One shell of a big problem on the South Coast

While people's eyes may glaze over at talk of climate change, film-maker Kim Beamish is hoping a film about its effects on a Merimbula oyster-farming family might wake them up, writes GLEN HUMPHRIES.

For a long while now the Merimbula oyster-farming family of the Boytons have had cameras following them around.

Dom Boyton and his family agreed to feature in a documentary by long-time friend and film-maker Kim Beamish.

The reason? They’re the focus of a climate change documentary being made by a longtime family friend Kim Beamish.

Dom and Pip Boyton are second-generation oyster farmers, running Merimbula Gourmet Oysters.

Film-maker Kim Beamish tapped his friend Dom Boyton on the shoulder to appear in a film about climate change.

They and their two son Sol and Eddie will also see themselves on the big screen sometime soon once Beamish finishes filming and editing.

Beamish is an award-winning Canberra-based film-maker but every six weeks he has been heading south to Merimbula with his cameras to film the Boytons at work.

Beamish said the film – dubbed Oyster – was planned to be part of a bigger project. But once he realised he wasn't going to be able to pull that off, he focused on his old mate Dom.

“I grew up with Dominic, our families are very close,” Beamish said.

“So I used to spend the school holidays down there in Merimbula. We’ve known each other all our lives.”

But he still needed to make sure his friend would be okay with having someone with a camera following them around for days on end.

“I was in Egypt working on my last project but I knew I was returning so I gave Dom a call and told him what I wanted to do,” Beamish said.

“I told him that it would mean that I’d spend a lot of time with him up close and personal with my camera.

“He was fine with that and the Boyton family have been so good in allowing me to be there around good and and indifferent times, things that people possibly don’t always want cameras to be involved in.”

Beamish says trust is a crucial component when making a film like Oyster, and he had it with Dom and Pip and the family because he’d known them for ages.

But sometimes, maybe, there was too much trust. Enough to make the film-maker a bit self-conscious of what he was doing to his mate.

“I certainly feel the pressure of that trust and sometimes filming some of the things that go on, I feel a little awkward,” he says.

“And I won’t film everything - I know my limits and I’ve also said to them, ‘if it’s way too much tell me to bugger off’.

“Initially they told me to bugger off a lot, now they’re more relaxed and they know what I’m doing.”

At first glance, a film about oyster farmers seems a bit of a change of pace compared to Beamish’s previous films.

Before he started work on Oyster, Beamish was in Egypt working on The Tentmakers of Cairo - a documentary detailing the end of the 30-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak.

That film won the 2015 Margaret Mead Filmmaker Award as well as recognition at last year’s Visions du Reel in Switzerland.

He has also made a documentary about 24-year-old Australia Van Nyugen, who was hanged in Singapore for heroin trafficking.

But there’s more to Oyster than just the tale of a family farming a sea-grown delicacy on the South Coast.

For Beamish, the oyster farming is a different way to tell the story of climate change and how it is affecting the livelihood of one family.

“Rather than putting them out there with facts and figures and scientists talking and all that kind of stuff, which people are starting to vague out over, we wanted to bring characters that were a bit more identifiable.

“So a family – a mum, dad and two kids – and how they’re directly impacted by these effects. How the changes in water temperature impacts on the kinds of diseases that affect the oysters.

“And obviously massive death of the oysters comes back to the family in terms of lost profits and wages.”

The Boytons feel strongly about addressing the issue of climate change as it is directly affecting their business.

“Agreeing to be in this documentary wasn’t something we took lightly,” Pip Boyton told Fairfax Media.

“It does make us very vulnerable but I think the message outweighs the awkwardness.

“We need to focus on looking after our waterways, we live in a pristine environment and its our job to maintain it for future generations.”

Getting films made costs a lot of money, which is why Beamish has turned to crowd-funding site Kickstarter to raise $25,000 to help make Oyster.

“The money raised is to match the offer that we’ve been given by Screen Australia,” Beamish says.

"They’ve essentially provided 50 per cent of our funding, but that funding is based on the fact that we can raise the other 50 per cent.”