by Don Groves
Given a documentary had never before won Tropfest, were you surprised, even shocked, when Be You T. Fool, your first ever short, was declared the winner?
Yeah, I’d always associated Tropfest with comedies. I only really submitted the film because I’d seen that a couple of documentaries had been finalists in 2018.
You had the idea for the film about an anonymous female street artist who paints portraits of train commuters on a bridge in Melbourne in May last year, so it all came together quite quickly?
I’d had the idea for a couple of years, but it was only really the fact that we were going to lose access to the bridge that prompted me to reach out to the artist. Once we started it came together pretty quickly.
As you have had no formal training and are self-taught, how did you acquire the skill to write, produce and direct your film?
I’ve filmed and edited a bunch of stuff over the years, like commercials for competitions and homemade music videos, so I had technical experience. I also started filming a feature documentary in 2015 with the same DOP, which taught me a lot. And beyond that it’s been a lot of watching, reading and listening.
I assume you relied a lot on Dave Cleeve, your editor and DOP, with whom you made Hammer, a 55-minute documentary which looks at Australian basketballer Shane ‘Hammer’ Heal’s on-court clash in Atlanta with NBA superstar Charles Barkley?
Yeah Dave did an amazing job. I think working together on Hammer held us in good stead. And on this project, with the fact that the artist wished to remain anonymous, it was important to keep the crew small.
What did the woman featured in the film say to you after you won? I don’t think she expected it to get such a high profile?
She was thrilled. It was such a joy making the film together and seeing it recognised in this way was amazing. Certainly neither of us expected this when we started talking back in May.
Among the Tropfest prizes are $10,000 cash from Kennedy Miller Mitchell, a film immersion course and a week of meetings in Los Angeles with agents, studio executives and other industry professionals courtesy of the Motion Picture Association. What will you do with the cash and when go to LA?
The cash will go toward getting another short production made. The LA trip happens in November.
Post Tropfest I assume you met and have met or heard from a lot of industry people. Has that opened doors for you?
Yeah some people in the industry have reached out, which has been great, but mostly I think it’s the confidence you take away from something like this to keep moving forward.
You spent the last 10 years working in sales and marketing for a family engineering company and have since moved to a part-time role at the company as you are doing a Masters of Film and TV diploma at VCA. So you do you see your future in the screen industry despite the challenges facing independent filmmakers?
For sure – it’s an exciting challenge.
Which directors and/or writers – Australian and international – have you admired?
I mostly gravitate toward writer/directors – Woody Allen, Noah Baumbach, Jim Jarmusch to name a few.
WA filmmaker Brad Nisbet wrote in an article for Content Cafe; that he was a prolific pirate during his teenage years and early twenties. After graduating from WAAPA he decided: “Piracy IS wrong, it is greedy, and it is selfish”. Do you have a similar view on the importance of copyright?
Of course, no one can survive without it. The access to content now makes it so much easier for everyone to do the right thing.