AACTA has announced this year’s six nominees for Best Short Film, having reintroduced the category as a standalone.
They include Tanith Glynn-Maloney’s Finding Jedda; Eddy Bell’s Giants; Riley Sugar’s Hatchback; Luisa Martiri and Tanya Modini’s The Moths Will Eat Them Up; Megan Smart’s Stonefish and Steve Anthopoulos’ Voice Activated.
The six films were voted for by AACTA members from a field of 70 titles, with round 2 voting for the winner to take place from October.
Last year, AACTA did away with short film as a standalone award category, with shorts considered instead via broader short-form categories that also included web series.
Explaining the decision to revert back, AACTA awards and industry development manager Ivan Vukusic tells IF: “Various Covid challenges and impacts across the last couple of years saw us experiment with amalgamating some categories and we appreciate that short film makers are happy to see a dedicated category again. Short film is a great proving ground for talent and ideas, but it’s also a wide ranging and innovative art form in and of itself, and one which Australian’s consistently excel at.
“And this year’s nominees attest to that, with a mix of emerging creatives alongside previous AACTA Award winners giving us a strong group of films deserving of recognition and praise. With our Focus student short film initiative, and an ongoing strategy to keep growing the short form categories, AACTA are very happy to support short film as one of the key formative pillars of the screen industry.”
Reflecting on this years nominees, Vukusic believes they reflect the calibre of Australian screen and “provide a promising insight into the talent likely to front the future of the film industry.”
Finding Jedda marks Tanith Glynn-Maloney’s debut as a writer-director after a career as a producer on projects such as She Who Must Be Loved, Robbie Hood and The Beach. Funded via No Ordinary Black, a Screen Australia First Nations department and NITV initiative, the film reimagines the 1954 auditions for the iconic Australian film Jedda. It follows two best friends (played by Siobhan Breaden and Amarlie Briscoe) as they go head-to-head auditioning for the role in the movie and face the prospect of a new life.
The film is close to home for Glynn-Maloney, whose grandmother – Freda Glynn, the co-founder of CAAMA – auditioned for the role of Jedda. The part in the Charles Chauvel film went to Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, who died earlier this year.
Glynn-Maloney tells IF she is shocked and very happy receive an AACTA nod.
“[Finding Jedda‘s] core themes are about friendship, and testing friendship when one person triumphs over the other. One of the ways for me to explore that was through the competition between the girls up at the home to try for the lead role of Jedda.
“Mrs. Kunoth-Monks, who recently passed away, got the title role. It’s no secret that she was very critical of her time on that set… I’m not trying to criticise the Chauvels or Jedda as a piece of cinema at all. That’s not the intention of it. But it’s using the art form of cinema to be hypercritical of that time.”
Glynn-Maloney produced the film via her company Since1788 Productions, alongside executive producer Dan Lake of Orange Entertainment and Meg O’Connell of Unless PIctures. Finding Jedda is also nominated for the Indigenous Best Short Film Prize at CinefestOz later this month, and production designer Courtney Westbrook and costume designer Sabrina Myers are up for an Australian Production Design Guild Award.
Eddy Bell’s Giants won the Best Australian Short at Flickerfest earlier this year. It marks the director’s second AACTA nomination, having also been recognised in 2014 with his short Grey Bull.
Shot over 18 months in Narrabi, NSW, Giants tells the story of a struggling Australian farmer, fighting to operate under the dual pressure of drought and debt. The short take its name from the Kaputar Mountain range – the omnipresent ‘giants’ seen in the film, using the symbol to take aim at politicians and influential figures within society who deny climate change and its impact.
Bell connected with the Narrabri farming community throughout the filmmaking process and shaped the story with Luke Mulquiney who also produces and stars. Also producing was Nonny Klaile, who co-produced fellow nominee Stonefish.
Describing his response to the nomination and broader reception to film so far, Bell tells IF he feels overwhelming grateful.
“Short film making is so hard because you have to excite a stack of people to go on a creative adventure with you, usually for no pay, and I feel a huge responsibility to everyone involved to create something meaningful. So the recognition says that people are connecting with the film and that’s why it’s special to me. I also love that all our hard work has its moment in the sunshine.”
Director Riley Sugars co-wrote the script with Chloe Graham based on an idea she had in the pandemic. Listening to podcast My Favourite Murder while driving down the Calder Freeway, a hatchback car drove past, and Graham thought “a dead body couldn’t fit in there”. The two characters are inspired by Cruella de Vil’s henchman and the burglars from Home Alone.
When Littlechild rang Sugars to tell him they had been nominated, he burst into tears.
“We’re beyond stunned. This film is a project that we never made for awards or anything like that. It’s just purely a film that is fun and entertaining, and we made because we were a bit creatively starved during lockdown,” he tells IF.
The creative team are currently working to turn Hatchback into a feature.
The Moths Will Eat Them Up
The AACTA nomination for The Moths Will Eat Them Up follows two Sydney Film Festival prizes, including the $7,000 Dendy Live Action Short Award and $7,000 Rouben Mamoulian Award for Best Director for both Luisa Martiri and Tanya Modini.
A psychological thriller exposing themes of gendered violence, it centres around a woman on her ordinary train ride home who is subjected to a terrifying encounter with a stranger. The film is one of the RIDE Shorts supported by Screen Queensland and produced with Unless Pictures, with executive producers Meg O’Connell and Jackson Lapsley Scott.
The film is based an encounter Modini once had getting the train home alone one night.
“I think the film portrays the type of situation, the type of fear and intimidation, that most if not all women have experienced,” she tells IF.
“Women in particular approach us after screenings and on social media to say how much of an impact the film had on them and how completely they relate to the experience of the woman in the film. I didn’t really realise it would resonate so much for so many people but am so happy it has.”
Stonefish is the brainchild of Megan Smart and fellow actor and George Pullar, who pair up here as a director/writer team (Pullar also stars). A dark comedy, it tells the story of an anxious young poet who accidentally instigates a feud with his neighbour when he tries to quell the barking of his dog.
Smart tells IF she and Pullar have been joined at the hip since they studied together at WAPAA in 2014 and lived together in Perth. They recently launched their own production company together, The Missing Letter Productions, through which they produced Stonefish with Nonny Klaile, and are developing other projects including a TV series and feature film.
“We still collaborate on a lot of our acting work, from self tapes to preparing professional roles. So it was a natural progression into creating our own films together,” Smart says of her working relationship with Pullar.
“We have always had long term ambitions to create our own work but it wasn’t until COVID gave us the headspace and time to really invest in our ideas and education behind the camera. It was a perfect storm of opportunity and timing and so we launched our company.”
Writer-director Steve Anthopoulos’ Voice Activated tells the story of Trent – a florist and deliveryman who has a stutter – who is forced to find his voice in order to operate a voice-activated car. The cast is led by Aleks Mikic with comedian Becky Lucas and Sam Neill. Liam Heyen and Yingna Lu produce.
Voice Activated is inspired Anthopoulos’ own experiences, having stuttered since around six-years-old. He has been pleased to see audiences respond to its mix of comedy and emotional catharsis.
“I’ve been through a lot of speech therapy but one of the most helpful techniques I’ve learnt is to stop worrying so much. Spending so much time stressing about it, or beating myself up, doesn’t make me stutter less, and makes me a less effective communicator. I wanted to explore this idea in a way that felt relatable, frustrating and funny at the same time, putting the audience in the shoes of someone who stutters,” he tells IF.
“The central set piece involves a voice activated assistant. There’s something funny to me about how the latest boundary pushing technology can actually make things harder.”