Writer/Director Jerry Grayson is a helicopter pilot-turned-filmmaker. He spent eight years flying for the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, a role that culminated in him being awarded the Air Force Cross by Her Majesty the Queen for outstanding gallantry in Search and Rescue. He talks about flying back over the scorched land he filmed for THE EARTH WINS, a unique Australian-made documentary which opens at IMAX Melbourne Museum on 29 August.
A core premise of our film THE EARTH WINS is that if you view any given subject from a different perspective (in this case from the air) then there is the potential to form entirely new opinions.
Flying over the forests between Kinglake and Marysville was a sobering experience in the week following Black Saturday. However high we flew, the lifeless brown woodlands still stretched to the horizon. There was still a form of beauty to be found in the way that the hillsides resembled the rough hide of an elephant head, and we still refer to this shot as the "hairy hill".
'The hairy hill' - a view from the air of the forest between Marysville and Kinglake in the week after the Black Saturday fires.
But if there was ever a scene that justified the phrase "a dreadful and terrifying beauty", this was it.
Four years later, almost to the day, I couldn't resist the opportunity to fly over the same hills once more and to record the way that the landscape had changed in the interim. As we crested the ridge at Kinglake I was horrified to see that the only change had been a change in colour. Vast forests of dead brown trunks were now vast forests of dead grey trunks. The hamlet of Kinglake West was almost unrecognizable to me in the way that new roads had been carved and new buildings erected. I gave up trying to find the remains of the house from which the chimney had been so lovingly preserved and transported to Melbourne Museum.
But for tens of kilometres beyond the human footprint the forests were as dead as they had been when we were shooting for our film in February 2009. Only an odd stand of trees here and there gave any clue as to what had once been.
The forests between Kinglake and Marysville four years after Black Saturday.
But then a wonderful thing happened as we simply altered our perspective from the oblique to the vertical. Almost hidden at the base of the towering grey trunks was a carpet of new green life; huge and luxuriant ferns providing shade and water catchment for the young trees that would soon overtake their deceased parents.
Tree ferns springing back to life after bushfire.
The experience gave me pause to consider the very essence of what THE EARTH WINS was always designed to convey, that just a tiny variation in one’s perspective or viewpoint can result in an overwhelmingly different conclusion.
If our film succeeds in illustrating how different some things can seem when viewed from a different angle then I will be very happy. See the film, share your thoughts with me at www.theearthwins.com. Did it move you, your partner, your mate, your parents or your offspring to view anything from a slightly altered perspective? Go on, make my day!