Candidate Games: 2015 City of Perth election takes centre stage in documentary set to air on ABC2

City of Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi.
City of Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi.

PERTH’s hotly contested 2015 Mayoral election is the subject of a new documentary to be aired on ABC2 tomorrownight.

Candidate Games looks behind the scenes of the election that initially saw two Gen Y candidates issue a challenge to the incumbent Lisa Scaffidi.

Inner-city entrepreneur Mike O’Hanlon and Perth councillor Reece Harley feature prominently in the film.

Director Sam Bodhi Field told Guardian Express that Mr O’Hanlon’s “big ideas” sowed the seeds of the film.

“We started out when we got a glimpse of a Facebook post by Mike O’Halloran promoting some big ideas; some really ambitious plans for Perth, including investing in a large-scale solar power generator and filling Perth with electric cars,” he said.

“We saw it as a David and Goliath battle and thought that would be an interesting journey and the ABC agreed.”

Field said things took an unexpected turn when Mr O’Hanlon abandoned the campaign trail.

“It started to unravel when Mike dropped out and we focussed around Reece Harley. It became more about transparency in politics, and then CCC findings dropped… It began as a film about generational change, we still think it is about generational change but it is also a lot about transparency in government,” he said.

“We knew Mike was a big character, a big personality so for a documentary maker it was a bit devastating (when he dropped out), luckily Reece Harley was also taking on Lisa (Scaffidi) and also a Gen Y candidate… Mike re-asserted himself into the story a few times throughout.”

While the two challengers were happy to talk, the filmmakers found the Lord Mayor more reticent.

“We started out with a very polite email exchange with the Lord Mayor; she wanted some details about what we were up to, but ultimately she declined involvement as she was too busy,” Field said.

“We were a bit disappointed by that – it is better to present all views. Then it became apparent to us it was more than that. We started to be barred from events.

“Before the Property Council debate between Reese and Lisa, lawyers representing her sent us a letter to stop us from filming her at all. We ended up editing her out of the footage of the debate, which made for a pretty one-sided debate.”

Field said the crew was forced to film the count through the windows of Council House.

“At the end we were not able to film at the vote counting; luckily the City of Perth is a bit of a fish bowl and we filmed the vote counting from outside. We didn’t have a particularly welcoming experience,” he said.

Candidate Games is the third instalment in the current series of the ABC’s Opening Shot initiative, a venture between the ABC and Screen Australia that gives five filmmaking teams – all with a director under 35 years of age – the opportunity to create a prime-time documentary with a younger perspective.

Candidate Games was the only film shot in WA for the series, and was nominated for a 2016 WA Screen Award and a finalist in two categories at the prestigious ATOM Awards in Melbourne.

It screens on ABC2 and iview on Wednesday 7 December at 9.30pm