Australian actress Kristin Sargent has stepped behind the camera to write, produce and direct her first short-film GO FISH. GO FISH deals with anti-bullying and aims to open up dialogue and shed light on bullying which has become a growing concern.

Kristin has been on both sides of bullying spectrum, as a victim and perpetrator and decided to use her own experience to pen the movie. Teaming up with John Caldwell, (Victorian Australian of the year 2013), the pair have set their sights on schools and plan for the movie to be used as an educational tool on bullying.

Winning two awards at International Short-Film Festivals, GO FISH has left its mark on audiences around the world and effected change along the way. Kristin recently took time out of her busy schedule to chat with Film-News about her hopes for GO FISH and the difficulties independent filmmakers face on a daily basis.

Film News - When did you realize you wanted to make the switch from acting to filmmaking? Was there a specific defining moment?

I can't really say there was a defining moment as in fact I still have big goals on the acting front. Basically, most actors out there know all too well that jobs don’t always appear one after another unless you’re very lucky. So I thought whilst 'in-between' work, why not make a film of my own! And boy am I glad I did.

Film News - Can you tell me about your independent short-film GO FISH?

Sure. I was on the hunt for a really good script and by that I mean a really good story. I wanted my first film to be of significance to me, something I was passionate about so I could put all of my energy and love into it.I read so many scripts and I didn't feel connected to any of them. Until one night I just sat right up in bed and wrote GO FISH. I would never ever consider myself a writer, but I guess it just had to come out of me.

Once I finished it, it was no surprise to me that I had written a film about anti-bullying. Bullying has been a huge issue in my life and has taken me on such a personal journey both good and bad. Something inside of me just made me share my thoughts on anti-bullying. I sent the script off to friends and family and asked them which I should choose to make. All of them liked GO FISH. So that was it, GO FISH was my personal passion piece and from there I also ended up directing and producing it. I'd say the luckiest thing that did happen to me was having Shane Jacobson agree to play the lead role.

Film News - GO FISH deals with anti- bullying, what are your hopes for the movie?

Well as I said anti-bullying plays a huge role in my life. I like to think my personal experiences both good and bad have made me into the proud person I am today. GO FISH not only explores the issue of bullying, but it also opens us up to the idea that we don't know what’s going on in other peoples lives so you have no idea what the implications of bullying them will be. These are the strong messages I want people to see and be influenced by! We had a great festival and award run, but I made this movie to effect and make change in people so the more people who see it, the better. It’s about getting the message out there!! Not whether I get into the Oscars or not. Now we're looking to sell the DVDs soon and even better my Executive Producer John Caldwell (Vic Australian of the year 2013) is going to take it around to schools as a part of his educational programs on bullying! I could not ask for anything better!!!

Film News - What can we do as a community to curb bullying?

I get this question a lot. And I agree we may not be able to stop bullying all-together but what we CAN do is instil in ourselves (and our children) a true sense of self worth, self love and self respect. With those traits we'd be less likely to be disrespectful to others and less likely to feel or let anyone disrespect or hurt us. When I look at bullies I see people who have lost their self worth or self-love and I see in most cases that they prey on people who have doubt in their self-love, worth and respect. So it’s about breaking the cycle by loving yourself first!

Film News - I hear that GO FISH has won some awards overseas and has been short listed for others. Can you elaborate on that and how did you feel when you won the award?

I can't even describe how I felt!! GO FISH has blown my expectations and I'm just so lucky. It was my first film so really I just wanted someone to see it. That was it. Anyone! Admittedly, I did want it to get into St Kilda Film Festival and we did, but that was about it.

John my Executive Producer then came on board and made it possible for us to enter into more festivals, take it to schools and gather some media attention so we have been fortunate enough to have screened at 7 international festivals and win 2 awards. In NY we won the Audience Choice Award. That was the best award I could possibly ever get for the film! To me it was about influencing the audience through story and not by having the best sound, actor or cinematography. We also won the 1st prize (Kid’s Eye Award) in Rhode Island USA. To see the film’s message being acknowledged through these awards just makes my heart sing!! And yes I cried a little... On set I cried blood, sweat and then on stage copious amounts of joyful tears.

I remember when we were in LA and we screened with all of the big guns so I just felt lucky to be there, We didn't win an award but after the festival a lady came up to me with tears in her eyes and said, “you have changed me as a parent and as a teacher”. I was so touched I said, “Thank you, you have just made the film all worth while, you are my award and I could not ask for anything more rewarding than that”. I'll never forget just how good that moment felt for me.

Film News - Was it difficult to get to the festivals overseas as an independent filmmaker?

I am so glad you have asked this question! As independent filmmakers the general public think well if you had the funds to make the film you must have the funds to go follow it around! Most of us independent filmmakers (in Australia) live to make our films with all the funds we have in our back pockets. It takes a lot of time to either find funding or save it up. Filmmaking is expensive, but you can be clever with your funds especially if you have talented people around you. The festivals overseas however can be very hard for us Aussies to attend let alone having enough money left over to even think about another project. I was lucky enough to have family here and in the US to help out. I was also one of the lucky few short filmmakers as l was able to make it international festivals... with a lot of couch surfing.

Film News - What advice would you give to an emerging filmmaker?

In relation to the above comment on funds and for your own mental health, I suggest choose to do a script or work on a project you’re passionate about or have a real sense of fulfilment doing. Also surround yourself with the same type of filmmakers; people who are passionate, hard working, and talented but also a lot of fun! If there is one thing we are all in this business to do - It’s to have fun!

Film News - What's next for Kristin Sargent?

Hmmmm yes what is next? Lots... At the moment I am having fun being paid, (I know paid!!) to do some freelance producing on television commercials and online adds. I have another short film in mind, this one about domestic violence and childhood trauma. I also may give myself a role in this one. Jump back into acting too, that would be fun.