Murdoch graduate Joshua

How I became a filmmaker

Joshua Lee, Media Studies + Video Production

A little about me

I’m Josh and I’m a documentary filmmaker. I studied a degree in Media Studies (hons) at Murdoch – now the Bachelor of Creative Media in Screen Production – and an Advanced Diploma in Video Production, before going on to complete a Masters in Documentary at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School.

I now have over ten years’ experience working in production. My documentary directing credits include A Dollar for the Good Ones and Pain is Temporary, Pride is Forever, both of which won Best Documentary at the WA Screen Awards. I also made The World Film Project, which focuses on sustainability and was filmed throughout Central America and Asia, and A Guide to North Korea, which is about the fledgling tourism industry in that country. Most recently, I spent two months working in Java after being awarded the 2020 John Darling Fellowship for ethnographic filmmaking.

I have predominantly worked for myself since graduating, which has been immensely fulfilling. I’ve had opportunities to work around the world in places like Egypt, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Cambodia, Indonesia and North Korea. I’ve worked on events, commercials, online content, corporate films and of course, documentaries. I’ve also had the opportunity to work with Indigenous communities throughout Australia.

I’ve had a rewarding career so far, and I’m excited about what lays ahead for me.

Why I chose a creative arts career

I have always loved documentaries. I spent my breaks between lectures at Murdoch watching the entire back catalogue in the library. However, it was Murdoch’s documentary unit, which was run by Martin Mhando, that finally inspired me to choose a career in documentary production.

The content was fascinating and I was introduced to many documentary filmmakers, such as Dennis O’Rourke and Bob Connolly, whose films profoundly impacted me.

I’m really proud of my latest film

The Fathering Project is the culmination of a three-year research project on the topic of masculinity and fatherhood. I was interested in documenting the implementation of a support program for fathers in Armadale that is run by The Fathering Project in WA, looking at the impact that community-building can have on struggling fathers.

Coming from a fatherless home in a low socio-economic area myself, I was interested in understanding why the statistics around suicide, depression, addiction, and incarceration are skewed so heavily toward men with similar backgrounds.

The film was recently broadcast by the ABC and I was overwhelmed by the support I received for the film and its topic. I feel privileged to have been granted permission to tell this story and I’m glad it has resonated with so many people already.

How my course made a difference

Aside from gaining practical and production experience, Murdoch gave me the capacity for critical thinking and research. I’m always drawing on these particular skills in my work.

My proudest achievement as a student

Completing my first documentary, A Dollar for the Good Ones. It seems to have made such a huge impact on people. Even now, ten years later, people message me about the film and the impression it has left on them.
Martin Mhando’s documentary course at Murdoch really changed my life.

I started my career before I left uni

I made A Dollar for the Good Ones while I was still at Murdoch, and it played in festivals all over the world. I also made a film during my honour’s year called Super Detox Me.

It was great to have been granted the freedom to embark on two really ambitious projects during my time at uni.

My advice for the next generation of film students

Use your electives to your advantage. I branched out and took some incredible units outside of my chosen discipline, which really broadened my perspective. My favourite units included Environmental Studies, Environmental Politics, Economics, and Cultural Studies.

Also, try to appreciate your time at university. It’s such a fun and intellectually stimulating environment and you are free from a lot of the pressures you face later in life, so make the most of it!