In just under a month, Flickerfest will return to Bondi’s shores for its annual 10-day event, something director Bronwyn Kidd describes as “an extravaganza smörgåsbord of short films.” This year the festival received over 2500 entries from Australia and across the world, and its team have been working around the clock to curate a diverse program of independent cinema.
Longtime film buff Kidd is currently celebrating her 20th anniversary working on the festival: her career took off when she started making documentaries for SBS. “I always loved film. I was sharing an office with the original founder of Flickerfest and he was going on to do other things so I kinda jumped in,” she explains. “I had no idea that 20 years later this is what I’d still be doing.”
Flickerfest is unique in that the judging process doesn’t take the entrant’s budget into consideration – films are instead judged against the strength of the storytelling and the authenticity of the director’s voice. It’s not about throwing money at the wall and hoping that it will stick – it’s about making a film that is clear and contained.
We’re seeing a lot more LGBTQI stories.
When asked who the most imitated director is for entries, Kidd says, “Perhaps Quentin Tarantino… It’s the action film, the car chase, the violence… It’s often rich people making films about how they imagine poor people live, that are not very sympathetic, you know what I mean? The middle-class, white-Australian view of what it is to be poor. The story just doesn’t feel real because we know that it’s not the society that the filmmaker’s been immersed in – so it doesn’t feel like an authentic story, and that’s often really obvious.”
She explains that digital technology has helped to open up the accessibility of the festival; nowdays, everyone is a filmmaker. “20 years ago we were carrying big cases of 35mm film around the country, which is very hard to imagine now… People had to process their film, which was an incredibly costly exercise in order to even enter. Now we’re getting everything on a USB or a hard-drive. The world has changed but in a really, really good way.
“Because of this, I’m seeing a much broader range of filmmakers come through. We’re seeing a lot more LGBTQI stories and there’s so many more female directors— we’ve always encouraged that.”
Indeed, now that prospective entrants can edit from home, being a filmmaker is “no longer just for rich people”, and Kidd takes time to emphasise this change in demographics. “There’s a lot more First Nations directors, and a lot more directors from non-English speaking backgrounds and various cultural backgrounds. It’s no longer about just the white, middle-aged male domination of the industry.”
While Australia’s film industry seems like quite the small fry in comparison to America’s Hollywood, Kidd says you’ve just got to find your own voice to survive. “Look, I think it’s hard everywhere. I think you’ve got to remember that in Hollywood there’s a lot more Americans trying to get into it. We’re a smaller industry here. You’ve just got to be incredibly persistent and remain true to yourself. Make the films you want to make from the heart; don’t try and make somebody else’s story that doesn’t resonate with you or a story that you’re not passionate about – and spend as much time as you can on the script.
“So many films are let down by half-baked scripts where everything else is great, you know, good cinematography, sound, acting, everything, but the script is poor… What’s the message people are going to take home after they’ve seen my film? That’s a really, really important question.”
A highlight from this year’s program includes Martha The Monster, which stars Bridesmaids star Rose Byne; it’s a quirky comedy where humans live alongside curious creatures. “We’ve also got an LGBTQI program this year called Rainbow Shorts, which is really celebrating Marriage Equality. [There’s] a beautiful range of international entries that we’ve had from across the world from that community,” she explains.
You can tell whatever story you want. There’s no pressure of the box office.
Of these films, Pre-Drink, a tale about the relationship between two best friends, a young trans-woman Alexe and a gay man, was Awarded Best Canadian Short Film at Toronto International Film Festival.
When it comes to short film, Kidd says that its independence drew her into the game. “You can tell whatever story you want. There’s no pressure of the box office [and] there’s no pressure from other people’s investment in your story or telling you who to cast or how the film should finish or what it should be – it’s truly just filmmaking from the heart.
“It’s also a really great look at the world through the eyes of young filmmakers,” she explains. “If you’re making a story about the refugee crisis or you know you’re making something that’s a comedy about the housing market in Sydney, it’s all very contemporary. You don’t need seven years to go out and raise the money like a feature film.
“I think that’s the thing that I love as well is that freshness and immediacy – the films are very relevant to the lives that we’re living. And people are able to experience this incredibly fresh creative cinema that they are not going to get an opportunity to see anywhere else.”
Flickerfest hits Bondi Beach from Friday January 12 to Sunday January 21.