“The freshest, most innovative and independent platform for storytelling in cinema today.” Flickerfest director Bronwyn Kidd talks up short films.
Bronwyn Kidd has been the director of the Flickerfest short film festival for the past 14 years, but her enthusiasm for the form remains undimmed. She’s curated hundreds of national and international short film programs and participated in juries and conferences all over the world. Short film festivals may be a dime a dozen, but Flickerfest is special for a number of reasons – from its national touring program, to its Academy® Award accreditation and BAFTA recognition. Then there’s the Flickerfest Short Film Bureau, established in 2002 to distribute Australian short films internationally.
This year Flickerfest celebrates its 20th birthday with a showcase DVD full of films that have received major international recognition. Highlights include work from directors like David Michod, Warwick Thornton, Cate Shortland, Nash Edgerton and Sean Byrne – lots of evidence that this festival knows how to pick early talent.
Here we talk to Bronwyn Kidd about why the short film format endures, why they’re not just a training ground for L-Plate filmmakers, and the avenues to sell short films to the international market.
Q: What is it that you love about the short film format? And is it hard to maintain the passion after so many years?
I love short films because they are the freshest, most innovative and independent platform for storytelling in cinema today. Filmmakers can experiment, play with form and tell stories of immediate cultural relevance without the years of process that it takes to produce a feature film, and the editorial and creative interference that comes into play when big budgets and commercial concerns are at stake. For these reasons it’s not hard for me to maintain my passion for short films over the years, I’m constantly surprised and I never get bored watching them.
Q: What do you say to people who argue that short films are merely a training ground for L-plate filmmakers?
Like short stories, some subjects and ideas lend themselves perfectly to the short film form and it takes a lot of talent to make a great short film work. For me, short film is not a means to an end; it is an art form within itself and should therefore hold this legitimate place within cinema culture.
Q: What are the key avenues for international distribution of the films in the Flickerfest Short Film Bureau?
Flickerfest is distributing Australian short films to broadcasters across the world through our many contacts built up since 2002 when we opened the distribution arm of our activity. Certainly there is a great market for Australian shorts in Europe particularly across broadcast platforms which have the most lucrative returns for short film and the biggest appetite for them in the world . Travelling to markets such as Clermont Ferrand and World Wide Short Film Festival in Toronto keeps us up to date with the short film market globally and maintains the important contacts and relationships required to market Australian short films to the world.
Q: As director of Flickerfest for the last 14 years, what are the most exciting changes you’ve noticed in terms of short filmmaking?
I think that the short films being produced have become more sophisticated as the short film format has grown in popularity. From an Australian perspective, the stories that we are producing seem to be becoming better crafted with higher production values and more innovative storytelling each year. The gag film trend is less and less noticeable, so I guess that heralds maturity in our short film making not so evident in the early days. I am also noticing that filmmakers now see the value in producing three or four short films that demonstrate their craft and skills before they go on to make a feature. This engagement with the short film as a crucial tool in developing a career is an important element in the future strength and success of our local film industry.
Q: What achievements are you most proud of?
I’m very proud of Flickerfest becoming Australia’s only Academy® Accredited short film festival in 2002 and of our BAFTA recognition achieved this year, both of which ensure our ongoing international profile, a record of almost 1800 entries received for 2011 and the very high standard of competition that we are able to present. Locally, growing the touring venues across Australia from three in 1997 to 30 venues this year, and creating greater access for national audiences to see quality Australian and international short films is fantastic.
Our TV show Flickerfest on EXTRA, on Movie EXTRA, 20th anniversary DVD produced with Madman and other distribution activities are instrumental in bringing short films out of the festival arena and into the faces of wider audiences across Australia.
Q: As a participant on many juries what are you looking for when you judge a short film?
A great short film should be surprising and innovative in the story that it tells and the creative form that it takes, ultimately making you see the world in a different way.
Q: What are the highlights on this anniversary edition DVD and why should we buy it?
Containing 23 classic award-winning Australian short films our DVD is jam-packed with Flickerfest favourites and is the quintessential 2 disc collection for lovers of short film. A few highlights for me include David MichÔd’s Crossbow, Warwick Thornton’s Nana, the hilarious Crystal Bear winning Franswa Sharl, quirky short doc Dance Like Your Old Man by Chunky Move and the thrilling action packed animation Ward 13. It demonstrates just how much talent exists in this country amongst our wonderfully creative and innovative storytellers.
On a personal note, we ask Bronwyn Kidd to take the AFI Quick Quiz. Notice how she manages to eventually bring it all back to short films!
- What is your favorite word? passion
- What is your least favorite word? Stress
- What turns you on? Discovering great short films and being able to share them with audiences across Australia.
- What turns you off? Not having enough hours in the day.
- What sound or noise do you love? The sound of the ocean.
- What sound or noise do you hate? Garbage trucks at 5am in the morning!
- What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Naturopathy I’m very interested in alternative health
- What profession would you not like to do? Parachutist – I have incredible vertigo and a very bad fear of heights.
- The last film or DVD you watched? Australian thriller Red Hill by Patrick Hughes on a plane during one of the many flights involved in The Flickerfest national tour and I loved it!
- The film that changed you, and why? Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. I attempted a short film remake at university which is laughably dreadful, but still it ignited my passion for film which I’ve had ever since.
- Your guilty television pleasure? Midsomer Murders on the ABC. Very daggy I know, but I do like a good mystery and it always amazes me how many people can be killed in one small village.
- Three key mentors who’ve inspired or helped you? Gillian Armstrong – a fabulous Australian director and patron and very generous supporter of Flickerfest. And Aunties Lorna Kelly, Yvonne Graham and Linda Vidler – three incredibly strong Indigenous women from Byron Bay northern NSW, now sadly passed away, with whom I had the great pleasure of working with over four years on my documentary Walking With My Sisters. The film followed their Native title claim, and they taught me never to give up and to fight for what you believe in.
- Complete this sentence: The thing I love about working in the Australian film and television industry is…the enormous amount of support, generosity and friendship that is extended by experienced film practitioners and facilities providers to emerging filmmakers a nd to festivals such as ours that provide a platform for their work. Without this support it would be impossible for Flickerfest to be celebrating our 20th birthday this year. Thanks everyone!
The Flickerfest 20th Anniversary DVD is available now from Madman, here.
The Flickerfest national tour is currently under way with the following locations still to come:
- Hobart (17-18 Mar);
- Blue Mountains (18-20 Mar);
- Esperance (18 Mar);
- Cygnet (19 Mar);
- Queenstown (19 Mar);
- Wyalkatchem (19 Mar);
- Canowindra (26 Mar);
- Canberra (26-27 Mar).