St Kilda Film Festival 2015

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Written by Callum Loughran

Photos by Jim Lee Photo

Lights, camera, action – St Kilda Film Festival is back this month for the 32nd time. It is one of the oldest and largest short film festivals in the country.

The Festival provides the most comprehensive overview of the national short film industry, screening the Top 100 short film entries received each year alongside a rich program of new music videos, Palm Springs International Showcase, special screenings and events. Each year the Festival also includes a free Film Maker Development Program.

The event is proudly presented and produced by the City of Port Phillip, working extensively to support the Australian film industry by turning the spotlight on a wide range of fascinating works that may not otherwise see the light of day.
Australia’s Top 100 prize pool totals over $40,000 in cash and in-kind craft awards, including a $10,000 prize for Best Short Film. Other prizes include Best Director, Best Achievement in Screenplay, Best Documentary, Best Animation, Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Indigenous Film Making, Best Comedy and Best Achievement in Sound Post.

This year’s selection panel will include names like Jamie Blanks, who directed Urban Legend. Nikolai Nikolaeff, actor from the TV series Daredevil; and producer Mish Armstrong.

The Opening Night screening will be at the Palais Theatre, an annual star-studded affair where Australia’s film industry will come together to sample the 2015 program’s best short films. Due to the temporary closure of the regular venue, the Astor Theatre, all other screenings will be hosted at the St Kilda Town Hall .

The hall is planned to undergo a metamorphosis into a genuine theatre environment, with 300 historic theatre seats and state of the art sound and screening technology being installed to complete a unique cinematic experience.

The event has become an Academy Awards qualifying event for a second year running – award-winning films from St Kilda Festival are eligible for consideration in the Short Film Awards and Documentary Short sections of the Oscars.
The festival has also screened films that went on to be Oscar winners and nominees and Palme D’or winners at Cannes.

To the tune of much hype, there will be a one-off program called Shock Value, an American production.  It will be showing horror shorts from established directors before they gained recognition, namely John Carpenter (Director of Halloween) and Dan O’Bannon (Writer of Alien).

The ever popular SoundKILDA Music Video Competition is also back with prizes awarded in three categories: Best Music Video, Best Independent Music Video and Best Music Video – Animation.

Film makers under 21 were invited to enter their work in the 2015 Under the Radar competition, an initiative of the City of Port Phillip’s Youth Services division.

With successful entrants screening as part of the St Kilda Film Festival, Under the Radar provides an opportunity for young film makers to show their work in an internationally recognised film festival, to encourage young film makers to pursue their craft further and encourage future stars of cinema – both in front of and behind the camera.

The Film Festival director of 16 years; Paul Harris, has guided the event from its humbler foundations in the late 90′s into a real force on the Australian film industry today. Mr Harris has expressed his fascination with the changing face of short film and the future of the festival.
“Today, everyone is busy and their attention is drawn in several directions, so it’s now important to make a quick and powerful short film, not a feature trapped in the body of a short film. This will give it more chance of getting it seen elsewhere.”

“With shorts, there needs to be a ‘can do’ kind of attitude. People who make good shorts don’t wait around for grants or other funding, they go out and make the best film they can with what they’ve got.”

“It’s becoming easier now with digital equipment to go out and make the films you want to and to actually get the chance to express yourself in your film.”

The change to an amateur auteur approach has led to a massive increase in applicants into the festival with submissions doubling in recent years. Regardless of the contemporary presence of quantity, Mr Harris believes quality will always show its head.

“In saying that, without the right idea and originality, they will struggle to find any success due to the multiple entertainment options in this day and age.”

“It is a difficult process (selecting the top 100) because there is so much good material out there now. One thing you could be sure of is that any of the final 100 are going to be fantastic films in their own right.”

The St Kilda Film Festival has gone through many changes over the years since its inception, from local film show, to international recognition as Australia’s foremost short film event. There is a lot to be thankful for as a resident of St Kilda as yet another home grown event continues to gain gravitas. The mix of amateur and professional talent will be a show worthy of support and attendance  and a staple on the calender for 2015 and many years to come.

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