ambitions.”
Henry is dedicated to ensuring each episode is of the highest possible quality; “it’s important to me that the production value and cinematic quality of these films be the best they can be, so we pull out all the stops to ensure that’s what happens.” Henry is currently busy completing Season 2 while also preparing for production on Season 3, set to be released early next year. “I’m quite excited for it,” he says. “The series will continue to feature South Australian makers, but will increase its footprint. I have grown both as an artist and an individual and Season 3 will capture that.”
It is clear that while Henry is one exceptionally busy guy, he enjoys every minute of what he does. On top of Makers Who Inspire, Henry also works at Adelaide-based production house Those Creatives. When asked what his work entails, Henry replies “almost everything!” and describes his role as “being a Henry of all trades and a master of one.” This multi-faceted role has accelerated Henry’s learning; “I dabble in marketing, give insight to business development, interact with clients, break the business model, and there are many opportunities to learn and develop new skills.”
Among Henry’s impressive career highlights so far include winning the 2013 International Youth Silent Film Festival’s regional for his short film The Girl in the Camera. The film was then entered in the festival’s International Awards, held in Portland, Oregon in 2014. “I travelled to the US to attend and won the International Grand Prize.” Also in 2014, Henry’s documentary Urban Exploration was awarded Best Documentary at various Australian film festivals, including BUFTA and the ATOM Awards. In 2015, Henry produced his next short documentary, titled Content Censored with She Shi and Josh Warry. The film “examined the effects of censorship in the media following the Charlie Hebdo attacks and Sony Pictures cyber-attack, and the three of us travelled between Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Los Angeles and New York City to interview Hollywood producters and renowned editorial cartoonists.” The film’s world premiere was at the 2016 St Kilda Film Festival; it then went on to screen at other festivals, such as the San Francisco Frozen Film Festival and Noosa International Film Festival.
Henry is clearly a talented and driven young creative. Through all of his successes, his goal remains simple and humble; to continue telling stories worth telling. Henry simply wishes to continue to “capture the narrative of my generation” and leave a positive mark upon the wider world. He hopes to distribute his work on multiple viewing platforms, hoping a wide audience will, in turn, inspire people to go for their own dreams.
All images supplied by Henry Thong.