Upwey filmmaker shines light on road safety

Alex on set of his short film 'A Trial before the King'. Picture: SUPPLIED

By Taylah Eastwell

An Upwey film director launched his career during last year’s extended coronavirus lockdown, having won a TAC short film competition and had his creativity screened as part of a road safety campaign.

Alex Lowes entered a script into the TAC Split Second Film Competition – an opportunity for Victorians aged 18 to 25 to submit a 45-second film idea highlighting concerns around drink driving or speeding. The aim of the campaign is to drive change and communicate peer-to-peer with some of the most vulnerable road users in that age bracket.

When Alex found out he had won, he was over the moon.

“It was really exciting. It was really cool seeing it all come together,” he said.

Alex was awarded $5,000 and given a $70,000 production budget to turn his film idea into reality and have it screened across Village Cinema screens state-wide.

His creative short film puts a “medieval twist on the idea of road safety”, featuring a castle, dragon, and a woman who was caught penning a letter on her shetland pony as a spin-off of the typical TAC distracted driver ads.

“I just thought there would be a lot of humour in putting a medieval twist on the idea, every ad I was seeing was modern and contemporary and I thought it would be cool to do the exact opposite of that,” Alex said.

And it worked, with Alex’s short-film receiving over 250,000 views on YouTube and screening in theatres.

“It was really cool the first time I went to see it in the cinema, I sat up the back and could hear other people laughing during the ad which was really exciting because they were just random strangers and it was the first time I’d heard a reaction from people my age,” he said.

“I’ve been posting my videos on YouTube trying to go viral since I was young, and this is the first thing that’s got significant traction,” Alex said.

Having studied the terms and conditions before entering, Alex quickly realised he could submit more than one entry, and spent two whole days in lockdown pushing out different scripts.

“They picked the last one I submitted at 11pm on the night it was due. They then guided me over coming months to tweak little things. I thought they would take the idea and then I wouldn’t have any more to do with it, but I was very much involved in the process,” he said.

“I really thought we wouldn’t do the shot with the dragon because I didn’t think we’d have enough money but the team was very keen to push it and make it seem like a million dollar budget.

As a freelance film director, Alex used his winnings to self-fund some of his other projects and get them into film festivals.

“The prize money from Split Second was used to fund more of my own stuff and get my current film into more festivals that I don’t think I would have gotten into if I didn’t enter and win the money,” he said.

“I think the main thing about Split Second that I found very helpful is I’ve got a lot of connections now with people who are in the advertising industry and film industry who I can call on if I want advice, and having the prize money was also great to help me fund my own stuff.

Having a young local create the film to shine a light on road safety was timely given two people have died on roads in the Yarra Ranges in the first half of 2021.

A TAC spokesperson said in 2020 eight people died on the regions roads, two of those deaths being people aged between 18 and 25.

“Last year, 155 people were in crashes on Yarra Ranges roads that required hospitalisation, 59 of those crashes involved people aged between 18 to 25 years old,” the spokesperson said.

“Young people are some of our most vulnerable road users, partly because they’re inexperienced and more likely to take risks,” they said.

The Split Second film competition aims to empower young people to connect with peers and send a powerful message about road safety in hopes of saving lives.

The 2021 competition is now open and will remain open until Monday 9 August.. The winning film will be shown before movies at Village Cinemas across the state from October 21 to January 21, 2022.

For more information on the competition, how to enter, and to view past winners, visit tac.vic.gov.au/road-safety/split-second.