Sea Rogue to screen at film festivals around Australia.
Filmmaker Matt Blythe lost his best mate to a boating accident in 1997, so when he came across the story of an Angourie deckhand’s heroic efforts to save his friends after a disaster at sea, it hit home pretty hard.
In the early hours of February 27, 2008, the prawn trawler ‘Sea Rogue’ capsized and sank 16 kilometres off the coast of Byron Bay. The three men aboard, deckhands Michael Williams and John 'Jojo' Jarrett and skipper Alan 'Charlie' Picton, all surfaced and spent the next five and a half hours clinging to a tub before Williams decided to swim for help.
Blythe’s film Sea Rogue tells this story, from the moment the trawler sank to the point when Jarrett was rescued more than 30 hours later and Picton was tragically lost. Skilfully, powerfully, it does it in just over eight minutes, combining animation with live-action footage as well as spoken word poetry as the narration.
Williams narrates the poetry himself, which is drawn from his 2018 book (also called Sea Rogue), and for him, there’s a sense of accomplishment in getting the story out there to a wider audience through the film.
‘It’s good to have been a part of it,’ he says. ‘It’s good to keep the story going for Charlie.’
He’s also full of praise for Blythe’s work bringing the story to life.
‘He’s unbelievable what he’s done,’ he says.
Blythe admits he was drawn to the story both because he could relate to it and because of its power.
‘I came across this story about Mick and ‘Sea Rogue’ and I thought, Oh my god, this is the story,’ he says.
An experienced hand in the film industry, having worked on major productions like The Great Gatsby and Narnia, he spent 12 months making Sea Rogue and screened it for the first time in front of a large audience at the Port Shorts Film Festival in Port Douglas in October.
Not only did it leave the 900 people in attendance transfixed, it was also awarded the Jury Prize by a judging panel that included actor Stephen Curry and Wolf Creek producer, Matt Hearn.
‘That’s really satisfying as a filmmaker,’ Blythe says.
He believes the story resonates with people not only because of its strong and relatable themes but also because it highlights how vulnerable you can be at sea when things go wrong.
‘Once people watched it they went I never want this to happen,’ Blythe says. ‘This sort of thing happens and you’ve just got to put everything in place to make sure people are as safe as they can be.’
Blythe admits the film will eventually be available for free online, but before then he plans to screen it at a number of major film festivals, including Sundance.
He also plans to show it next year at Picton’s home town of Yamba.
It’s a screening both he and Williams are looking forward to.
‘A lot of the local people knew Charlie,’ Williams says. ‘It’ll probably be a bit emotional.’