Student Films

Festival Success while studying at SFS

An interview with Sydney Film School Alumni, Megan Baker

by Nicole Newton-Plater

megan bakerSydney Film School would like to congratulate Megan Baker who’s film ‘Generation Girl’ has been named as one of the finalists for the Uni Shorts International Student Film Festival!

The Uni Shorts Film Festival will take place in Auckland this October and will feature the best in student made films from around the world. ‘Generation Girl’ is a perfect example of the exceptionally high quality of film that gets made by students while in attendance at Sydney Film School. Many people believe that the time to submit your film into festivals is once you have completed school, but Megan’s film is proof that the films made by the students at SFS during the semester are of such a high calibre that they are worthy of festival submission and acceptance.

We thank Megan for taking the time to talk to us about her experience with her film and it’s submission into the Uni Shorts Film Festival.

Congratulations on being selected as one of the finalists for the Uni Shorts International Student Film Festival! Can you please tell us a bit about your entry, ‘Generation Girl’?

‘Generation Girl’ was written by Fiona Gillman and shot on 16mm film. I connected with the important feminist comments the script presented, such as body image, portrayal of females in the media and misogyny. The film follows the events that unfold when two girls realise they’re after the same boy. It’s a satirical comedy with a big twist at the end!

How did you find out about the Uni Shorts Film Festival and what made you decide to enter?

A fellow SFS student James Harris entered the film into the festival and I was very excited when we got the news that the film had been accepted.

Did you make ‘Generation Girl’ especially for the Uni Shorts competition?
No, we made it as a major Sydney Film School Part 1 project.
In your opinion, what makes a film stand out to the judges in a film festival or competition?
A film that understands and follows the language of cinema is all well and good, but it’s nothing without a strong story and a compelling comment.

Do you think that it is a good idea to make a film with submitting it into a film festival in mind, or should that thought come after you have made it?
I think that having a festival in mind can be distracting and might tempt filmmakers to change their ideas to appeal to festival panels, rather than tell a story with your own artistic vision. Films shouldn’t be made to win awards, they should be made to express ideas and tell stories.

How did what you have learnt at Sydney Film School help you to make ‘Generation Girl’ and enter it into Uni Shorts?
Making the film was the learning experience in itself, which is what I think is unique about Sydney Film School. You’ll learn more by making films than studying them.

Do you believe that students should be submitting films into competitions before they graduate to gain experience in this for when they graduate?
Definitely, there’s nothing to lose by entering films into festivals and it’s a great learning process. 

What are you currently working on?
I’ve just finished an Art Department Assistant role on an upcoming ABC show called ‘Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am’. I built some really weird and crazy props which was great! The show airs in November, keep an eye out for it!!

IT’S THE BLOGIES!: 19th Festival Wrap-Up

So the 19th SFS Festival has come and gone; and what a festival it was – culminating in an awards night of scarcely believable quality. Congratulations to all of the students!

As with every festival, it’s left to the Maestro – SFS Artistic Director – Ben Ferris to spot the underlying theme of the three days of screenings (One of these days there’ll be a festival so diverse as to beguile any attempt at identifying a unifying theme – but this was obviously not one.)

The theme this time around was the challenging of the traditional patriarchal voice with which stories are told. Here’s what the Maestro had to say:

Click here to read Ben Ferris’s graduation speech at the 19th Festival

It strikes me, judging by the quality of the films on display –  and this sentiment is not restricted to the aforementioned films – that the weight of this expectation does not weigh heavily on the talents of this particular group, but rather serves as encouragement in the form of high praise from a man who, along with Kathryn Myliss, Leslie Oliver and all of the seasoned SFS teachers, has shepherded innumerable students through such festivals. Personally, I think this collective slate of films may have been the best SFS has yet produced.

Writing this blog affords me certain indulgences. One I have been particularly excited about is the BLOGIES. My pick of the festival’s talking points.

So it is my pleasure to present the Inaugural Blogies; 2013:

The Tarantino Award for Most Tonal Shifts Per Second (TSPS): 

“Adam and Eve Get Kicked Out Of The Garden Of Eden” by Jaeson Iskandar

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This is one of those films that oscillates between light handling of heavy subject matter and serious contemplation; stopping at every junction in between. I’ll leave it to the audience to decide whether or not it works, but there were obviously some very brave decisions taken along the way. 

 

The Raging Bull Award for Most Romantic Portrayal of Violence in Black and White:

“Move” by Colin Jones

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There was an ethereal quality to this film, and I haven’t been able to decide exactly what gives me that feeling. What I do know is that it takes a high proficiency in visual composition to be able to evade my delicate sensibilities when, at a high frame-rate, a hammer blow of a kick is dealt and shockwaves ripple through a man’s body. When normally I would cringe with empathy, the best I could muster on this occasion was: ‘beautiful’.


The Gangnam Style Award for Most Likely to Succeed on the Internet:
 

“Dogs on Red” by Filip Persson

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Filip’s superlative thesis film delivers exactly what it says on the tin – Dogs, shot on a Red. Unsurprisingly, the audience on the day received the film extremely well, as the innocence of the second most popular pet on the Internet (I would’ve equally enjoyed “Cats on Red”) is captured in vibrant colour and clarity in slow motion.

 

The Aaron Sorkin Award for Best Line of Dialogue

“The Hunger” by Clifford McBride

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I suspect that this is one of those films, which, in its formative stages, was meant to be a psychological drama about principled characters pushed to the extreme, until one day, somebody pointed out its immense comedic potential. A potential, I might add, which is largely realized, and on that basis alone, it deserves  Blogie. It might also have won for its creative and provocative use of stock footage; rotting carcasses and murderous wombats.

It’s finest moment, in my opinion, is delivered by SFS’s own Jessie Munnings. After watching his friend play a game of ‘stop hitting yourself’ with a recently deceased buddy, he half-heartedly declares: “What you’re doing is extremely wrong!” (Intentional or no, it’s understated enough to be side-splittingly funny).

The 8mm Award for Murder-Porn

“The Gesture” by Arnold Perez

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With only one on-screen fatality, ‘The Gesture’ is pretty far away from having the highest body count. It is, however, quite sexually charged right the way through, laying just the right number of hints along the way – I got the feeling there would either be a murder or a passionate sex scene at the end.

Ultimately, I was disappointed not to get the sex scene, but credit anyway to Kate Houston, who was convincing as a psychotic killer (what experiences did she draw on? I wonder…), and Eric Ung, for his cinematography work on the unsettling scene pictured above.

 

The Jack The Ripper Award for Gleeful Violence

“REVOLUTION” by Jackson Frazer

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What a hoot this film was.

  • 8 minutes long
  • 16 shots fired
  • 6 hits
  • 4 violent deaths (3 on screen)
  • 1 murder by van
  • 1 murder by pitchfork

Enough said.

 

The Buzz Lightyear Award for Taking Me To Infinity and Beyond

“Apollo” by Mitchell Earnshaw

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The things you love in any film are reflections of yourself, and so I hope I wasn’t alone in falling in love with the idea of space exploration all over again whilst watching this film.

From the naivety portrayed in audacious early cinematic efforts such as George Melies’ “Le Voyage dans la Lune” to the Apollo 11 mission which completed mankinds’ “giant leap” – with plenty in between – “Apollo” is an apt reminder of what mankind is capable of achieving when we dare to dream.


The “It’s Not A Fish, It’s A Mammal” Award for Not Being A Fish

“Fish in a Tank” by Marco Boriani

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The gentle, understated voiceover would be a soulful, introspective reflection on something deeply personal to the filmmaker. Would be: if Marco were a fish.


The Golden Blogie for Best Moment of the Festival 

Bianca Malcolm sings “Bohemian Rhapsody”

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For those of you who missed it, let this serve as a warning not to miss sessions at future SFS festivals. When facing technical issues with the projector during the first session of day 3, the audience was left waiting for issues to be ironed out by our hard-working team in the projection room. Up stepped the Maestro to lay down the gauntlet: “who among you will step forth and entertain?” (or at least, I think that’s what he said).

Cometh the moment, cometh the woman. Up stepped Bianca to lead the room in an impromptu rendition of Queen’s greatest hit. Not only did she display unencumbered vocal prowess, she also displayed good deal of intestinal fortitude (which is also on display in her films “Metaverse” and “I.C.U.”).

Credit must go also to Sarah Wilson for being a good sport when her film, “Loss of Love”, was interrupted by the glitch.

TOM EARLS

Bob Ellis: Keynote Speech at the 19th SFS Festival

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On 12th December, esteemed Australian writer and filmmaker, Bob Ellis gave the keynote address to a packed Chauvel Cinema in Paddington to kick off the final session of the 19th Sydney Film School Festival. Here are his words of inspiration.

“When I began first making films in Sydney – a drama called Who Travels Alone about an Australian soldier dying in a nameless Asian war and in a steamy, muddy jungle remembering home, in April, 1960 – it was with a borrowed Arriflex and short ends stolen from Cinesound by my cameramen Mick Molloy, later to shoot Barry Lyndon, and Peter Hannam, later to shoot 2001 – -A Space Odyssey, and it was a kind of weekend outing, with no thought of funding, or even release.

Films were made then for love, by young men like Bruce Beresford, who at fourteen persuaded the Australian army to lend him two tanks for his anti-war film, and Chris McGill, who at twenty made After Proust in two weekends with borrowed carriages and parasols in Centennial Park, and belonged, as a rule, to Communist-connected Russian film appreciation societies and screened Ivan The Terrible Part One and The Cranes Are Flying a lot, and The Overcoat, and the Sydney University Film Society which favoured the Marx Brothers, Bob and Bing, and the earlier Pommy comedies of Peter Sellers.

All of us, of course, awaited eagerly the new subtitled films at the Gala and the Lido and their refreshing nude sequences. One Summer of Happiness comes to mind, Black Orpheus and The Virgin Spring. You can never appreciate how, in those days, in Les Murray’s words, ‘Film was our spare religion’. We awaited each new Bergman offering with the same elated suspense as our ancestors awaited each new Papal Bull. What is the answer, Ingmar? What is the answer this time?

Bergman, and Antonioni, Renais, Alf Sjoberg, Renoir and Marcel Camus seemed to comprise all wisdom, and Fellini to be an embracing Shakespearian universe that we preferred to our own memories of childhood, wartime, circuses and acrobats and clowns.

We were ‘opened up’ by cinema in those times as a previous generation had ben by Marxist activism, and a later one by drugs. If the Seventh Seal had meaning, then 2001 had, wow, total meaning, and the films of 1968, In The Heat Of The Night, Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, 2001, and the dreary, Oscar winning Oliver! seemed a tumult of possibility, a gateway to a new world.

And, in Australia, it was.

Bazza McKenzie, Libido, The Cars That Ate Paris, Sunday Too Far Away, Caddie, Newsfront, Don’s Party, Alvin Purple – I had credits on only three of those films – opened us up and internationalised us as never before, Newsfront was made for four hundred thousand dollars, and the great breakthrough war film Breaker Morant, dizzyingly, for eight hundred thousand dollars, and in each if the above a PROFIT achieved by the film adoring students of the Russian classics who were, then, the entire film industry.

Then 10BA occurred, and the lawyers and accountants got in. The Treasurer, John Howard, decreed that you could write off 150 per cent of your profits and 50 per cent of your losses, but each film must be done by June 30, which meant all films were begun, at the latest, the previous October, and everyone was bidding for the same ten cinematographers whose prices quadrupled. Soon four and five million were being spent by tax-avoiding dentists on a two-page script, and shysters demanding actors improvise, or fight to the death a savage koala, and from this absurd inflation of cost, dumbing down of standards, and the unique and typical two-faced creation of John Howard, we’ve never truly recovered.

State film funding bodies sprang up, and, under Keating, a film bank, run by Kim Williams, called the Australian Film Finance Corporation. But never fully addressed the big budgets – Oscar and Lucinda with Cate Blanchett and Ralph Fiennes, cost eighteen million and lost the lot – and the rapid migration overseas of our better directors, actors, editors, designers and cinematographers, to work on sometimes demeaning projects in Hollywood. Simon Wincer made The Lighthorsemen here, and Free Willy there, Fred Schepisi made Jimmy Blacksmith here, and Mr Baseball there, and IQ, a wacky romantic comedy about Albert Einstein administrating the difficulties of two young lovers. I proposed at one time what I called a Judas Clause for all Australian directors who trained here and did well overseas, that they send one half of their income over a million dollars each year, home to Australia, which made them, and got nothing back from them.

This migration, however, did less harm than one might think. The film schools disgorged each year considerable talent, and the ever-cheapening new technologies empowered almost anyone with half a dozen friends to make a ten or twenty-minute film that was adored at Tropfest or Dungog or the Sydney and Melbourne festivals. Each year in the 1990s with relentless predictability brought out one or two excellent features, and three or four good ones, and five or six … acceptable ones. Ten years ago there were, by my count, five hundred good young directors viewable in the archives of Tropfest, and shows like Frontline, and The Games, and, lately, A Moody Christmas, displaying a level of international excellence that left me in no doubt that the ‘industry’ was in no trouble, though everybody in it was pretty often starving.

It is absurd, for instance, that the director of Australia’s best … or second best movie, Beneath Hill Sixty, is broke and in need of a feed most times I ring him, and actors as good as Brandon Burke, Simon Burke and Bill Charlton and Drew Forsythe and Amanda Bishop and Heather Mitchell and Laurel McGowan had interims of struggle in the last ten years.

But the answer, probably, is in this room. A vow of poverty, a group of friends, an eight hundred dollar camera, an editing computer, some NIDA actors or WAAPA actors more keen to work for nothing, than wait for the phone to ring, and a co-operative sprit like we had in 1960, a desire to make good things, now. Now, and not waiting for a committee to dally over a third or fourth draft of a script while your enthusiasm drains down into your boots, is, I’m sure, a fair description of many here tonight, awaiting the announcement of the first or second prize, and commiserating afterwards with a gang of fellow travellers, fellow pilgrims, to the Shrine of Godard and Truffaut or Tarantino or, God help us, Baz Luhrmann, and the glories that await the pure of heart and the rich of soul, on Oscar night, or BAFTA night, or … the Logies, or the Dungog wreath of honour, or something less. It is a journey worth taking, in the first or second flush of youth, to the foothills of the Matterhorn that beckons us up to amazement and bliss and immortality, or not.

It is the answer, and the only answer, and it is in this room.”

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From Left to Right: Mark Allen (Chairman of the Sydney Film School Board), Ben Ferris (SFS Artistic Director), Bob Ellis and Hannah Klassek (MC at the awards ceremony)