Short and sweet: Tafe students fund film via bake sale

A group of TAFE Wollongong students have raised almost $3500 to make their short film, a queer coming-of-age story set in the 90s.

The director of Dear Ocean, I love you, Tamia Herrera, says the crew is determined to make supporters proud.

“Our Tafe teachers call us the Dream Team. Their support really motivates us to make it good,” Tamia says.

“Screen Illawarra was also really helpful. They provided so much support. Everyone over there was rooting for us and for the film before we even started shooting.

“There’s so many people waiting for us to do it and they’re excited to see how it turns out. It’s good pressure. Now we’ve got to make it perfect.”

Alongside Tamia, the film crew is made up of 11 young people from the Illawarra and surrounds. Dylan Deleflie, Maika Shiine James, Raina Shelton, Lily Piper, Chloe Haertsch, Ben Woodard, Joshua Townsend, Jovan Sekilovski, Joel Simpson and Seth Kingma have collaborated to make this film.

“We all met at Tafe. In the second week of our course we heard about the short film competition,” Tamia says.

“I already had a story from high school that fit the brief. In about a month we all came together and reworked it into a new, better story.”

The film features Sabina Salas as main character Fleur, who struggles to accept her queer identity, alongside love interest Cordelia (played by Ashley Fraser) and boyfriend Scotty (Jago Field).

“My favourite shot, we shot two nights ago – this scene where the girls have snuck away from their graduation party and they’re dancing on the beach together. We did it in one take – the actors were perfect – one-take wonders. I teared up watching it on the monitor,” Tamia says.

The team was encouraged to enter Screen Illawarra and Creative Wollongong’s Creative Wollongong Short Film Competition, which invites emerging filmmakers aged 12 years and over to enter an idea based on this year’s theme, “Water”.

Photo: Tyneesha Williams

Dear Ocean, I love you has been filmed and funded locally, with community support helping the emerging filmmakers achieve their goal.

Local businesses including Bakers Delight in Corrimal, Pizza Jet in Corrimal, Rica Pastries in Ingleburn and Sareven Bakehouse in Thirroul provided baked goods for the team to sell at their fundraising bake sale.

“We told them our story and they donated to us very willingly. Over the two days that we ran the bake sale, we raised over $2000 to put towards the film, which was insane from a bake sale,” Tamia says.

“One of our crew members works at Pizza Jet. Her boss was like ‘I want to help this film out however I can.’ He even ended up coming on set one day to be an extra, which was really sweet.”

Piccolo Me from UOW Innovation Campus, Gypsy Jones and Madam Choi provided catering for the cast and crew while they were on set. 

Kathryn Lonze, who owns an Airbnb called The Loft in Fairy Meadow, provided accommodation for the cast during the filming process.

“The actors loved it there, she gave us a really good price. Accommodation would have taken up most of our budget if we were anywhere else,” Tamia says.

Photo: Tyneesha Williams

Coordinated by 18-year-old wardrobe and set designer Lily Piper, the crew was determined to accurately portray the 90s style.

“Everything that we had on set was from Facebook Marketplace or op shops,” Tamia says.

“It was so hard to find a car from the 90s. There was this lovely lady one of the days we were filming. There was three of us teenagers asking to get in her car, and she let us film in it, which was awesome.”

Sydney band Stitcher are producing the 90s rock-style soundtrack, alongside Campbelltown-based duo Vercinia.

“It’ll be really cool making a good soundtrack because stock music is an instant giveaway that people are amateur filmmakers,” Tamia says.

Dear Ocean, I love you will show at Creative Wollongong’s festival screening later this year. The crew hopes to enter the piece into a range of short film festivals and host their own screening.

Anyone who would like to find out more about the film or support the crew through post-production can visit their GoFundMe page

“We’re providing those who donated with a poster once the movie comes out. And we’ll be crediting them in our film because none of it would have been possible without them.” 

Feeling inspired? Entries for 2024’s Creative Wollongong Short Film Competition close on Wednesday, 31 July. There are two categories: ages 12-24, and 25+. Each entry needs to add the key feature of water which can be included as an object, an overall theme, or a location. Find more information here.