Arts & Entertainment

Seaside Cinema

The Flickerfest International Short Film Festival celebrates a 29-year milestone, having screened and promoted some of the world’s best shorts to enthusiastic audiences on iconic Bondi Beach.

This annual world-class cinematic event is one of the most important platforms for short films and remains Australia’s leading Academy-qualifying and BAFTA recognised film festival, which inspires creativity and opens influential doors to filmmakers worldwide.

This year there were over 3,500 short films submitted from around the world and a committee of 50 volunteers within the Australian Film Industry aided in selecting the final program of 200 shorts which will screen at the festival. An astounding 47% of the short films were directed by women.

Aspiring Sydney filmmaker Alana Hicks has written and directed her first short called Chicken which will screen at the festival. “I’ve been writing about being a mixed-race person like a migrant second-generation kid for a long time and the intersection between what you think of your old home and your new home and how they match. Chicken came from a real-life story about my mother and myself moving to Sydney from Papua New Guinea in the 90s.”

Hicks said she initially didn’t believe that her short had been selected to screen at Flickerfest. “I haven’t really believed any of this process – there are so many barriers in getting a film made.” But she stressed the importance to filmmakers of having their work screened at this festival. “A short film is a calling card for your work. It fills your CV and it encourages a network of people around you. I think it’s integral to be part of an Oscar-qualifying film festival like Flickerfest because in many ways you don’t think that validation is important, but at the end of the day if it’s not available to be seen by audiences you’re operating in a vacuum.”

Hicks was adamant that people who have never attended Flickerfest should come along and watch a selection of short films. “It’s an experience. Most often film festivals are in an interchangeable cinema location that could be anywhere in the world but at Flickerfest you’re outside, in the pavilion, under the stars and next to the beach. It actually creates an entire experience. The energy of the audience is also different than it would be inside an actual closed off cinema space. There’s also a community around Flickerfest because there are many Sydney based filmmakers present and you feel a real buzz just by being there.”

Filmmaker Michael Shanks was born in New Zealand, moved to Australia when he was 12 and has worked in the industry since he was 17. His short-animated film Rebooted was two years in the making and has also been selected to screen and compete at the festival. “I think of it as a live-action film with an animated main character. It’s my second short and like all of my work it’s very visual effects focused.” Shanks wrote, directed, composed the score and was one of the visual artists on the project. He opted to make his short with no dialogue. “The challenge was you had to communicate so much without words. I wanted to tell a story with camera movement, with a music queue and with a look – I love that!”

Rebooted tells the story of Phil, a stop motion animated skeleton from the Ray Harryhausen era of filmmaking who can’t find work in modern Hollywood because he’s an obsolete special effect. “When he discovers the film he was created for is being rebooted without him he has a crisis of identity and has to go on a journey to shut it down.”

When asked what it was like realising every filmmaker’s dream of having a short chosen to screen and compete at Flickerfest Shanks paused momentarily. “It was great! It was such a labour of love to pull this film together. The stop motion of the main character alone was an incredibly technically challenging and laborious experience. To be selected and in competition is validating and it’s nice to have your work recognised by your peers.”

And winning an award – is that of paramount importance? “No. Naturally, it is amazingly validating and generous when you’re fortunate enough for it to happen to you, but if your short is one of the selected 200 films from 3,500 submissions that’s a reward in itself.”

Shanks is honoured that his short will be screening at Flickerfest but is at a loss to explain why this festival is so anticipated and highly respected worldwide. “I would love to know what makes this festival so renowned worldwide! All I know is that it is. It’s one of those names you hear bandied about where people are disappointed when they’re not part of it or elated when they are. I don’t know what their secret is but it’s definitely an industry stabler.”

Jan 10-19. Bondi Beach, Bondi. $18-$180+b.f. Tickets & Info:

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By Mark Morellini.


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