Tropfest, Sydney DomainFrom humble beginnings at the Tropicana Cafe in Darlinghurst, Tropfest has become the largest short film festival in the world and now boasts Arabian, American and New Zealand equivalents. The festival has had a big role in revitalising the Australian film industry. Last night Tropfest celebrated its 21st birthday in front of a live audience of over 90,000 and was broadcast live across the country.
As usual, 16 finalists selected from a pool of hundreds premiered on the night. Each film is seven minutes long or less and must feature the Tropfest signature that's newly nominated each year. This year the signature is 'balloon.' Judges award first, second and third prizes on the night.
I arrive just after the finish of Tropfest Jr and there's still a few hours to go before the main event. Quite a number have gathered already. They've taken up the best positions under the trees.
I hone in on that red balloon.
Its minder is birthday girl Summer with her best friend Tessa.
Andreas is here with his friend.
Anne Marie is looking forward to the evening. She tells me she's featured in The Big Issue after next.
Women and the occasional man are being made up or massaged at the Body Shop tent.
As the afternoon wears on, participants arrive.
Alicia has done the makeup for one of the finalists, Inside.
This is Daniel and his partner Kel. Daniel's short film Ca$h Cow in which he both acts and directs is one of this year's finalists. He assures me the film really is based on a true story. Every day as part of his job on Channel 7's Sunrise television show, he has to dress in a crappy cow costume for the cash cow segment. He hates it. The film is all about how he comes up with a plan to get it out of his life for ever. With luck he won't have to dress up in that smelly old suit for much longer.
Jorja is the lead actress and Lyndal the co-director for the finalist Monobrow. The film's about a girl who loathes her boyfriend's monobrow so uses a unique method to give him the hint.
People are arriving in droves. As this is all about Sydney, I decide we might as well go for broke and have a few more red carpet moments.
These women are actors. I don't know who the bloke is. In fact I'm pretty useless at this celebrity spotting caper.
This woman tells me she's from Tropfest New Zealand.
I'm not sure who this gorgeous woman is and decide to buddy up with someone who has more of a clue.
Unfortunately I attach myself to a couple of autograph hunters who take their job very seriously. They get pissed with me because I twice march up while one of them is having their photos taken with a star and then unwittingly grab the star's attention the moment their friend takes their photo. The second time, I have the gall to ask them who the person is. "It's Rebecca Gibney' they huff in horror. Okay guys, I just couldn't quite place the face to the name. As it turns out, the photograph I take of this gracious woman she wouldn't thank me for using.
I can hear the autograph hunters muttering to each other rather loudly: "And she didn't even know WHO SHE WAS.' Then they pipe up: 'Would you PUHLEASE not butt in while we're having a photograph taken because then the star looks at YOUR camera, not OURS!" They've asked reasonably nicely so I move on.
I buddy up with the lovely Monica who is receiving this autograph from Guy Gyton, an actor from Underbelly.
By now it's peak hour on the red/black carpet.
And I can certainly spot the lovely Magda when I see her! She's one of the judges tonight.
At this stage event organisers are more frantically asking mere mortals to keep to the right of the path. The big celeb is on his way and now competition for autographs and photographs is fiercer. I re-position myself along the black carpet barricades. One of the judges, Richard Roxburgh and his wife Silvia Colloca make a beeline for it and aren't looking up until someone nearby shouts out: "Hey Richard, it's my birthday!" It works a treat.
"And is it really?", I ask the man in the black and white checked shirt. Yes, apparently so. Joff man says he'll try it again for the star attraction, and naturally I've agreed to try to take a shot. We don't have long to wait.
Sam Worthington, Aussie star of Avatar is bolting toward that carpet and Joff man yells out his head turning comment. It doesn't work. We're losing time as Sam is really moving. Joff man tries it again, only louder. It works, but......
oh no! A security man's arm gets in the way.
We make it on the third attempt.
These three are from Bondi.
The radiant Kate Miller Heidke is singing so we know it won't be long now before the main show starts.
These men are from Blacktown.
And these comfortably settled men are from Willoughby.
At this point I start to make my move towards another part of town, to catch another celebration that's about to start in earnest. I'm not to know that the next Tropfest signature to be announced later tonight is 'change.' Despite it being a fine evening, Tropfest has often been blighted by February downpours.So the next event will shift to early December. It will also be moved to the new and more spacious venue of Centennial Park. Tonight marks the end of an era.