Short Sharp Film Festival

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This year marks the fifth anniversary for the Short Sharp Film Festival. We catch up with two of the organisers, Christina Hyde and Mark George, to find out more. 

Give us a background on the festival.

Christina: The festival has been going for 5 years. Basically, we decided that we needed an outlet for people to display their creativity in the screen area. The first year we were auspiced by Coffs Harbour Arts Council, and now we’ve incorporated to the Short Sharp Film Festival, and it’s been growing ever since then. It’s different in that we get entries from around the world, but we always have a local prize, a Coffs Coast prize and a Mid North Coast Prize. The aim is to foster talent and emerging creativity in the region.
What are some of the categories?
Mark: There’s an open category, an animation category and then a category called Young Guns, which is 14 to 18-year-old film makers.
Christina: The animation section started last year. We’d always wanted an animation section, but it depended on the type of entries we were getting. We had a great year last year with animation, and this year we’ve bumped up the stakes. The prize for the animation category was $500, but this year it’s $1,000 cash. Our open section is $2,000.

Tell us about the entries so far.
Mark: We’ve got over 60 entries this year. They’ve come from Nepal, Italy, Canada, Ireland and a lot from America, Korea, New Zealand and pretty much every state of Australia. The festival has grown, and it’s quite well known now as a regional film festival. The standard of entries that we’ve seen so far is incredible.
Christina: Of course, with the NBN coming through, the focus on digital in our region is great. Various schools and colleges are doing courses in digital media and film, so we’re getting a lot more entries through from that. We had quite a few entries and finalists from down at Port Macquarie, so there’s that really a great sense of an encouraging and developing screen culture.
Mark’s entry for the past 2 years has won the big prize. And Mark’s just done his first feature film last year.
Mark: We’re proud that we’re regional, but it’s interesting how the internet has allowed us to reach the world from the Mid North Coast. We have got these entries from all over.

Let’s talk about the digital strategies …
Mark: We’ve engaged a gentleman called Pantelis, from My Social Face. He’s a social media strategist from Bellingen, and he consults with businesses about their social media footprint and develops it for them. He’s been quite involved with the festival to push it out to the world and other areas of Australia, to try and raise the number of people who are aware of the festival and to get entries in.
It’s been quite successful. It’s been a really interesting exercise to move into that digital realm, where we hadn’t explored before. Digital media is a huge growing area, so social networking is all part of the same advertising platform and profile that you need to use now to promote online: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and all of those … they all have their own sets of eyeballs looking at those areas.

Christina: And while we had all those things in place last year, Pantelis coming in and consulting with us to really utilise it and promote was really great. We’ve even got our own Short Sharp television station on YouTube; we’ve got all the winners up there from last year. This year has been amazing how we’ve utilised the social media just to imbed locally and in certain sectors around the world.
Mark: We want to make sure that we’re catering for not only the audience who come to see the festival and get to see all sorts of material, not just material from Australia. It’s also really good for the local colleges, TAFEs and film schools’ media classes to actually see what else is being done in other places.
Christina: It’s two-fold. It’s about getting to showcase emerging talent in the region, but also showing them how they can lift the bar and grow. You know, using it as a way to develop and get ideas. It’s been a great thing to have, and we’ve been growing the festival steadily over these years.

When will the festival be held this year?
Christina: This year we’ve compacted it into one day, 9 July. We always fill out the theatre, so we encourage people to book their tickets early. You have to get online now if you want a seat, because we can’t hold any!
There’ll be an afternoon session of 1pm to 4pm which is the youth section and will probably showcase some of the animation. Then from 6pm to 9pm we’ll have the open section and the animation section. We’ll be inviting celebrity judges along too. At the moment we’ve invited Warwick Gilbert, the animator who’s worked for Disney and Warner Brothers. He’ll be one of our animation judges, but we’ll also have 2 surprise guest judges. We usually have industry experts and really good quality judges who come and be a part of the festival; this year will be no different.

Who are your sponsors?
Christina: We’re sponsored by Coffs Harbour City Council but more importantly, our core sponsor is Janison. They’re a big company down at the Jetty who works internationally. They’re actually up for a big Microsoft Industry Award in America. They’re a brilliant sponsor for us, because they’re dealing in digital technology, just like us.
The Regional Conservatorium has also come on board this year, and they’re doing a prize for best music sound. That’s just to name a few.

Is there room for future growth?
Christina: We want to grow the festival, and we’re hoping online and digital media can help us do that. Next year we’re hoping to have a festival week of anything to do with digital screen. So we have started our discussions and hope to be announcing by the end of the year that it’s another big locally developed festival.
There will be all different organisations hosting different events, from screenings to workshops and all those sorts of things to do with the digital realm and culminating with the Short Sharp Film Festival as the big event at the end of it.
Thanks Christina and Mark.

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