Renewed focus for film festival

The emerging filmmaker finalists with councillor Jim Mason. (Ivan Kemp)

Ash Bolt

It was a successful return for the North Bellarine Film Festival last weekend, with a greater focus on short films.

The festival was originally scheduled for November but was delayed due to the pandemic and ran over Friday and Saturday last week.

Traditionally a feature film festival, greater emphasis was this year put on presenting short films, which festival vice president Ivan Kemp said would be a feature going forward.

“We’re changing the way we think about the film festival,” he said.

“There’s too much competition in feature films these days with Stan, Netflix, Amazon Prime and all the other streaming services around.

“So we’ve been moving towards a model where we are much more focused on being a short film festival.”

The festival opened with a feature film on the Friday night, and a collection Australian and international short films on Saturday but Kemp said the highlight of the weekend was the emerging filmmaker award.

Thirteen short films of 15 minutes or less made by Victorians aged 25 or under were selected as finalists, with 18-year-old Jack Sillitoe receiving the award for his film Fixity.

“The emerging filmmakers award started two years ago [because] one of the aims of the festival is to foster and assist young filmmakers,” Kemp said.

“It gives them an opportunity to have their films reviewed through a jury process, and then we selected the top 13 films as finalists.

“On the Saturday night we screen all those films. Really pleasingly this year, we had seven of the filmmakers actually attend the screen and for all of them it was the first time they’d seen their film on a large screen in front of an audience.

“The quality of the films was amazing.

“But the most amazing thing was after the award was provided, the young filmmakers just hung around and talked to each other, exchanging ideas, and there was a real enthusiasm in the room.

“That’s what we want to foster with the festival.”

Award winner Jack Sillitoe said Fixity was his first serious attempt at making a short film.

Fixity follows a housebound investigative journalist who is being stalked by a mysterious criminal who believes that the journalist has evidence implicating him in a gruesome murder.

The film stars Jack and his brother Max, while his father Craig was the film’s cinematographer.

The film was shot in black and white with a budget of $500.

“Fixity was such a great experience for me purely from the excitement of developing a story on my own and seeing it played out on screen. I learned a lot making this film,” Jack said.

“Creating a cohesive narrative was one of my primary goals when I made Fixity. This was always in the back of my mind, and I hope it shows on screen. I am very proud of this film and if I were to remake it, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Kemp said developing aspiring young filmmakers like Jack would be the focus for the festival’s committee.

“We are looking at how we can further encourage young filmmakers – we’ve got a lot of ideas,” Kemp said.

“If we can actually help them and mentor them, by providing people from within the industry, that just really enhances our festival and gives these young filmmakers an opportunity to get out into the real world of cinematography.

“That’s really important.”