What this 15-year-old filmmaker learned from making a film about tiger parenting

Find completing your schoolwork a struggle? Imagine how hard it must have been for Ewan Peter George Windebank, who had to balance filmmaking with his studies

Joshua Lee |

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The Recital focuses on the affects of “tiger” parents.

Filmmaking can be stressful and time-consuming, but Ewan Peter George Windebank says getting to see the ideas in his head become a reality on screen makes it all worthwhile.

The 15-year-old Rosaryhill School student’s love of storytelling led him to set up a 15-member cast and crew to produce a seven-minute short film, The Recital.

The drama depicts the mental and emotional turmoil faced by a student who has so-called tiger parents – strict or demanding adults who push their children to be successful at school.

The film took about six months to complete, and was submitted to the 2018 Tropfest Film Festival Australia, one of the world’s biggest short film festivals and Australia’s most prestigious short film competition.

Ewan entered The Recital into the category for young filmmakers aged 15 and under, the Trop Jr. While he didn’t make it into the finals, Ewan says he learned a lot.

The inspiration for the film came from seeing what tiger parenting did to a fellow classmate.

Ewan says he'll use the skills he had gained from the experience of making The Recital for next year’s Tropfest.
Photo: Ewan Peter George Windebank

“One of the kids I knew went through all sorts to [get good grades]. I thought she was crazy – she was trying to get [the grades] through force. Then,” he adds, “I got to know her and I realised she had a really strict parent. If she lost marks in tests, she’d get [punished].”

Last August, Ewan had a spark of an idea for the film and he jotted it down in his notebook. He later wrote a script and, using professional filming equipment borrowed from a family friend, he started filming in December.

“The last film I made was with my mobile. To go [from that to this] standard of production quality was insane,” he says.

Ewan had never used such equipment before, so he had to learn on the job. “It was literally trial and error – on set I would try things, and if they didn’t work, I would try a few more things.”

As a result, filming didn’t always go to plan: “We filmed a scene for about an hour, and then we realised we hadn’t turned on the mics, so we lost [all of this] footage. That was not a great moment!”

After three days of filming, he had to edit the footage. “I would leave school at 5pm, arrive at the studio at 6pm, and work on the film until midnight,” says Ewan, who lives on Lamma Island.

The Recital addresses the strain and stress of being the child of tiger parenting.
Photo: Ewan Peter George Windebank

“My mum would be going crazy because I would miss dinner and catch the 12.30am ferry home. I’d be getting back at 1am, and then I’d have to be up to catch the 6.20am ferry [the next day].”

After he finished editing, he felt a huge sense of relief, but “the journey was all worth it”, Ewan says. His biggest thrill was seeing how a note on a sheet of paper became an actual film.

“It’s nice seeing the ideas in my head come [alive on] the screen, and people enjoying it.”

Although The Recital did not win any awards, Ewan says he would use the skills he had gained from the experience for next year’s Tropfest.

He says a lot of people enjoyed watching the film, but because Tropfest entries can only be a maximum of seven minutes, he wasn’t able to make it the way he originally intended.

“I personally feel this film is bad,” he says. “This is a shortened version; I made an 11-minute film, so lots had to be cut [for Tropfest]. The original idea didn’t really carry across.”

Ewan says he plans to continue making films, and hopes to pursue a career in the industry. He says the experience taught him one thing – to be flexible while filmmaking. And he urged aspiring filmmakers to follow his lead.

“You should always be open to ideas,” he says. “Focus on how you can be more fluid with [your] story. The more fluid you are, the better it can be.”

Edited by Ginny Wong