This is the story of how young Aussies defied calls to stay in school and organised one of the largest youth-led movements Australia has ever seen, told by twelve diverse students who vlogged the whole thing. These young people shared their stories of who they are and captured what it took to organise a movement.

Director, producer and writer Rob Innes spoke to Melbourne WebFest about the story behind the 150, 000 strong student strike in March 2019, Youth on Strike! (AUS).

At what stage of the climate strike did you first contact the individual vloggers?

The strike was planned for March 2019, and I started speaking with students and reaching out to people in November and December. It was in the early stages when they were just putting together the initial plans and locking in a strike date after the last strike in 2018, and I was still developing the idea for the project.

Who surprised/impressed you the most out of all the vloggers?

I was most surprised and impressed by Billie in Townsville. She was the youngest of the cast and also the last to join the project. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from her being so young, but after several phone conversations I knew there was something special about her. Billie was a natural storyteller, she took direction really well and was able to tell her story with energy and passion -she’s a power house!

Youth on Strike! Trailer

What was your greatest challenge creating the series? 

The greatest challenge was wrangling a dozen students from different parts of Australia and all their videos and working with them to make sure the videos they were filming were telling their stories. With a small budget, it took a lot of work, trust, hope and downloads to make it all happen!

How important is the message/theme in your series? 

The message is critical. Young people are the future and they don’t have a seat at the table when it comes to decision making on issues that directly affect them. Climate change is the greatest threat to our way of life and our future, and in Australia we have a refusal by our leaders to take serious action.

Overall, how long have you been working on your series? 

I started working on this series in January 2019 and I haven’t stopped. It went from being a passion project I was doing in my spare time with some help from friends, to a funded series with Screen Australia and Junkee Media. I’m now working on the impact strategy and building the audience.

What inspired your series?  

It was inspired by the need for climate action and the movement that was being driven by young people all over Australia. Everything written about the young people was by adults, and I felt that the young people weren’t getting an opportunity to tell their story. Once I started speaking with the students, I realized how incredibly articulate, mature and intelligent they were and so I knew I had to contribute to the movement in some way.

What was your release strategy?  

The series was released on YouTube with Junkee Media in three parts, then featured in the Online Climate Strike in May 2020 and then was released via Junkee’s Facebook page. It is now being submitted to festivals and once the COVID-19 restrictions lift, we’ll be exploring an education program.