OUTBACK TOUR: How to Make a Documentary From The Comfort Of Your Air-Conditioned Car


If you know anything about Outback NSW, it’s hot. Damn hot. Particularly in summer. So anyway, it’s summer, and I’m in outback NSW, and yes, it’s hot. Damn hot.

Also, if you know anything about making films – which is part of what the NM Outback Tour is all about (I’m collaborating on a mysterious documentary, to be released in April 2020, while also combining that with some New Matilda touring) – you’ll know that it requires being outdoors quite a bit.

I’m working on the film with a very talented young Aboriginal film-maker, Kai Davis. Earlier today, we encountered the very problems mentioned above, while filming outside Broken Hill in the far west of NSW.

It was very, very hot. And there were a lot of flies.

But if you know anything about modern film-making – and also a bit about Kai – there’s almost always some way around life’s discomforts. Here’s a sneak peak of how a modern film gets made.

For the tech heads, I worked as the Associate Producer on John Pilger’s Utopia documentary. In order to get aerial footage of Central Australia, John had to hire a helicopter from Alice Springs, and send a camera crew up into the clouds, all for about 15 seconds footage in the final edit. You can probably imagine the bill.

Nowadays, aerial footage is captured with a drone (which will set you back about $3,500) which produces high quality 4K footage… well beyond the broadcast quality that you’ll see on commercial television, for a fraction of the price and the footprint on the environment.

We shot Utopia in 2013, just six years ago. Modern film-making has come a long, long way.

Chris Graham is the publisher and editor of New Matilda. He is the former founding managing editor of the National Indigenous Times and Tracker magazine. In more than three decades of journalism he's had his home and office raided by the Australian Federal Police; he's been arrested and briefly jailed in Israel; he's reported from a swag in Outback Australia on and off for years. Chris has worked across multiple mediums including print, radio and film. His proudest achievement is serving as an Associate producer on John Pilger's 2013 film Utopia. He's also won a few journalism awards along the way in both the US and Australia, including a Walkley Award, a Walkley High Commendation and two Human Rights Awards. Since late 2021, Chris has been battling various serious heart and lung conditions. He's begun the process of quietly planning a "gentle exit" after "tying up a few loose ends" in 2024 and 2025. So watch this space.