Louis Dai – meet the Trinity student turned filmmaker

By Emily McAuliffe

Securing a scholarship to attend Trinity College is an important part of Louis Dai’s life story. Now, because of the experiences and connections he made at Trinity, Louis spends his life telling other people’s stories.

Louis Dai_Walking Fish Productions

Above: Louis Dai (centre) with business partners and fellow Trinity alumni David Elliot-Jones (L) and Lachlan McLeod (R)

Louis Dai’s family came to Australia as refugees from Vietnam following the Vietnam War. His parents spoke little English and secured work as tailors, settling their family in Melbourne’s western suburb of Footscray. Louis (TC 2007) went on to attend Westbourne Grammar in Truganina, and during his secondary schooling, a series of unfortunate events unsettled his family, leaving Louis without a stable living environment. 

Despite finding himself in a challenging situation, Louis was determined to graduate from high school and go on to university, so found temporary accommodation with friends. He completed VCE and achieved the marks required to study journalism, but his living arrangements remained uncertain. 

Without strong family support or finances behind him, Louis knew that a college scholarship would provide the chance to get his life back on course, so applied to Trinity College. Louis’ scholarship application was successful, and unbeknownst to him at the time, Trinity College wouldn’t just give him a home, but lifelong friends and a future business partnership.

On Louis’ first day at Trinity College, he met Lachlan McLeod and David Elliot-Jones (both TC 2007), and the trio went on to become best friends. The three of them shared a passion for storytelling, and while working in hospitality, conversations with fellow workers clued them in to a concerning trend of international students being exploited by Australian businesses. It seemed like a story that needed unravelling, so the boys bought a cheap camera and set off to India to get to the heart of the issue. They pitched their resulting documentary to SBS in 2009 and the piece was accepted and broadcast.

‘That’s where our lives took a turn,’ says Louis. ‘It’s literally the point where everything changed and we started getting into filmmaking more seriously.’ Louis, Lachlan and David formed production company Walking Fish and have gone on to shoot and produce documentaries around the world for a range of clients including VICE and Air Asia. Their feature documentary Big in Japan, which explores the psychology of fame, streams on Amazon Prime and has been featured on international airlines. 

In addition to his work with Walking Fish, Louis has pursued a number of personal projects, including unpacking the history and journey of the longest-held death row inmate in the world, Iwao Hakamada, whose story he stumbled upon by chance while living in Japan. ‘If there’s a story out there, I just want to get in there and do it,’ says Louis. ‘Storytelling is about shining a light on the stories that need to be told. A lot of the time, other people don’t have access to these stories, so [through filmmaking] it’s pretty cool to be working with a medium that allows you to access a story in such a deep and engaging way.’

And Louis credits Trinity College for giving him the opportunity to become a storyteller, saying that without meeting David and Lachlan, and without having the space, time and encouragment to pursue new interests - is his case, filmmaking - none of this would have happened.

If you're ready to put yourself out there, meet new people and discover new interests, apply to live at Trinity College now.

Click here for information about Trinity's scholarship program.


10 Aug 2022