Filmmaker Stefan Hunt has been thinking a lot about death this year.
“We’re all going to die,” Stefan tells me, and as both obvious and morbid as that shitty fact of life sounds, it’s the one sentence that changed everything for him. But he’s far from the brooding, melancholic creative you may be picturing right now. In fact, the Sydney born filmmaker immediately exudes the kind of happiness that spills over into his work, resulting in a perfect mix of childlike playfulness and beautiful craftsmanship that’s defined his highly distinctive style.
Stefan says that although he grew up mucking around with VHS, his sights were set on being a primary school teacher because “kids are way more fun than adults.” But then he and a mate decided to go on a trip to the States in their gap year, buy an ice cream truck and film their trip. It was a decision that would set Stefan on both the film festival circuit with the resulting Surfing 50 States film, as well as a career path he’d never even considered.
“Like most kids in high school in the early 2000s, me and my friends thought we were going to be the next Tension or Jackass,” he says. “We decided to film the trip, to show our grandkids one day and show everyone when we get home. The film is so rookie and I cringe watching it, but there’s something so genuine about it; so much naivety. It really set me on my path to realising I could do it for a living.”
Walking the fine line between commercial jobs and philanthropic projects like short films My Magic Mum and Sammy the Explorer have kept him fulfilled in the years since, but two years ago crippling anxiety struck out of nowhere. “I’d never had it in my life and it came about and everything came crashing down,” he says.
At a friend’s suggestion, Stefan started writing to address his anxiety and ended up with a poem titled We’re All Going to Die, that would birth a project of the same name that’s been his main focus for the better part of a year. “I realised that all these fears that I had that were completely controlling my life didn’t actually matter that much, because I’m going to die someday and so is everyone else around me,” Stefan says.
This small poem has snowballed in a big way, and thanks to a crowdfunding campaign which quickly reached its $30k goal and the round-the-clock efforts from Stefan for months on end, We’re All Going to Die Festival and its epic lineup now reads a little something like this. Artists by the likes of Land Boys, Nathaniel Russell, Jody Barton, Georgia Hill, Ozzie Wright, Otis Carey, Ben Brown, Nadia Hernandez, and Mia Taninaka, a mini film festival featuring international award-winning directors like Smriti Keshari, Russell Brownley, Genevieve Bailey and Sam Kristofski, death meditation, a panel discussion by Tom Tilley, bedroom grooves by Groove Therapy and Retrosweat, and so much more.
All the artists and collaborators involved answered a call to produce a piece that, put simply, was about kicking fear in the nuts. Not the sharks and spider kind of fear, but the intangible ones. “It’s the fear of judgement of what other people think of us, or rejection, or the fear of failing if we took that risk trying to pursue something,” Stefan explains. “Maybe you quit your job to chase your dream… that fear that just paralyses us and puts you in a shitty place in life.”
And it’s that fear of failing Stefan’s had to battle all year long in his efforts to get We’re All Going to Die off the ground, but after all his hard work he’s now emerged victorious, and on November 17th, Sydney will be treated to an amusement park for the soul at COMMUNE in Alexandria. His daily exercise in ‘practicing what you preach’ has finally paid off.
“I had so much fear about this project because I realised I’ll have to say no to jobs, I won’t get hired or have money, then I’ll end up living on the street and I’ll be that crazy guy running naked down the street,” he laughs. “But if I didn’t do this project, why should anyone else listen to this message?”
So do away with cheesy affirmations and subscribe to the Stefan Hunt way of doing things. Buy yourself a ticket to the first (of hopefully many) We’re All Going to Die Festival for the extremely reasonable price of approximately one cinema ticket. And just remember, we’re all going to die anyway, so why not have a bit of fun before kicking the bucket?