Filmmaker Damon Gameau on His Obligation as a Storyteller

The writer, director, actor and 2023 Visionary Awards winner for the Arts talks to T Australia about the end of passive content and the role of activism in filmmaking.

Article by T Australia

Damon Gameau 2020 (1)2023 Visionary Awards winner Damon Gameau.

Between the endless streaming networks and increased access to filmmaking technologies, it’s a great time for storytellers. According to the director and actor Damon Gameau, such access necessitates an even greater level of social responsibility.

“We have such urgency on so many key existential issues facing us as a society,” says Gameau. “We do have an obligation as storytellers to make sure that the stories we’re putting out there are accurate and discussed and collaborated on with other experts in the field.”

Gameau wrote, directed and performed vocals for the winning film at Tropfest 2011, “Animal Beatbox”. But it was his first feature as a director, 2014’s “That Sugar Film” — which explores the side effects of a high-sugar diet — that put his name on the map. It secured him a Best Documentary gong at the AACTA Awards and became the highest- grossing Australian documentary at the cinema of all time.

Gameau subsequently published a book and established the profit-for-purpose organisation That Sugar Movement to help individuals develop healthier eating habits. “There’s not much room for passive content anymore, I think it needs to be active,” says Gameau. “It’s not enough just to wake people up and remind them of something. You’ve also got to help them take action and do something about it, as opposed to just watching it passively and then flicking on to the next thing.”

He repeated the approach with the release of his next films: “2040”, in 2019, and “Regenerating Australia”, in 2022. A hybrid documentary feature, “2040” examines what the year 2040 would look like if the world were to embrace the best solutions already available to improve the planet. “Regenerating Australia” follows a similar format, painting a picture of the country in 2030 if the current wishes and hopes of its people were realised. To support “Regenerating Australia”, Gameau has established an impact campaign that includes a financial fund designed to bolster and help scale community solutions. “We’ve crossed this point where sustainability is enough,” he says of his emergent regeneration movement. “We’ve done so much damage now that we actually have to repair, not [just] sustain our ecosystems.”

Gameau was invited to speak at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit in New York, has addressed governments and commercial organisations, and was the New South Wales nominee for Australian of the Year in 2020. “In the arts and culture space, he is a definite leader,” says the Visionary Awards judge Matilda Brown.