Little indie filmmaker from Campbelltown taking on the world

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The way Daniel Fenech tells it he and Matt Formston really bonded during the shooting of a corporate video a few years ago.

Formston is the star of The Blind Sea, a documentary film that’s a finalist in this year’s Sydney Film Festival.

Fenech wrote, directed and edited the film, along with his partner Erin Fenech, who was the executive producer for The Blind Sea.

The Fenechs are also proud Campbelltown residents.

A few years ago, they established Brick Studios, a film production company.

This is a big year for them, with The Blind Sea following the release of Christmess, which was shot around Campbelltown.

Christmess was a popular success, while Matt Formston’s awesome performance in The Blind Sea – a blind surfer tackling the world’s biggest waves – is on another level.

Not that Daniel Fenech was surprised.

“This guy is like a massive overachiever,’’ he says when we sit down at Seta’s Café in Dumaresq Street, Campbelltown to discuss how the film came about.

“I was working in-house for Optus at the time as a producer.

“One of their ambassadors was a Paralympian and I did a little three minute corporate video about him.

“We kind of bonded, we both made it like it was bigger than Ben Hur, and we had a lot of fun making it,’’ says Fenech.

“I got to understand his story, and he put his trust in me, and at the end of it I said: Matt, this story’s is really cool, you should think about making a movie.

“And a few years later, he switched from being a Paralympic cyclist to a world champion surfer, and he calls me up – we stayed in contact over the years – to say: I am ready to tell my story.

The film poster features Matt Formston. TOP: Daniel Fenech on set.

“And I said, oh, I am a director now, let’s have a crack.

“So, because of the little video we built a relationship, and the foundation for what became The Blind Sea,’’ says Fenech.

The Blind Sea is about a blind surfer who ends up tackling the world’s biggest waves at Nazare in Portugal.

So we asked Fenech how all that works out, without giving away the ending of course.

“We had discussed really early on before we got started, – obviously Matt’s blind – how we’re gonna make a movie about him,’’ he explains.

“I watched a lot of movies blindfolded, to understand what a blind audience is like, what’s difficult, what’s great.

“It’s very easy to get disorientated so I changed how I edited the film in order for a blind audience to be able to enjoy the film.

“Matt sees in his peripherals; he can make out shapes and outlines. So when he meets you he will recognise your outline.

“One thing I can tell you is he’s pumped about The Blind Sea.’’

And how did Nazare came about, taking a blind surfer to a place with waves that can literally kill?

“Matt was very realistic about his ability and wants to ride big waves, but Nazare was not on his agenda, it’s dangerous,’’ says Fenech.

‘We had a terrible couple of winters, big waves weren’t coming, so it was no other option in the world but Nazare.’’

Six weeks after shooting for The Blind Sea finished someone did die, a pro surfer who had tackled Nazare for years and years.

“We almost lost somebody, too,’’ says Fenech who is still pinching himself that his film will be part of the Sydney Film Festival.

“To be invited to the Sydney Film Festival – to make a film is like a bucket list for me – so this far exceeds expectations.

“To be up against documentaries all over the world, top 10 finalists for documentary of the year – for a little Indie filmmaker from Campbelltown to go toe to toe with them is incredible,’’ says Fenech.

The world premiere of The Blind Sea is scheduled for next Tuesday, June 11 at two screens in Event Cinemas Sydney.

And there will be a special Campbelltown premiere as well, “to look after our local community’’.

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