No Budget Filmmaking, Part One

Our entry level initiative, Got Genre?, gives up to three teams a $2,500 in-kind budget, and that’s it. No cash to splash out – the equipment is taken care of, and that’s it. It is No Budget filmmaking. For 2011, teams are working on heist comedy The Burger Joint, sci-fi thriller Isis, and cel animation The Dream Lodge. We’ve asked members of each team to tell us a bit about the experience.

“No budget” filmmaking is a challenging but rewarding process. After working on a feature film late last year with a large cast and crew, it has been extremely refreshing to take on a smaller-scale production outside the University environment. Thanks to the MRC and the wider availability of DSLR cameras now, it is becoming more and more affordable and practical to achieve a high-quality product on a little-to-no budget. Of course, you still have to be smart about you go about making a film with no budget and you must be able to pull people and resources together from all sorts of different places. Preparation really is the key and it is especially important to be efficient when cast and crew are donating their time to be there. Having said that, no-budget filmmaking would not be possible without their generosity, nor would it be possible without donations of equipment from the MRC and other production houses, as well as catering contributions from friends, family and small businesses. Whilst there are certainly still plenty of limitations imposed by working without a budget, I find no-budget filmmaking to ultimately be an inspiring and liberating way to make films.”

– Aaron Nash, producer Isis

MRC and SA Films Have Success Around The Country

South Australian filmmakers again had great success at the Sydney Film Festival, with a South Australian film winning the Dendy for Best Live Action Short for the second year in a row. This year, the award went to The Palace, written, directed and co-produced by former MRC Board Member Anthony Maras, with his co-prodcer Kate Croser, a current Board Member, former MRC staff member, and ex-Raw Nerve production supervisor.

The Palace

Dario Russo, creator of Italian Spiderman and the up-coming SBS series Danger 5, winner the Innovation Award, also has MRC connections, making the short film Voodoo and Lou with us in 2006, several films under our TradeFilms initiative and a former member of our Members Production Group.

The award for Best Australian Documentary went to Life In Movement. MRC member Bryan Mason, who directed the film about dancer and choreographer Tanja Ledke, is frequently involved as a mentor on MRC Initiatives, and fellow co-director and co-producer Sophie Hyde has shared her expertise as a SASA Judge. Life in Movement won Best Feature at the 2011 South Australian Screen Awards (SASAs).

Films developed through MRC Initiatives have also been experiencing great success on the national film festival circuit in recent months. The Dungog Film Festival screened 2010 Raw Nerve films Daddy Daddy and Murder Mouth, 2010 Animation Initiative film Top Dog, 2010 Tropfest film A Moment of Grace, and 2011 Tropfest Short Film Production Initiative film Sumo Lake, which has also had more than 130,000 hits on Vimeco.

Murder Mouth also screened at the St Kilda Film Festival, where it was nominated for Best Documentary, screening alongside MRC Supported film Toot Toot, nominated for Best Original Score and Best Achievement in Cinematography. Top Dog will soon have its international premiere in the prestigious Palm Springs International Shortfest this week.

Congratulations to all MRC members involved in these films, and all South Australian filmmakers having their shorts screened and awarded across the country and around the world.

2011 South Australian Screen Award Winners

The South Australian Screen Awards (SASA) were announced last night (Friday 13 May) at a gala event at the Mercury Cinema. Presented by the Media Resource Centre (MRC), SASA winners represent the best of South Australian screen practice across the broad spectrum of 19 genre and craft categories. The primary focus of the awards is short films, however there is an award for best feature film, which celebrates local features made by South Australians.

The event was hosted by Adelaide media identity, Tim Noonan (891 ABC and Channel Seven) and attended by the who’s-who’s of Adelaide’s up-and-coming new generation of feature film and television makers, including Matt Bate (Shut Up Little Man: An Audio Misadventure), Dario Russo and David Ashby, (Spiderman and Danger 5), Kate Croser (Danger 5 & My Tehran for Sale), Murali Thalluri (2:37), Sieh Mchawala (Barefoot in Ethiopia) and Sophie Hyde and Bryan Mason (Life in Movement). Also in attendance were film identities Richard Harris (CEO, South Australian Film Corporation), Adele Hann (Associate Artistic Director, Adelaide Film Festival) , screenwriter Stephen Sewell (The Boys) and members of the West End’s art precinct, Stan Mahoney (Format Collective) and Josh Fanning (Magazine).

The big success story of the night was The Kiss, which took out five awards including the $3000 cash BEST SHORT FILM (Producer, Sonya Humphrey), BEST SHORT DRAMA (Producer, Sonya Humphrey), BEST SCREENPLAY (Ashlee Page), BEST DIRECTOR (Ashlee Page) and BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY (Nick Matthews). Taking the local top prize was the icing on the cake for the makers of The Kiss, which has already won Best Short and Best Cinematography at the 2010 AFIs and won director Ashlee Page the award for Best Emerging Filmmaker at the 2010 Melbourne International Film Festival.

Sophie Hyde and Bryan Mason won BEST FEATURE with their beautiful documentary, Life In Movement, about choreographer, Tanya Liedtke, who tragically died the night before taking up the position of Artistic Director of the Sydney Dance Theatre. Sophie and Bryan were the 2009 winners of Best Short Film at SASA with Necessary Games and were the co-producers of Shut Up Little Man, the Adelaide feature which premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

The poignant tale of a young African boy in a war zone, Paper Planes was nominated for five SASAS and won BEST SOUND DESIGN for Michael Darren. Its scriptwriter and director, Storm Ashwood was highly commended in the BEST DIRECTION category.

One of the highlights of the evening was the awarding of BEST PERFORMANCE to Adelaide actress Chantal Contouri for her role in the delicately sublime film, Unfinished Thoughts, based on the Italian short story by Felix Calvino. Chantal whose family established the Original Barbecue Inn on Hindley Street, which she now runs, began her career in the 1970s on Number 96 and in the family favourite, The Sullivans. Unfinished Thoughts was nominated for eight SASAs.

The Director of the Media Resource Centre, Gail Kovatseff said

“It was a wonderful night celebrating what has been an outstanding year in local filmmaking. Judges found the final decision making extremely difficult as there were so many deserving films and filmmakers.”

FULL LIST OF 2011 SASA Award Winners & Prizes

1. Pro AV Award for Best Non-Narrative

Winner: A Moment of Grace (MRC)

Prize: $1000 equipment hire from Pro AV Solutions

2.Total Photographic Award for Innovation in Digital Media

Winner: Portrait Mode

Prize: Studio and equipment hire to the value of $1000

3. The Cutting Room Award for Best Music Video

Winner: Frown (by the Giveaways)

Prize: $2000 editing time at The Cutting Room – including colour grading – to produce their next music video

4. GooRoo Animation Award for Best Animation

Winner: Sumo Lake (MRC)

Prize: MovieMagic 7 Budgeting software, a signed GooRoo collector’s edition DVD plus a collection of animation books valued at over $1200.

5. AIDC Award for Best Documentary

Winner: Chasing Shadows

Prize: Gold Pass Membership to all sessions at the 2012 Australian International Documentary Conference, valued at over $1000

6. Best FX Award for Best Comedy

Winner: Cropped

Prize: Surround Sound Mix at Best FX valued at $3000

7. Oasis Post Award for Best Drama

Winner: The Kiss

Prize: $3000 post facilities hire at Oasis Post

8. Mercury Cinema Award for Best Feature Film

Winner: Life in Movement

Prize: Three free feature session hires at The Mercury Cinema valued at over $2,200

9. SASA People’s Choice Award

Winner: Murder Mouth (MRC)

Prize: Full MRC Membership plus Gold Pass Membership to Adelaide Cinematheque plus a year’s subscription to Collect magazine valued at $250

10. The Carclew Youth Arts MRC Emerging Filmmaker Award

Winner: Madeleine Parry (MRC)

Prize: $1000 cash, MRC membership plus $1000 worth equipment hire from the MRC

11. The Independent Arts Foundation MRC Emerging Producer Award

Winner: Rose Tucker (MRC)

Prize: $1000 cash courtesy of IAF, MRC membership, plus 6 months free office rental and mentorship at the MRC to produce their next short film

12. The SASA Award for Best Production Design

Winner: Jessie Mills for Aurora

Prize: $600 of gift vouchers to spend within any Ted’s Camera Stores

13. The Chapel Lane Award for Best Sound Design

Winner: Michael Darren for Paper Planes

Prize: $1000 worth of studio recording services

14. The Music SA Award for Best Composition

Winner: Christopher Larkin for Toot Toot

Prize: Cash prize and courses valued at over $1000

15. The Canon Australia Award for Best Cinematography

Winner: Nick Matthews for The Kiss

Prize: Canon 60D DSLR Camera with a kit lens valued at over $1600

16. The Photographic Wholesalers Award for Best Editing

Winner: Cleland Jones for A Moment of Grace (MRC)

Prize: NEC Colour Profile Monitor valued at over $1000

17. The Actors Ink Award for Best Performance

Winner: Chantal Contouri for Unfinished Thoughts (MRC)

Prize: $2000 worth of Actors Ink Courses and support

18. The SASA Best Screenplay Award

Winner: Ashlee Page for The Kiss

Prize: One year’s Associate Membership of the Australian Writers’ Guild plus free attendance to all AWG courses and programs offered in 2011-12 valued at over $600.

19. The Picture Hire Australia Award for Best Direction

Winner: Ashlee Page for The Kiss

Prize: $1000 worth of equipment hire from Picture Hire.

20. The SAFC Award for Best Short Film

Winner: The Kiss

Prize: $3000 cash courtesy of the SAFC

The Future of the Short Film

As RSVPs are rolling in for our 2010 Raw Nerve screening, here in the office conversation has again turned to the debate: are short films dead?  With the abundance of webseries making people sit up and take notice, where does the traditional short film, with its eye inevitably on the Film Festival circuit, belong?

In July, Mike Jones from AFTRS argued the short film is dead, saying the claims that it helps emerging film makers as a learning tool and as a calling card are both outdated “because making a short film only really teaches you about making short films.”  He says that short films created for festivals are essentially films for film-makers, and can’t break out into a wider audience.

He argues for web-series, where filmmakers can learn to sustain a narrative and character development while building an audience base and thus learning how to respond to audience demands.  In this forum people are no longer making films for filmmakers, but they are making films for the global audience of youtube and vimeo: an audience which will comment and respond, and can grow and be shared with the click of the button.

To eventually work on the extended narrative of a feature film it can of course be argued that focusing on three-, ten-, fifteen-minute shorts is pointless, but in this shortness they can teach another great skill: succinctness.   The best short films are ones which exist wholly within themselves, and manage to tell a complete story within a limited time frame.  This editing required to create a short can teach emerging filmmakers to tell their story  in the most economical way possible: when they move into feature-length stories they can continue to tell a story which is tight, even if it is explored over a longer time frame and in deeper detail.

The second argument ignores the fact that short films can exist online, and perhaps this is a point to focus on.  Could keeping short films exclusively on and geared to the film festival circuit, where they are only exposed to a small and limited pool of people generally looking for a particular aesthetic be limiting to both the film and the filmmakers exposure?

Online films also opens a new world of possibilities in digital media.  No longer a thing to simply be observed, they can be interactive, or personalized to their individual audience, as is explored in the Tribeca Film Institute blog.   (Little hint to Adelaide film makers: their funding is open to Australians!)

Here in the office, there is often a short film (or an ad or a clip from a tv series) being shared around.  And nine times out of ten, that film is on youtube.  So firstly, we enjoy watching them, because secondly, we can enjoy accessing them.

Making a webseries also increases costs involved.  No longer a three- or four-day shoot, a webseries creates an on-going commitment in money and in personnel.  At a maximum of fifteen minutes, our 2010 Raw Nerve films were each created on a budget of just $4,000 cash and $2,500 in-kind support, with many people working for no money.  Increasing expectations beyond this into a webseries could conceivably price many emerging filmmakers out of the market.

So what is the answer: are short films dead?  Are short films for film festivals dead?  Is the answer webseires, or simply placing short films online?  Or is this argument completely irrelevant: are short films fine, a genre to themselves, or a genuine stepping stone further into the industry?

MRC Tropfest film Jackie’s Spring Palace.  Sitting proudly on the Tropfest youtube page.

– By Jane, MRC’s Arts Admin Assistant