Mod farewells the incomparable Raena Lea-Shannon

Raena Lea-Shannon, our friend and long time lawyer, passed away last month after a long fight with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, a type of blood cancer.

Raena came into our world when Michela met her online in the mid 90s when Mod Films (UK), the precursor to our current studio, was making trouble with our first Australian project. Raena was referred to us through the pro bono work she did at the Arts Law centre and proved to be a kindred spirit. A rarity in the Aus media & entertainment business even now, she was a passionate advocate and legal expert around open source and Creative Commons licensing - looking beyond traditional copyright to the modern reality of online storytelling and virtual worlds. Too opaque and dry a subject for most, this was Michela's world and it was refreshing to meet a fellow traveller through these issues. As our film Sanctuary, ground-breaking for its remix licensing model, threatened to come unstuck over legal matters it was good to make a friend and legal confidante who was genuinely interested in the culture of remix and modding.

When Michela moved to Sydney in the KRudd era, we got to know Raena in real life. Despite Raena's love for cats and sports, she and Michela had a lot in common. Not basketball - though that came up a lot with Raena. Michela's catchups with Raena were more of a geek thing. Lots of coffees and breakfasts - Mint on Crown Street, St Jude’s on Bourke, the occasional cycle to Maroubra or dinner. Driving along the Central Coast, roof down in her little convertible, is a good memory. The lawyer and the maker. It was a good match for news, tips and regular belly laughes over the latest absurdity. Raena taught us to appreciate law and lawyers, the good ones at least. And even sports. She loved watching sports. Michela's glad she was finally able to share something of that with Raena - a clip of Michela's first Kung Fu tournament - when she last saw Raena in hospital. Along with photos of her beloved cat, Rose, safe and being fed at home, it was always good to provide a distraction.

Raena was the soul of discretion when it came to her other client work but Michela did pick up the scent of a good story about her early legal career on the Northern Beaches and suggested the title My Manly Life could make a good title for a memoir, which gave Raena a laugh. We don't know much about her early life and the Adelaide years - she lived in the present. We do know she hated having her photo taken. So we were glad to dig up this one, of which we know she approved.

Sitting beneath that beautiful massive fig tree below her flat, working on Michela's will. It was great seeing her set up her own practice in her beloved Rushcutter's Bay after leaving Finkel lawyers and building her client base. We always felt a bit guilty we didn’t bring her enough problems - her early advice paid off as the years went on. Raena was the consummate professional and incredibly generous to indies.

It was heartbreaking to see Raena in hospital again this year and while we miss our friend we're glad that horrible phase is over for her.

The Raena we remember was vibrant in body, mind and soul. She was active - belying her years. She had a distaste for the thrusting cynical side of the biz and took real pleasure helping makers get their stuff out there. Her work unearthing and clearing lost rights for release of the classic film Wake In Fright was a major undertaking that she took on with countless unpaid hours.

She was the kind of transwoman Michela says she always wanted to be but still rarely meets - quietly out and proud - very visible - queer as fuck but down to earth. They laughed a lot and shared a largely unspoken point of pride that there was plenty going on in their lives aside from gender musings.

As Michela writes this from a roadside stop in Mbarara, western Uganda, she's sad to miss Raena's memorial. But we don’t think Raena would mind. She loved stories and storytellers. We're so glad she’s been part of ours.

A celebration of Raena’s life will be held on Sunday 26 May 2019, at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA), 1 New Beach Road, Darling Point, from 2pm to 4pm. Raena would often walk around Rushcutter’s Bay and pause for a coffee at the CYCA cafe. All are welcome. For catering purposes please email Raena’s sister at with the names of anyone attending.


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