• Thomas Wilson-White wanted to capture the every-day lives of queer people living in Sydney. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
'Voice Recordings' is a short doco series exploring the quieter queer point of view in a post-plebiscite Sydney.
By
Samuel Leighton-Dore

29 Mar 2019 - 3:40 PM  UPDATED 29 Mar 2019 - 3:40 PM

For documentary filmmaker Thomas Wilson-White, the opportunity to create three short films for Heaps Gay and City Of Sydney was both a cathartic and connective experience.

Tired following the demands of 2017's same-sex marriage postal vote, Wilson-White, who is based in Jervis Bay, tells SBS Sexuality that he wanted to "explore a more reflective queer point of view", one anchored in the day-to-day mundanity of a "post-plebiscite Sydney".

"We'd been fighting so hard during the marriage equality debate, there were such huge stakes," he said. "Afterwards there was a comedown and I felt exhausted, as did a lot of my queer friends. I was craving an alternative to these big political statements, something quiet and more human."

He continued: "I craved the chance to ground myself in the really familiar similarities, the things that we have in common with our allies and straight friends

Putting a call-out on social media, the 27-year-old took a non-traditional approach to creating the films, titled Voice Recordings, choosing to keep his subjects faceless and focus instead on the intimacy of their respective voices and thought processes.

"I would send them questions and they'd use the voice memo app and send me recordings," he says. "Once I'd gotten the answers, I interpreted each response into its own visual poem. I wanted to capture those slices of life - the mundane stuff.

"That day-to-day stuff is what interests me. We can have a voice outside of the huge movements."

On the relative anonymity of his participants, Wilson-White says he found a strength in avoiding all binaries and challenging the usual format of queer digital content and storytelling.

"I want to be as inclusive as possible and not have queer content be this impenetrable thing," he says. "I wanted my dad to be able to watch them and appreciate what we have in common - that was my engine for the series."

The three subjects, Zindzi Okenyo, Tamara Natt, and Chelsea Thistlewaite, each had existing relationships with Wilson-White, making the process a comfortable and trusting one.

"I wanted to connect with them authentically," he tells SBS Sexuality.

"It's lovely as a queer man to be able to make queer work for his queer friends and have them feel represented and seen."

When it comes to queer film-making, Wilson-White is adamant that documentary is vital - grounding queer stories in reality, rather than digestible characters and plots.

"I think the difference with narrative work is that you can dress it up and 'jazz-hands' it a bit, possibly diluting the message," he reflects.

"I think people need to see the literal queer story as it is. I craved that as a kid and I still crave that now, to be honest.

It's all about connecting, he says - truly hearing one another.

"How do we actually listen to one an other? Because it feels like it's getting harder, ironically, to hear each other in this day and age. How do we have diplomacy and compassion in the way we make our work and conduct ourselves in the world, even though there's so much to be angry about?"

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