Bondi Artist Profile |

Article by Rohan Stephens,


Meeting a successful person can be a moving experience. The ability to learn from the lives they’ve lead the mistakes they’ve made and the opportunities they’ve taken can in turn harbour our own aspirations in a similar field. Being the impressionable young man that I am, I like to gravitate towards these people in the hope that feeding off their excellence will some how help in my own personal endeavours. So far, to no avail.

Meeting a person who is on the cusp of excellence is something different. Its like what I assume buying a Warhol print before he died would be, or purchasing Apple shares just before iPod’s were released; this sense of impending greatness that isn’t justifiable just now but you can feel it in your gut that its going to happen. David Joshua Ford is this to a tee.

Interestingly, one of the first things I discovered about David’s early life before we met, was the fact that he grew up without a television. Probably not that significant of a loss to most, but for a budding director this places him in a highly unique position amongst most people of his age. As opposed to approaching the media from the, for the lack of a better phrase, ‘Americanised’ perspective that most seem to have experienced, David’s lack of exposure to such a structure for film and television means that his vision is still somewhat unadulterated. Like I said, rare for a man of 27 years.

ionbondi2An undergraduate from Charles Sturt and a recent graduate from Directing at the renowned AFTRS (Australian Film, Television and Radio School) obviously means he isn’t running around the world oblivious to the last twenty years of cinematic achievements, however it still seems to place him a distinct category of his own. His attention to narrative and character development for example is reflective of this early and unusually high exposure to literature in the absence of a television. His meticulous fascination with people and their relationships with not only each other but with the world in which they live is something that can only be likened to the plot of a brilliant novel.

I first heard of David after reading of his submission for the Bondi Short Film Festival in 2010. His documentary “Lillie” depicts the world of a four-year-old girl, contrasting her relatively sheltered upbringing against the fragility and trauma of her mother’s childhood. The portrait covers three generations of women who pull together to form an eclectic family unit in the absence of their men. David was intrigued by Lillie’s natural candour and wanted to explore the sense of wonder that a child holds for the world.

Other notable projects of his include his contribution to the Fanging It travel series on ABC2 and a self-produced documentary titled Children With Hope filmed in Mozambique and broadcast on pay TV in Australia bad overseas. More recently, David presented the Channel 31 music program, Scout TV.

ionbondi3David’s talents also transcend genres with a striking collection of travel photography accompanying his achievements in film. Trips to South East Asia, Africa, North America and Europe have been captured by this ability of his to apprehend certain emotions and experiences so vividly in his work; not simply to record the sights one sees whilst on holidays which is a trap most travellers with a camera tend to fall into.

Sitting with David in Gould St, was like sitting with a friend dreaming about what’s going to happen once school is finished or uni is done and all the options that lay ahead. Listening to him talk about his work was not dissimilar to hearing an artist describe the meaning of a painting; there just constantly seems so much substance to what he does. Calling his future ‘bright,’ seems too cliché a word for such a unique person. Blindingly iridescent may be more fitting for David is that Warhol painting. Watch this space.

For more information please visit David’s website

Original article at


The sheet sticks to her skin like an unwashed floor. She blows her palms but it only pushes humidity. Take-away Thai hangs in the air and the clock hand pounds. She waits, apprehensive. She waits for her mobile to illuminate the dinge. Silent at the foot of her bed, its corpse eye threatens to snap open as soon as she looks away. Her foot slides across dated magazines as she rolls off the double bed. At the mirror she smears lip balm and sheds her clothes on her rack of shoes. She flicks the fan on high. It sparks and coasts several revolutions to a halt. With a hiss she swipes it to the floor and crashes face down into her pillow.

Green dash lights illuminate his frown like a stage production. Across the front lawn, saplings billow and curtain the house. The building sleeps but for the bathroom window. He shuts the driver’s door softly, locking it manually to avoid the pips. Ceiling stars glisten. Crickets are silenced by his footsteps across the grass to the front steps. He splashes water on his face from the garden hose and slips through the rickety screen door.

Suspended in glass, she strokes her way to the reef bed. Shoals of fish brush her skin as she winds her way though seaweed swaying to the sweeping waves. Surface space; blinding. Salt air crashes into her lungs. He stands on the dune, his lone figure silhouetted on blue sky. Treading water she waves, but he remains static. He must be facing the mountains, she thinks, and calls his name, but her cry is drowned on the waves and the stifling off-shore wind. She sets out for the beach. With each stroke the breakers remain distant. Her body aches as it strains the current and limbs grow heavy. The figure remains frozen on the dune.

His eyes gradually adjust to the ambience as he shuffles down the burgundy Persian rug that lines the hall. The skin of his arm tingles on her cashmere coat, hanging on the inside the corner of her bedroom door. Beads of sweat sparkle and collect down the line of her back. The moon carves its highlight across the deranged sheets and the dimple of her spine. He sits in the shadows at the foot of her bed – he sits on her phone. Pulling it from under him, he checks the next alarm, cancelling the 5:30am due in 2 minutes time. Though a mop of brown hair covers the pillow, he knows the angst written on her face. He reaches for a strand and twines it through his fingers. His absence for days at her most vulnerable could have been avoided. He dare not touch her skin. He would not be able to explain. She stirs; he freezes. And backs off her bed.

The heatwave encroaches from all sides. She wakes wet and burning, rolls to the dry edge. At the kitchen tap she suckles water from her hand.  Suddenly the ticking of the midday clock catches her ear. She stops.

He had come.

An interview with the director of Lillie



Interview with the director of Lillie, David Joshua Ford
An unpublished interview with a local magazine about my documentary Lillie (now published!)  Watch | Facebook

Q. Can you tell me a little bit about your short documentary Lillie? What is it about and what inspired you to follow the life of this family?

Lillie was the flower-girl at a wedding I photographed last year. She has a natural openness with people that translates down the lens, the likes of which I typically see in children in countries like Mozambique or Brazil rather than Australia. I knew she’d be great on film and I wanted to explore the sense of wonder and intrigue that a four year old has for the world.

Lillie’s mother Pam and grandmother provide the backstory with amazing depth and honesty. I think the film’s strength is in contrasting Pam’s own traumatic experiences as a child alongside her daughter’s un-shattered world. It’s a family portrait of three of women, minus the men in their lives, and shows how difficulties that permeate down generations can be overcome by a supportive family member. I really love this little film and Lillie herself is just fantastic!

Q. What hardships or creative struggles do you face as a filmmaker, when you choose to tell a story via a documentary as opposed to say, a more fictional narrative device?

Generally I think documentary is easier than fiction! Certainly so on a production level, because we accept the naturalism of the documentary style and this becomes a strength in areas like budget and production design.

The hardest aspect I find is the censure I place on myself as filmmaker. People assign great trust to me in the intimacy of the closed interview and I want to know the assembled film respects that. We’re dealing with representations of actual life, not an actor’s portrayal. It’s what makes documentary-making so wonderful – that there is inherently truth in the ordinary. It’s a bit like a parent sending their kid off to school for the first time though – I want people to know how amazing my subjects are but I also want to protect their life stories.

In that sense, fictional film is liberating because it allows your mind to wander and create scenarios (like I did for another of my recent films – a Bollywood musical). But it’s just a matter of finding the right tool for the job, and it gets interesting when the two forms start to blend.

Q. As a filmmaker, how do you deal with the time constraints placed upon you in the short film category? Do you find short films inspire more creativity and encourage filmmakers to find innovative ways to tell a story?

You have to be very concise in determining what the core of your story is in short form. As the creator, I learn more about the story than what ends up on screen. It’s challenging to try to approach the story with fresh eyes (like the audience does) and ask ‘is this segment essential to understanding the story and characters or can it be cut because it’s self explanatory?’.

It can be hard too when you have to cut some gems from the film because they are superfluous. For instance, we have one scene where Lillie quite spontaneously eats some flowers, calling them “flavour nice”. “Flavour Nice” became an expression amongst our crew to describe everything from our lunch to our stationary, but the sound bite didn’t make the final cut because there was other material that supported the story better.

Q. You’ve had so much success and experience as a filmmaker/producer/presenter. For you, what’s unique about the Bondi Short Film Festival (BSFF) that sets it apart from others?

Well personally I appreciated walking to the Festival because I’m a local! Bondi is an amazing area to live in and the beach venue was a great backdrop for a film festival.

I also like Francis Coady’s (the festival director’s) initiative to keep all content Australian. It must be very tempting to include buzz films from places like Europe, but there’s a consistency of voice when you gather story-listeners to story-tellers of the same nation. It felt homely.

Q. Film festivals have become so central to the cinema scene here in Australia with events like Tropfest putting filmmakers on the map. How important have you found these festivals to be in helping up and coming or even seasoned filmmakers find an audience, or even perhaps, create a unique space where independence and creativity is encouraged?

There’s something special about film festivals. In one sense their audience base is tiny compared to broadcast mediums, and yet their significance as an art form seems heightened by the act of gathering together for the event. It’s like the effect of hanging a picture on a white wall in a gallery – it focuses a group of people and starts a discussion.

Festivals are more for kudos than a money spinner. You enter them because you have an idea you want an audience for, or to meet other industry people or just because you’re passionate about making great films and want creative expression.

Q. Your thoughts on the winner of the BSFF?

Happenstance was a great film. It’s main strength was that the script was tight. I liked the casting choices, there were some wonderful subtitles in timing. It’s a very “Tropfest” film (off-beat humour with a twist and an end punch), so it was good to see it get some acclaim at Bondi Short Film Festival.

Q. Do you have any links to the local Bondi area that I could use to help localise our focus on you as a filmmaker?

I just finished Directing at AFTRS. I made an Indian-Australian musical using a house location at Dover Heights on the cliffs overlooking the ocean. I’m currently living in Bronte and have been in Bondi for the three years prior. I used to present a music show on Channel 31 which was produced out of Vaucluse. Centennial Park is the only place I feel “at home” in Sydney (I was born in Canberra). If you want to know more feel free to give me a call.

Q. Anything else to add?  


Watch Lillie

See Lillie on Facebook…

Official Selection Bondi Short Film Festival 2010
Official Selection Dungog Film Festival 2011

Carry Me

Find me
Carry me forward
that I may carry you also
In my frailty
Wrap your body round me
as I wrap you in mine

I need an ally beyond
this modern discontent
A feeling state from past-time
An arena where hand held mine
And tender hearts beat beat
Nudging you and I
out to face the rest of them

I lie
Warm and comforted
Cold and terrified
Displaced and unaware
of the nearness of your thoughts

Make it easy for me
In this social disenchantment
Make it more than an educated hope
that you still remember
The time I carried you home

Sun, Surf and Cinema

The 10th annual Bondi Short Film Festival cemented its place in the festival calendar last month, with sell out screenings and a swanky award ceremony hosted by The Chaser’s Chris Taylor.

John Marsh took out best film honours for his production Happenstance. Bondi filmmaker David Ford rounded out the list of 14 featured films with his documentary Lillie. Ford echoed the sentiments of many when he said Bondi Shorts had come of age.

The festival has cultivated a reputation for showcasing independent home-grown cinema in a region quickly becoming a hotspot for budding writers and filmmakers.

“The beach was a great backdrop. I also liked the initiative to keep all content Australian. It felt homely,” Ford said.

Sydney-based director Christopher Kezelos took out two awards, for best script and best design, for his stop motion animation, Zero.

“This was my first year at Bondi Shorts and I was pleasantly surprised,” said Kezelos. “It really showed the big boys how a festival should be run.”

Zero has scored accolades at film festivals around the world for its unique design aesthetic and compelling narrative. A staunch advocate of short films, Kezelos likes the time limit.

“I think it forces you to create a tighter story,” he said.

Swedish-born director Tobias Andersson collected the best cinematography award for his film Pop. Set in the Snowy Mountains, Pop takes a poignant look at the relationship between father and son.

“The story is inspired by my own childhood and joining my father for rabbit hunts in the north of Sweden,” said Andersson. “We rarely caught anything when I was with him and I couldn’t help feeling it was because of me.”

Now settled in Bondi, Andersson is familiar with Australia’s film festival culture and how it inspires both competition and camaraderie.

“It wasn’t so much about the competition but more about meeting your peers.”

Author: Sheenal Singh
Posted: Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Original Article >


n’t even have t
he memo
ry of an ex love
r to fill the gap
ing hole t
hat needs secure
ity and the reassure
ring touch that the
re is so
meone in this mess
y, confuse
sing world that love
s me, knows me, a
nd would cry if I did
n’t come home to
night. W
hat should I Do


I wish that you were stronger
That hearts could bend, not break
To stay a little longer
And see what we could make

Germinate this friendship seed
Buried under words that bleed
From a calling crying heart
Branded by your mark

You spoke in just a whisper
The last I heard was silence
Open spurn is crisper
Than withdrawn cold defiance

And so I enter knowledge
Of a place already known
Through old letters forage
With none to call my own

Why must I sit in exile
Anna don’t you know
My heart is slow to travel
My trust needs time to grow

I wish that I were stronger
To know just who I am
Reveal my heart as fonder
And grasp your parting hand

In Your Eyes

In your eyes I see your smile
Photograph speaks a
Gentle heart un-presuming
Not needy for attention
But seeking connection

With my eyes closed
I see yours open
Baby-wide with innocent regard
Black-lined blue set on
Oyster pearl

Behind your eyes I feel I know you
Or wish perhaps to trust you so
And from the inside
Look out through your eyes
See how you see my soul

Beauty is a Choice

Perhaps it reflects an unfulfilled desire. Given I’ve really only had about one or two failed relationships, I wondered how on earth I settled on making a film about love.

The film turned over in my head as I lay in bed the night before the shoot. The culmination of five months of hectic development and preproduction boiled down to an uncanny stillness, like the serene lapse in activity just before you board an international flight: with all preparation finalised, you just enjoy the inflight movies (assuming you have enough legroom). That things are moving smoothly can be unnerving.

In the darkness I reflected on my choice of subject and style over various years and projects – in my writing and storytelling, my photography, films, in my poetry. I realised beauty was a recurring theme in my worldview, and henceforth, my creative outlets. It’s something I look for: a desire for life and relationships… to be wonderful.

One of the film school staff criticised this aspect of my work during pre-production. We were talking about image creation. One of the images in my film was a minimalist, pristine backyard: glass railings around a deck with an infinity pool on Sydney Harbour’s southern headland. My Indian protagonist was standing at the glass railing on the edge of the cliff, looking out to the ocean.

She challenged me to put my Indian girl in shabby clothes rather than make her look beautiful. The teacher made the generalisation that my photographs are “too beautiful” and I should look for contrast instead. I think I was more intrigued by what seemed to come across as an evaluation of my instincts rather than an embellishment to a film – someone who had seen my films and photographs and found them wanting. Superficial perhaps.

I understood what she meant, though felt misrepresented. In my film, I was constantly trying to pull the drama of the love back into the characters’ weakness rather than strength. I hate untested romance; I hate sentimentality devoid of actuality.

The analogy I gave to my actors was that as the son of a rich white man, the Australian male character was the “King”, with all the power, wealth and security that Sydney’s eastern suburbs entail. As the immigrant about to be deported, the female character was the powerless peasant girl.

To stay where he was and expect her to come to him would present him as selfish and arrogant, given her circumstances. The king had to step down from his throne, leave his “crown” and entitlements, and meet her where she was. He would win her, not by being the all-conquering Australian male bulldogging his way through, but by exposing his heart and insecurities and by making himself as vulnerable as she was. For when she is deported and they are thousands of miles apart, their strength to continue to pursue love had to come not from his money or privileged position, but from their emotional investment, the entwining of their hearts (to borrow from the film’s title) and the knowledge that each had sacrificed their world to pursue the other’s.

I am not unaware of the ugliness of this world. I have seen marriages fall apart, the powerlessness of teenagers hating and destroying themselves, youthful idealism die, careers blow like chaff.

I’ve travelled to places where people live in extreme poverty and are torn apart by conflict. The Brasilian favela that I lived in during 2007 was unpretty, yet filled with beauty. It was a hard and dangerous life and the police were the enemy, but it contained people who made the time a delight. I don’t want to romanticise the favelas much more than that, for as an outsider I can dip in and out of these experiences… suffice to say: beauty can always be found if you choose to see it.

Insights about oneself are interesting because they often counter expectations. Beauty as a recurring theme in my work is one I’d personally reject to some degree in a media culture super-saturated with the portrayal of perfection… in body image, lifestyle, relationships, finance, property, attitudes.

Yet the pursuit of beauty is not a bad objective. It just depends on what you prioritise as “beautiful”.

It’s like a man’s love for his woman (he says in his grandfather’s voice…). It’s easy to say he should love her above all else, but what action does that love take? She’d like you to have a healthy body, but I think maintaining a buff bod is a little further down the list of importance than connecting with her emotionally. I know people who have damaged their relationship because their pursuit of the perfect body has tapped into their partner’s insecurities and pushed her away.

Even moments of death, when your world is ripped apart, can contain beauty, should you maintain that perspective. This poem about my grandfather’s passing last year reflects the paradox of such events.

I think we need beauty – true beauty. The capacity to choose to remain tender whilst heartbreak rages.

The pursuit of beauty carries with it the ability to transcend the world’s present state – not to deny the existence of its imperfections, but the optimism to strengthen our passage towards the dream: the way things could be.


Back to back they sat in wind-whipped sand, beating hearts to bumpy spines. Her brown hair streamed and stung his cheek. Twisting his elbow, his hand found its way to her lap and she met it with locked fingers.

His thumb stroked absently back and forth across her knuckle until she squeezed his hand gently.

Stop thinking.

I’m trying, he answered. The waves crashed. Do you think it will ever pass?

She dropped his hand and swung around to straddle his lap. And what if it doesn’t? Her brown eyes penetrated his, leaving him childish. He tried to hide under his usual cheery composure, but not today.

Today his heart ran thin and he dropped back into the sand. Grains pressed into his hair and down the collar of his sweater and he didn’t care. His gaze diverted to the shoreline, despite burning to level with hers.

She sized him up from above. Her man. An oversized boy. She bent down, arms folded across his chest, her nose and inch from his cheek.

Her warm breath contrasted the ocean breeze, commanding attention. He returned from the shoreline to her wide eyes, so close his focus was soft. The weight of her body pressed into his and he received it.

I don’t know how to word it.

She felt him pulling away again. I know. Or else you would have said it already. She took the palms of his hands in hers and pinned them to the ground above his head in surrender.

I don’t want to be like this…

I know that. Her eyes remained steady on him.  And it’s ok. She nudged him sideways and he lay on top.

She faced him squarely. Patiently. Presupposing nothing. And with those constant eyes he was knocked breathless, until he had to sit up. Not to escape to the shore again, but to comprehend what lay before him.

It doesn’t bother you?

I don’t like it. But I understand it’s there.

With those words, he felt the first of it begin to seep from him. Unresolved. But it drained from him unresolved like a swing-set unraveling its twisted chain.

She brought his head to her breast and held him as his tears ran wet and unawares to him.

And the weight of his body pressed into hers, and she received it.

Sometimes a yearning enters me, like an illuminating bubble that soap-shines and sparkles energy into an otherwise too-familiar grinding drive to stack box upon box, deed upon deed, believing that someone will love me through these words. But writing is my lover, my solace; patient with my idealism, delighting in my childlike take on the world. Writing is my mentor, the one who expands my capacity to imagine a future worth living.

Sometime Beautiful

something beautiful
it’s something real
the time i fall apart
you will roll me into one

you took me by my knee
a touch that broke my lips
vacant stare was cracked and
racked with breath reentering there

laid between layers
subject to another’s will
infant aged dependent still
waiting, waiting on sometime

somehow i will hold
somehow i will stay
and some times will remain
though alltime be removed

frozen space illusionary real
truth of past that passed me now
yet captured in believer’s eye
will never fade, will never die

liquid space the vision of past
heralds history best not forgot
that who i was now who you are
and greater still you’re called to be

v-wake legacy disperses, see
river rapids raid my velocity
now failed motor carried on current
to a shore beyond my rudder’s reach

sometime is coming
sometime will not relent
same steady progression on all
takes and makes that vacant stare

but held and touched and loved and cared
will heal the tears inevitably due
will make sometime beautiful
make sometime richer between me and you

Sweet To Me

You will always be sweet to me,
for I met you and know you as sweet.
Whatever confusing messy turns your life takes
I know your heart glows for truth and goodness,
however stained and remote it may feel.
You are walking the dark side
but not as a wanton child.
Rather, you’re experiencing the world in its stark reality
And painfully building a new language
that will give expression to a faith
that is complex, deep and compassionate.