Empowering Creatives – The Helpmann Academy and ‘Dragging the Chain’

Virginia Blackwell's Dragging the Chain, supported by the Helpmann Academy

In 2021 writer/director Virginia Blackwell graduated with an Honours in Acting at Flinders Drama Centre. Fast forward 2 years and she’s the winner of a Helpmann Academy Creative Investment Fellowship for her 15-minute short film ‘Dragging the Chain’. We wanted to know more about the story behind the project. 

Dragging the Chain 

Virginia’s film revolves around grief and how we find a way to accept it as part of our lives and move forward despite it.  

After experiencing immense personal loss in 2023, Virginia set out on a quest to find cinematic narratives that mirrored her own journey. What she discovered was a notable absence of films that genuinely and compassionately explore the depths of young women’s sorrow.  

Dragging the Chain is a film crafted to fill this void by delving into the complexities of loss in the life of a young person and stands as a tribute to the resilience found in vulnerability, offering a platform for the voices of young women and pushing back against the stigma surrounding grief.  

Virginia elaborates, “I’m extremely passionate about women getting behind the camera and love sharing women’s stories through the medium of film and television. Unfortunately, there are still a shockingly small number of female directors/writers/filmmakers, and films about women’s lives, feelings and experiences are still sadly few and far between (although thankfully this seems to be slowly changing). 

“We have such incredible stories to tell, and despite this being the first film that I’d written and directed, I was determined to make an ambitious film that amplified a part of the female experience that is often trivialised or overlooked entirely.”  

Virginia Blackwell's Dragging the Chain, supported by the Helpmann Academy
Photo: André Donadio 2024

How the Helpmann Academy supported Virginia throughout her studies and beyond

Along with 4 other recipients, such as Gianluca Noble, the Helpmann Academy has granted Virginia access to a pool of $50,000 to support her self-designed development project.  

“It’s thanks to the Helpmann Academy’s incredible support and belief in the project that my amazing team of creatives and I were able to create this film and share this story. 

I first learned about Helpmann through my teachers at Flinders Drama Centre and I am so glad I did! They have been an amazing support, providing me with the resources I needed to create this project and giving me the confidence to bring it to life, and I could not be more grateful to them!”  

Virginia Blackwell's Dragging the Chain, supported by the Helpmann Academy
Photo: André Donadio 2024

How you can achieve your goals

Winning a Helpmann Academy grant sound inspiring? Virginia’s advice to emerging/aspiring creatives is twofold:  

“Firstly, if you want to make something, take a chance and just make it, even if you’ve never done it before. Don’t let the fear of failure hold you back from making something great. 

“Secondly, don’t be afraid to lean on your community. If you don’t know how to do something, find people who do and ask them to help you. Don’t be scared to reach out to people who you admire, you would be shocked and delighted at how willing people are to help.” 

Dreaming of getting creative yourself? 

Whether you’re into filmmaking, acting or special effects, Flinders offers many Creative Arts and Media degrees. Go ahead and explore which one is right for you! 


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