It’s no understatement to say that Swinburne alumnus Garth Davis’s rapid upward trajectory has been incredible. His debut feature ﬁ lm Lion, starring Dev Patel as real-life ﬁgure Saroo Brierley, has captivated audiences worldwide.
Lion was nominated for six Academy Awards and four Golden Globes. Mr Davis also won the Directors’ Guild of America’s Outstanding Directorial Achievement of a First-Time Feature Film award.
The ﬁlm tells the true story of a young boy who gets lost in India. He is adopted by Australian parents and, many years later, ﬁnds his birth mother, against all odds.
It also stars Nicole Kidman, David Wenham, Sunny Pawar and Rooney Mara and is knocking at the door of Crocodile Dundee, leap-frogging over Mad Max, to make it into the top ﬁve domestic best sellers.
But ﬁlmmaking was not Mr Davis’s original path. He studied graphic design at Swinburne, receiving his Bachelor of Design (Hons) in 1995. “Swinburne changed my life, it really did,” Mr Davis says.
“I came from Queensland when I was 17 and started uni at the Hawthorn campus and it was the most incredible course,” he says. “My beautiful life-drawing teacher Patsy Blair, who taught me ﬁne arts and my photography teachers… just being able to work with such beautiful artists. It was such a deep course, so thorough in its understanding of design and art. It was just extraordinary and it shaped my understanding of everything. Denise Whitehouse, our art history teacher, was a legend. It was an extraordinary treat to go to that university.”
It was while he was studying graphic design at Swinburne, that Mr Davis was ﬁrst exposed to ﬁlmmaking. “I was directly opposite the ﬁ lm school and I loved seeing the ﬁ lm students hanging out, making their ﬁlms. That was great fun,” Mr Davis says.
“I never really thought about doing ﬁlms. It was actually when computers came into design, and I found that incredibly stiﬂing, that I started mucking around with ﬁ lm cameras.”
After Swinburne, Mr Davis took a year off and travelled to Italy to pursue his passion for painting. He cut his ﬁlmic teeth directing award-winning TV commercials including the Nocturnal Migration campaign for beer Toohey’s Extra Dry, which featured a herd of deer storming a city on a grand night out.
Mr Davis, who lives in Melbourne with his wife and three children, has completed his second feature, the biblical epic Mary Magdalene. It is in post-production and slated for release later this year.