How a small film festival in Melbourne's West is making giant strides for women's participation in film.
Interview: Anna Bourozikas, Festival Director
When and why did The Setting Sun Short Film Festival begin?
I started developing the festival at the beginning of 2013. I’ve lived in Melbourne’s west for many years and realised, as a fan of short films and film student and former film awards judge, there was no specific, premier short film festival in the west or one that could specifically showcase the many filmmakers that live here.
I approached the Sun Theatre, who came on board straight away. They have been very generous and supportive over the years. The Seddon Bank gave me a grant that enabled me to set up the website I needed and pay seed costs. Then the Maribyrnong Council came on board, followed by Open Channel and Kindred Studios. Amalthea Motions have been involved as creative partner, right from the start. We work out all the posters, logo and trailers together.
The festival opens with a party and ends with an award ceremony, where we give out awards to the best filmmakers. The festival is open to everybody, but we have some specific categories in the competition that recognise filmmakers from the west.
This year will be the third year of the film festival. How has the film festival grown since 2014?
The amount of films entered has increased each year, which means we show more films. We have an all day kid’s festival this year at the Footscray Town Hall showing two alternating programs and an inaugural 90 minutes women’s program called The Rouge, which offers a cash prize for the best film by a woman. In three years, it’s become the largest short film festival in the west. We had 60 films entered this year.
Can you discuss your women’s program, The Rouge?
The Rouge was created in response to Screen Australia’s Gender Matters initiative, to boost film production by women, at all levels in the film industry, which is heavily male dominated. We’ve found over the years, that less women enter our festival. Their films perform well but they have constituted about 10% of entrants. The call out for films made by women, for The Rouge program, encouraged them to enter because they understood they would have a greater chance of being screened. The Sun Theatre donated 90 minutes of theatre time so we could show as many of their films as possible.
I approached film producer Sue Maslin to speak at the beginning of the program. She and author Rosalie Ham chatted about it and approached me with a proposal to create an award, the Dressmaker Award for Best Film by Female Filmmaker, for the Rouge Program. The winner will receive $1000, donated by Sue and Rosalie. The award is named after the best selling book, The Dressmaker, written by Rosalie that Sue produced into the popular movie The Dressmaker starring Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Liam Hemsworth and Hugo Weaving. The film became a box office hit after its release late last year.
We will offer this prize and award for the next week. Scenes from the movie were filmed at the Sun Theatre, so it all ties in nicely. We will refine the judging and criteria for this award for the next two festivals. It will be an award that is open to women everywhere.
What type of feedback have you received so far about the film festival?
I get great feedback from the filmmakers. Many of the same filmmakers enter each year and enter more than one film. They find it a great experience and enjoy being screened at the Sun Theatre. There is a need for a festival like this, in the west. The films are always good. We attract talented filmmakers whose films do well in other festivals.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
No. The feedback affirms my point of view.
What are you looking to achieve by having information about the film festival more visible on this platform?
We’d like lots of people to come and see the great films on offer. Many of them have won awards or have being made by experienced filmmakers. This is an emerging festival so lots of media exposure letting people know about us is good, and hopefully will help attract good films in years to come and extra funding. And to sell tickets of course.
Who do you need to come on board (audience, publicity, media) to amplify this film festival’s message and audience?
Mainstream non-western suburbs media is reluctant to give us exposure. But it would be great to let people know about us and get more people coming to see the films.
What type of impact would you like this film festival to have?
I would like the festival to develop into a vehicle of excellence – great films, by great filmmakers shown at the gorgeous art deco Sun Theatre.
Lastly, what’s a key question that will help spark a debate about your film festival?
Why women creatives in the film industry have to struggle so much to make a living from their craft compared to men. I appreciate it is hard for anyone to make a living in the film industry in Australia, but why is it harder for women? What are the specific reasons why women are less involved in filmmaking and how do we address them. When I was studying screenwriting, there was just as many women as men in the course. What happens to women after they stop studying?
Interview: April 2016
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