HASS Student-Alumni Mentoring Program is creating opportunities for industry connection and career growth.
Filmmaker Fraser Whitehead (BCreatArts(Screen) ’21) admits he needed help to get a foothold in the screen industry. That help came through the Student-Alumni Mentoring Program (StAMP) launched by Flinders University’s College of Humanities, Arts and Social Science (HASS) in 2020.
In the final year of his Creative Arts degree, StAMP connected Fraser with Flinders graduate and experienced screen writer/director Matt Vesely (BCreatArts(Screen) ’08).
‘I developed a script for a short film in the final year of my degree, and Matt pushed me to apply for a Helpmann Academy grant to fund the film,’ says Fraser. ‘Matt is an established figure in the film and arts industry, and it was great to have his name on my grant application, showing his support for my project.’
BUILDING CONFIDENCE AND KNOWLEDGE
StAMP connects final year arts students with Flinders alumni who are willing to share their advice, knowledge and experience with the next generation of graduates. Mentors help prepare students for their chosen career by increasing their confidence and knowledge. The mentors also help them understand the culture, opportunities and challenges of their intended profession.
‘I knew I wanted to earn a living as a professional in a filmmaking art department, but I also wanted to write and direct my own films – I didn’t know if doing both was feasible,’ says Fraser. ‘Through discussions with Matt, I realised it was possible to pursue both trajectories and he has helped me to realise this dream.’
After a successful start in 2020, the program leapt ahead this year with a remarkable 37 StAMP relationships – an increase of 60%. It features mentors across a broad sweep of arts industries, from acclaimed authors Alan Tucker (DipEd ’75, BA(Hons) ’74) and Emma Maguire (BA(Hons) ’11), to film editor Veronica Buhagiar (BCreatArts(Hons) ’15).
Fraser’s mentor Matt is a writer/director with local award winning film collective Closer Productions – a group formed by fellow Flinders alumni. His film System Error was selected for New York’s Tribeca Film Festival, and he has worked as a story producer on SBS’s The Hunting and written for the ABC’s Aftertaste.
Having now mentored several students, Matt says being involved in StAMP has been incredibly rewarding. He has enjoyed providing advice to young filmmakers and has found it directly benefits his own work.
‘It’s really useful for a mentor to view it from a business perspective – I’m always interested in the next wave of talent to work with,’ he says. ‘And doing the mentorships in a structured way with Flinders means you can put clear boundaries on your time and make sure it fits into your work schedule.’
KICKING OFF CAREERS
Matt says being a StAMP mentor forms the basis of a lasting relationship, and he is especially pleased to see Fraser’s career continue to grow. He encourages current creative arts students to join the program.
‘As a student this kind of experience is invaluable and a great way to kick off your career,’ says Matt. ‘The film industry relies on networking, and this is a great opportunity for students to do that.’
Fraser agrees. Along with launching his first short film Deep Six earlier this year, he has worked as a Set Decoration Assistant on The Tourist – a TV series streaming soon through BBC/Stan.
‘I got the role on The Tourist through Art Director Gareth Wilkes – I had volunteered on his short film a few months earlier and he was kind enough to offer me my first job in the industry,’ says Fraser.
A DIRECT LINE TO INDUSTRY
‘Providing mentees with a direct line to industry helps them understand elements of job-seeking and professional conduct that are hard to simulate in the educational environment,’ says Matt.
‘When I was a young filmmaker, I remember how vital and invigorating it was for me to be able to talk to local, more experienced filmmakers. Those informal mentorships were incredibly formative for me.’
‘I now want to give back and continue that cycle of support.’