Who among us hasn't fantasised about that inevitable moment we look down from the Dolby Theatre stage at a grinning Jack Nicholson or wide-eyed Anne Hathaway as we thank the Academy for such a remarkable award, from Hawthorn to Hollywood, aww shucks, what a ride it's been? If you find yourself with a successful short film at Flickerfest, that distant dream becomes a whole lot closer. As an Academy accredited festival the quality of their program is outstanding, and with South of the Border: Flickerfest in Melbourne, you can now see for yourself. Festival director Bronwyn Kidd explains just what it is that makes a great short film.
“I think the ability to engage with the characters immediately, to go on that journey,” Kidd suggests. “You don't have that time to develop characters, so you have to create a snippet of life, or a view of the world that characters can immediately engage with and we're not left wondering what's going on here, why should I care about these people? So that immediacy of engagement in the world that the short film maker is creating is really important. Also having a fresh and new idea. Short films are outside of that realm of commercialism and the box office, so there should be creative, they should be innovative. They should tell contemporary stories that are relevant to ourselves, to the world. You can take so many years to get a feature film funded, and by the time you make the story everyone has moved on. But the great thing about short films is that they are fresh. All of those things. Plus a burning passion and desire to tell a story, because that always comes through.”
Having just celebrated its 25th birthday at Bondi, Flickerfest has emerged as one of the most reliably innovative and engaging short film festivals in the world. An impressive alumni have kick-started their careers here, and as a showcase of the weird and wonderful talents that local film makers possess it is second to none. Kidd herself was once one of them, but now is happy to have found her niche in celebrating and promoting the work of others.
“I think we all eventually find our place in the industry, and I certainly love watching and curating, putting together this program and bringing it to people. Sharing that across the country and supporting film makers, because I think that's a really, really important part of what we do. To really be a platform to showcase this talent, and it makes me really excited to see the film makers who come through Flickerfest go on to such success. David Michôd, who of course did Animal Kingdom and The Rover. Wayne Blair, who did The Sapphires. Cate Shortland of course who did Somersault, there are so many talented people who come through here and you think, wow! And then you see them go on to do such things, and you're not at all surprised. So I think we are that platform for discovering these amazing film makers.”
The most recent addition to these esteemed ranks is writer/director David Hansen, whose short film Slingshot won the 2016 Best Australian Short Film. Academy accreditation notwithstanding, the boost to his creative career such a success brings is exceptional, and although he won out over wide competition, that road to the Oscars is still studded with hurdles.
“He's won that award out of 53 Australian films in competition. I wasn't on the jury, but I believe that they felt it didn't waste a second in any frame, it was a very tight short film and really managed to convey the world in which it was set in a very interesting and totally immersive way. You really felt like you were there and a part of it, and it was only seven minutes long! So that was competing against much longer films, but this is the one they chose, that had what they were looking for. The way to get nominated for an Oscar is to win a qualifying award at a festival like Flickerfest. Basically you win an award, and the Academy takes note and you get put in competition again against all those other films to get down to a shortlist of around twenty, and then eventually down again to the finalists!”
Having been a part of Flickerfest for 19 years now, Kidd has certainly seen her share of talent, of near-misses and wild successes. With nearly 2,500 entries, the passion for short film in Australia and abroad runs deep, and while there is nothing resembling a template for what makes a story stand-out there are nevertheless hallmarks of what makes a film come to life.
“I think what's come through for us is that the films that have come through, they're incredibly talented, and I say that in no small way. We're really looking for talent, for stories that are moving and compelling and fun and funny, a little bit quirky, a little bit crazy. Those are the kind of things I want to celebrate. In curating the program, I'm really looking for work that is different, that says, 'I'm the sort of film maker who isn't just going to make the easy stuff.” Anybody can make easy stuff. You have to be passionate about telling stories, and throw all of your skills into making a great drama or comedy or animation. Anything at all.”
BY ADAM NORRIS