The 9 year-old who went from camp attendee to award-winning filmmaker

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday
Budding young filmmakers at a Camp Australia program partnership with LEGO and StarTime have made it through to a Children's International Film Festival screening in June.

When nine-year-old Stella attended a summer holiday program through care provider Camp Australia, she didn’t realise the creative activities she was encouraged to take part in would lead to her becoming an award-winning filmmaker a few months later.

But as one of more than 9,000 children across Australia who participated in Camp Australia’s ‘LEGO Create Day’ where they were challenged to work independently, or in teams to sculpt their own LEGO universe; building cities, characters and setting the stage for epic tales to be told in a stop-motion film, that’s exactly what has happened.

Last month, some of those films – created as part of an ongoing partnership with Camp Australia, LEGO and creative edutainment specialists StarTime – premiered at the Rocketeers Film Festival where 14 awards, including Best Film, Master Builder Award and the Pure Joy Award, were presented.

These awards recognised the technical skill and craftsmanship demonstrated by the young creators, and the creativity and innovation that lies at the heart of each film. The winning films will also be shown at the Children’s International Film Festival (CHIFF) – a curated line up of the best new children’s films from across the globe – in Melbourne and Sydney in June 2024. 

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Award win inspires dreams of an artistic future

For Stella, having her stop-motion movie The Scared Koala awarded the top prize in the Heartfelt Storytelling category has improved her self-confidence and reignited her aspirations of being an artist, says her mother, Sara.

“I love encouraging her creative side and seeing her passion and enthusiasm in her projects. I just love seeing her little face light up when she is doing what she loves,” Sara told EducationDaily.

“It comes so naturally for her and is amazing to watch. She’s truly talented and I believe that talent should be nurtured. I was truly proud of her, and I was so happy for her to see her potential. Especially getting that encouragement and recognition from someone other than your mother is going to enforce those achievements.”

When she images a potential future as an artist, Stella says she thinks being able to “express your ideas to people when you draw on books, paper or whatever you have lying around your house” would be exciting.

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Winning the short film award, she says, “made me me believe that I could actually win competitions”.

“I’ve never won a big competition before,” Stella told EducationDaily.

“I took my inspiration from the characters and the accessories that they came with, especially the carrot guy! The hardest bit was taking the photos and the animation of the characters. Both of these parts felt like they took a long time.”

Winners from this year’s Rocketeers Film Festival will have their stories screened at the Children’s International Film Festival in June.

Small films on the big screen

“Children from around the country have combined hands-on play with digital storytelling to bring to life fun and memorable stop-motion films, building invaluable skills for their future,” says Senior Director and Head of Marketing at LEGO Australia and New Zealand Justine McKenny as the partnership that has helped inspire a new generation of storytellers.

For parent Cathryn Coyle, who moved from Wales to Western Australia 11 years ago with her husband, she says participating in the competition helped invigorate a love of creative play for sons Olly (8) and Ellis (6).

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“I love seeing them reenacting and building upon events that they’ve experienced throughout the day. They are both loving superheroes at the moment, which you can see reflected in their stop-animation. Here I was thinking it’d be about sport!”

“We believe in the value of learning through experience. With this in mind, our Rocketeers vacation care team has crafted a program that ensures no two days are the same,” says Camp Australia CEO Warren Jacobson.

“The Rocketeers Film Festival is the perfect way to showcase their achievements and these incredible films!” 

“This project was truly transformative for the young creators,” says StarTime CEO Lindsay Moss.

“It enabled them to unleash their creativity and bring their imaginations to life through the integration of physical creativity with digital technology.”

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]