Drawn to the City: Henry Thong, the Movie Maker

Each month, illustrator Leo Greenfield sketches and profiles an Adelaide character who makes this city tick. This month: Henry Thong.

Henry Thong describes himself as a ‘movie maker’; his career in film started off with wins at international film festivals in 2013, which saw him gain mentorship from film greats such as Don Hahn, the producer of Disney’s The Lion King. His film practice has since developed by turning to social media, using whatever technology he has on hand to produce and capture great local stories.

Thong, who immigrated to Adelaide from Malaysia with his family as a nine-year-old, has never had a nine-to-five job, nor is he looking for one. He is constantly on the move as a freelancer and that is exactly how he likes it; this takes motivation and a work ethos that
is “proactive not reactive”. Craft is at the heart of Thong’s latest film series, Makers Who Inspire, which documents and shares the work of creative people in Adelaide via Thong’s YouTube channel. He is frequently found in the cafes of Adelaide’s East End, using these makeshift offices to connect and converse with the participants in this production.

He is methodical and economical with his equipment and it’s clear that technology is central to his practice. As a teenager he was resourceful and, with his classmates, used mobile phones to make short films. These school experiences formed the foundation of Thong’s career, providing the theory of film production. To further his skills, he took to the internet where YouTube became his primary resource to “learn through doing”.

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Still keen to experiment, Thong feels he is yet to crystallise his own signature style in film but is currently fascinated by filmmakers such a Damion Chazelle and YouTube icon Casey Neistat. The work of these artists emphasises the importance of film as a significant mode of communication and their drive to tell stories inspires him.

Adelaide’s creative community is a very supportive one, says Thong, and he particularly values the support and mentoring of peers such as She Shi and Keiren Macdonald, both members of Those Creatives, a production house and collective Thong belongs to. Those Creatives tell and documents stories, facilitate networking within the creative industries and has worked with brands such as TEDx, Rundle Mall and the state government.

Thong has a brilliant optimism to him. This openness comes out in his films; Thong is showing Adelaide locals through his eyes. It is exciting to see this creativity documented and shared back with the community.

Leo Greenfield is a freelance illustrator
leogreenfield.com

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