Jude Kalman, documentary filmmaker, Gold Coast

 I am using my experience and skills in production to make an impact that empowers humanity

Jude Kalman is a Gold Coast-based documentary filmmaker who also runs a successful production house, Little Drum Pictures. Jude’s newest project, Red Dust Challenge, is having its world premiere at the Gold Coast Film Festival on Saturday April 29. Ahead of the festival and her film’s premiere, we spoke to Jude about filming, directing and editing a documentary feature in the Covid era, her thoughts on the booming local film industry and what she’s looking forward to seeing at the Gold Coast Film Festival.

We’d love to start by learning more about your career beginnings! What enticed you to enter the world of documentary filmmaking?
I have had a fun and diverse career in production for over 20 years. My entry into documentary filmmaking probably came about from my own burn out and wanting to help a friend. I wanted to reinvigorate the love I had for production and storytelling so I reached out to my friend and asked if I could visit their charity in Zambia and make “something” for them. The result, travelling across Zambia, Malawi, Swaziland and Nigeria created my earlier documentary Uncontained Love.

Your documentary Red Dust Challenge follows a group of mates as they travel across the harsh landscape of the Simpson Desert and in communities throughout Australia in a bid to raise funds for disaster relief project Global Care. How did you hear about this story and what enticed you to make a documentary about it?
It seemed like a perfect creative challenge! I have been a volunteer for Global Care occasionally over the years and when Andy Backhouse (Global Care Australia)  invited me to film the bicycle ride across the Simpson Desert, the answer was yes! In the year we filmed, Global Care was celebrating their 25-year anniversary. Andy and I talked about telling a story that celebrated the 25 years and, for me, the challenge of making an adventure documentary about a desert bike ride, which also had a social cause, was compelling. I love that sort of stuff!

Red Dust Challenge was produced during the lockdowns and uncertainty of 2021–2022. Can you tell us any challenges you faced while filming a documentary during the Covid era?
Global Care has initiatives all across Australia but COVID lockdowns limited our filming in the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales, and sometimes we got caught in border closure issues. I won’t give away what it did for the adventure part of the story but it totally changed the original ideas I had. I actually think that worked for the better!

Your production house, Little Drum Pictures, creates content for charities, not-for-profits and social enterprises. Why was it so important to you to spotlight the work of Global Care in this documentary?
It’s my “why” for Little Drum Pictures. I am using my experience and skills in production to make an impact that empowers humanity. Spotlighting charities like Global Care who are caring for people every day is important. They need their story told because stories connect us, teach us and inspire us. If we can’t do something for humanity ourselves then, at the very least, we can choose to align ourselves with, or support financially, charities or social enterprises who are doing something we care about.

Your film is a part of the Local Filmmaker Focus strand of the festival. How important is it that Gold Coast Film Festival is providing this platform to highlight the work being done by locals?
It’s so important! The Local Filmmaker Focus is a platform where people can be discovered, it’s getting behind local talent and celebrating them. It is creating a narrative for future filmmakers to rise up and become they filmmakers they aspire to be.

Australia, and in particular, Queensland, is reeling in some huge international film projects at the moment. What does it mean to now have such a spotlight on the film industry in Southeast Queensland?
My whole career has been built on working on one job, connecting with people and creating more work. There is so much happening in Southeast Queensland in terms of production, which is fantastic because I believe it has the potential to create more work.

There’s a bunch of world-class Australian and international films gracing this year’s jam-packed Gold Coast Film Festival program. What films are you looking forward to seeing?
Polite Society, Bank of Dave, The Road To PatagoniaAgainst The Tide and The Last Daughter are on my list.

Gold Coast Film Festival has a bunch of industry panels, a Women in Film Lunch and the 2023 Screen Industry Gala Awards on the calendar. What are some of the events you’re excited to attend?
I am super excited to be hosting a table at the Women in Film Lunch. My company, Little Drum Pictures, has a table of women from the charity and film sector, hoping to create a space to connect people in the room. While our clients have a story or two, and my company has some skills and experience, we’re keen to connect with options for funding and we’re hoping to network at the event with others involved in factual content and documentary production.

Last but not least, what is your favourite film of all time?
That is a tough question! All-time favourite film!  For someone whose favourite “mental” place, since I can remember is immersing myself into a film and its story, I’m not sure I can answer that one!

To book your tickets to the world premiere of Red Dust Challenge, head here. To see what else is on offer at Gold Coast Film Festival, head to the GCFF website


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