/News 31.08.23


Star Sandford is a Ngarrindjeri woman living on Kaurna Country in South Australia. She talked to the South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC) about her recent experience completing a Producer Attachment on Warwick Thornton’s new feature film The New Boy.

Star got her start in screen in 2021 through an internship program run by the SAFC and South Australian community television broadcaster Channel 44. She went on to become the station’s Production Coordinator and was Associate Producer for their First Nations created and hosted talk show Mob Talks.

Behind the scenes of Channel 44’s Mob Talks, photo by Brad Halstead

In 2022 Star undertook a Producer Attachment on Warwick Thornton’s latest feature film The New Boy, working alongside producers Kath Shelper for Scarlett Pictures, Cate Blanchett, Andrew Upton and co-producer Georgie Pym for Dirty Films. Filmed in the picturesque farmland settings of Burra, South Australia, the SAFC-supported film had its world premiere at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival and has gone on to receive critical acclaim around the world. Set in 1940s Australia, The New Boy tells the story of a First Nations orphan boy (Aswan Reid) who arrives in the dead of night at a remote monastery run by a renegade nun (Cate Blanchett). The boy appears to have special powers that challenge the mission’s own take on Christianity.

The SAFC is committed to supporting the upskilling of First Nations screen creatives as part of the agency’s First Nations Screen Strategy. Find out more on the SAFC’s website.

How did you get started in the screen industry?

After completing my Bachelor of Creative Industries through the University of South Australia, I applied for the First Nations Internship program offered by the SAFC and Channel 44. Once I completed my dedicated hours for the program, I stayed on with Channel 44 as a volunteer. About six months later I was offered a part-time position as their Production Coordinator. Since then, I have been working on my skills to become a Producer, which is my career goal within the industry.

What do you love about working in the screen industry?

It is the creativity and the entire process of creating a product for the screen that I really enjoy. Whether you are creating a feature film, a documentary or a television series, being a Producer means that you are involved with every department of the film and are completely along for every step of development with that project – I love that!

You recently participated in the SAFC’s Attachments Program to complete a Producer Attachment on Warwick Thornton’s new feature film The New Boy. What was that experience like?

It was an amazing experience! I will admit, working on a feature film and being away from home was hard, but that is also part of the job. Working on the set every day was incredible. We all became a big family unit, and the atmosphere was really fun. We were working with the kids [child actors] every day, so their energy brought something to the set that we all fed off of. This was my first major on set experience, and it was incredible to be a part of. I am grateful that I was given that opportunity; I learned so much from the Attachment.

Warwick Thornton with the child actors on The New Boy, photo by Ben King

What did a typical day look like for you on set? What sorts of jobs did you do?

Most days I would travel with the kids, and we would go through the scenes that were being filmed. We would ask the kids if they knew their lines and do read-throughs so they would understand what they needed to do. Every morning we travelled to the wheat field. Seeing that monastery and church from a distance, with the golden sun rising and beaming across the wheat field, was such a sight. I was always in awe when we travelled to location. On set I would observe how the crew prepared for the scenes and do the setups, then we would bring the actors on and begin filming. My tasks involved working with the kids and shadowing the producers Kath Shelper, Georgie Pym and Andrew Upton, assisting them where needed. The mentoring I received during my time with the filming of The New Boy is invaluable.

How did you find working with the team of producers?

They are all incredible people, very dedicated to their craft, and collectively have created an amazing film. I feel very privileged and honoured to have worked with them all, and everyone else on set. I am really appreciative of the guidance and knowledge that these incredible people gifted to me. Their mentoring will assist me in becoming a better producer.

What was your biggest highlight working on The New Boy?

Those kids! Working with those kids every day was a fantastic experience to be a part of. Watching them grow, be in front of the camera and become best mates over the duration of the film was beautiful to witness. I miss them and I hope they are all doing well.

What was the most useful or surprising thing you learned during your attachment?

The most useful thing I learned during my attachment was really understanding what a producer does, which comes down to people management and helping everyone be on the same path. I learned many important lessons from my Attachment, and it truly is going to assist me with my career.

Why do you think the SAFC Attachments Program is important for First Nations screen practitioners?

The Attachments Program offers opportunities to those within the industry that are underrepresented, particularly First Nations creators. These programs give filmmakers a platform to express their creativity while being mentored by industry professionals within their selected field. I have personally found the Attachments Program to be extremely valuable, and it’s opened doors for me and created real opportunities for my career.

Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years?

Wow, 10 years, that feels so far away but will also come around so quickly! In 10 years, I hope to see myself more established in my field and happy with ongoing work. I would like to have worked on more projects, developed my skills, and made a name for myself. Getting the opportunity to work with more people is where I am heading, and I hope in 10 years’ time I will have achieved that.

Who do you look up to in the Australian screen industry, and why?

The people I look up to are the people who have helped me the most in my career. The whole team at Channel 44 are continuously mentoring me and giving me opportunities to expand on my skills and knowledge. I also really look up to producer Kath Shelper – the advice and guidance she gave me during my attachment on The New Boy was amazing. I am very appreciative and grateful that I was given the chance to work with her, and I hope our paths cross again in the future.

Star Sandford behind the scenes of Channel 44’s Mob Talks, photo by Brad Halstead

Do you have any advice for up-and-coming crew members, especially First Nations practitioners, who are considering applying for an attachment?

Be honest about who you are as an emerging practitioner, where you want to go with your career, the skills you want to develop and what your goal is in your particular field. Attachments are fantastic opportunities to get experience with the film production process, be on set and witness how everything is developed, but Attachments are also a great chance to build your own network and make connections within the industry.