It’s the festival’s 20th anniversary this year. Anything special planned?
It’s going to be a massive weekend. As well as an opening night party for Trop’s nearest and dearest on the Friday, we are launching Tropfest Roughcut on Saturday, at the Art Gallery of NSW. It’s an all-day seminar exploring creativity and collaboration and how they relate to storytelling onscreen. Charles Randolph, one of Hollywood’s most sought-after writers and producers (The Interpreter, Love And Other Drugs), is taking the lead, and the rest of the line-up is pretty incredible, too. Get your tickets soon from tropfest.com/au.
How did Tropfest start?
It was 1993, I was 27. I was an actor but had a burning ambition to be a filmmaker. I made a movie largely set at the Tropicana Café in Darlinghurst, so I asked the owner if I could screen it there. I put the word out and 200 people turned up on the night. People who heard there was going to be a screening, I think they were impacted by the fact that a lot of it was shot in the café and they probably saw the film crew around. Maybe they were even in the background of some shots. They all showed up to watch it – at the end of the night I said ‘let’s have a festival’.
Are you surprised by how much the event has grown?
I find it amazing that the Tropfest audience continues to boom! Who knew this little Australian idea could speak to so many people around the globe?
How are the finalists, the films shown on the day, selected?
Every film entered into Tropfest is watched by a number of panels of industry professionals in a series of knock-out style rounds. It’s a pretty robust process that allows us to judge which films really should make it
through to the finals, regardless of individual personal opinion.
How nervous do you get about the weather on the big day?
Bad weather? Never! Honestly, every year we find ourselves keeping everything crossed for clear skies. I always say to myself, ‘I hope God loves short films as much as we all do’.
What makes short films so important?
Shorts are their own medium, not just mini-feature films. You can explore ideas in shorts that you could never do in 100 minutes. They’re also a critical stepping-stone to longer formats for filmmakers, so they’re important in that way. And they’re a level playing field – anyone can enter Tropfest, which is important because it means the talent rises to the top, not just the people with the most money or the best contacts. They are also incredibly enjoyable for the audience. How many movies, 10 minutes in, do you go “this is shit”?
What’s the ethos of the festival?
At Tropfest, the idea we try to live by is that everyone has a story to tell, and with the expanding world of technology, it is becoming easier for just anyone to tell it. Whether it is on cheap mobile phones, digital cameras or 70mm, the possibilities are endless. But mostly, for me, short films are unique in their ability to explore ideas that might have remained unexplored without them.
Who do you think is the biggest success story, talent-wise, to come out of Tropfest?
There are numerous successful and talented filmmakers in professional careers who have come up through the ranks of Tropfest. We don’t try to take credit for their talent, but we feel like our platform exposes them in a way that is not possible anywhere else. Some of our Tropfest alumni include Sam Worthington, Joel Edgerton, Clayton Jacobson, Kieran Darcy-Smith, Nash Edgerton, Elissa Down and, of course, Wilfred, which started as a little Tropfest and is now a big TV series in the US.
Other than Tropfest, what are you working on at the moment?
Lots of things, although Tropfest globally is taking a lot of my time, which is kind of fun. I’m also working on a city-based collaborative, currently called Sydney. We have locked in 12 directors for the film and it’s a pretty impressive list of Who’s Who in the Australian industry. We’re in the process of planning the shoot which is happening this year.
Tropfest’s main event takes place at The Domain, Sydney, on Sunday, February 19, kicking off at 11am. tropfest.com
February 10th, 2012