We recently caught up with OKC Sarah Marcuson, Dorot Carmel 2013. Sarah is enjoying much success, achieving her filmmaking dreams with her documentary A Holy Duty, now screening as part of the Jewish International Film Festival.

What experience most sticks out in your mind from your AVѧԺ days?

I think my favourite memory from Carmel was leading on Camp Kef. It was my first real 'leadership' experience, and it was pretty amazing to be responsible for all those kids. It's one of my favourite things about Carmel - the way it fosters a sense of community responsibility. The teachers really let us run the camp how we wanted, and I think in hindsight, it kickstartedmy interest in directing!

What inspired you to pursue a career in film?

When I graduated with my Bachelors degree, I knew I needed to see what work was out there and what I enjoyed. I wasn't quiteready to consider further study, so I moved overseas to Berlin, where I worked in production for Adidas. This experience was pretty amazing, and I knew I loved this world. Despite that, I felt the need to make important content - things that could possibly make a positive difference in the world. It was that decision that led me to go on to study my Masters of Film & Television at the VCA in Melbourne. From my first moment on set, I knew I had found something that I loved - and it snowballed from there!

Mazel tov on your documentaryA Holy DutyThat was aired at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival and now is shown as part of the Jewish International Film Festival. What motivated you to tell the story about the very special people who volunteer at the Chevra Kadisha and delve into the somewhat taboo subject of Death?

Thank you! A Holy Duty (also played at the St Kilda Film Festival by the way) started after a conversation I had with a family member about my grandpa's death. I knew the basics of the Jewish burial practice from school, but hearing my family talk about how important the Chevra Kadisha had been to them throughout his passing, got me interested in the concept of death as a whole. I visited the Chevra Kadisha in Melbourne, and something specific that the Director said stuck out to me - "not every Jew wants to live a Jew, but every Jew wants to die a Jew'. I found this fascinating. Living in world where I am not faced with my Judaism everyday (and it's easy to feel disconnected, especially moving over East), I was struck by this statement. I was also taken with how spiritually connected I felt to to the Chevra Kadisha, and it really made me reconsider the way I think about Judaism as an adult. Moreso, I was fascinated by the volunteers at the Chevra Kadisha - Nicole, my participant, was so warm and loving, with a large beautiful family. She was the kind of person who you knew you could trust. I was taken with the contrast of her personality, with the fact that she chooses to face death, consistently and constantly. I think when the regular person considers death, we shy away from it - it's all too difficult to consider. Nicole however, spoke openly about death, and invited it in without apprehension. The idea that she does not necessarily welcome death, but rather accepts it as a natural part of life, I thought was truly meaningful, and a sacred value. I knew I had to make a documentary on this - and a year and a half later, Jewish people and non-Jewish people still say to me that they didn't know the intricacies of this practice. I believe we need to see these things, and deal with them head-on, to truly understand them and accept them.

Where to from here - are there any other films or documentaries you are working on?

At the moment I'm working as Producer on docuseries 'The Elephant Room', a series that works to de-stigmatiselived experiences, as well as directing an upcoming music video. I'm also working on some other projects in the meantime, writing a script that I hope to make within the coming year! Other than that, just getting on set on any many shoots as possible.

What type of genre of films or documentaries do you most like to create?

I've come to realise that I have a love for smaller, untold stories. Stories of communities or people that might on the surface seem uninteresting, but have beauty in the small things. I like to find connections with people, and bring them to the screen.

What advice do you have for current AVѧԺ pupils who are looking to pursue a career in filmmaking?

My main piece of advice is to not worry if you don't know how to realise your future just yet. Something I know for myself is that I had to try lots of different things before finding what I wanted to do. If you want to pursue filmmaking, film school is a great option - you meet lots of amazing people and can find the area of film you are interested in. The key element to being a filmmaker is contacting people whose work you like, and trying to get experience on as many sets as possible. Being a production assistant helps you see how professional sets work, and you'll meet people along the way who will offer you opportunities. Being open to anything at all, you'd be surprised at where it will lead you. Just try things - and I'm always around for a chat or advice.

View the full Jewish International Film Festival program, here.