For Chris Luscri, ReelGood Film Festival forms part of a “holistic conversation” with filmmakers

Chris Luscri. (Photo: Shannyn Higgins)

A savvy producer will always try to keep an eagle eye on exciting new writing and directing talent. And for Chris Luscri, there’s no better way to engage with distinctive upcoming filmmakers than by actively screening their work.

Luscri has stepped up to be the festival director of The ReelGood Film Festival this year, which takes place tomorrow 10am-6.30pm at Lido Cinemas in Hawthorn.  

The unique, shorts-focused festival runs 25-minute sessions every hour across multiple screens at the Lido, and in between, the audience can grab a drink on the rooftop and listen to music, or join a intimate Q&A. 

Its focus is on showcasing up-and-coming Australian talent and connecting filmmakers with industry and peers.

This year’s line-up includes Noora Niasari’s Tâm, Madeleine Gottlieb’s You and Me, Before and After, Olivia Martin-McGuire’s Freedom Swimmer and the Oscar-nominated An Ostrich Told Me the World was Fake and I Think I Believe It, from Lachlan Pendragon.

The ReelGood Film Festival.

The festival will also give out a number of prizes, with judges to include Tony Ayres Productions development coordinator Marisa Brown; Sweetshop & Green head of documentary Alice Burgin; Film Camp producer Molly O’Connor; Atelier creative director James Hewison and directors Jason Raftopoulos and Kalu Oji.

ReelGood has also established a pilot program this year with Umbrella Entertainment’s recently-established production arm Sanctuary Pictures, which has allowed filmmakers to send the company informal pitches.

ReelGood is yet another hat for Luscri, who is also the business development manager for post-production house Post Lab IO, a producer, and curator of ongoing screening program Unknown Pleasures with Bill Mousoulis at the Thornbury Picture House. His credits include producer of Jordan Giusti’s Reptile, co-producer on Amiel Courtin-Wilson’s documentary Man on Earth and executive producer on Allison Chhorn’s The Plastic House.

Luscri feels festival curation is a chance to hone his instincts and interpersonal connection to filmmakers, and a reminder that one of the key jobs of any producer is actually watching films.

“It’s a primary part of my film education as well as a delight, because it gives me an ability to really see everything that’s out there and discover things; discover voices and works that I may have not been aware of previously. It allows me the privilege of spotlighting those works and giving the filmmakers a little bit of a push,” he says.

“That’s how I’ve always worked as a producer as well. Sometimes I’ve come onto projects quite late, mainly to help push them into a into a space where they can be well received.”

The guidelines for ReelGood are quite broad, and it isn’t a premiere festival, so that has allowed Luscri to curate a program of what he feels are the some of the best Australian shorts of the last two years. Some were some submitted, others he actively headhunted to include.

“When you curate a small but nevertheless still significantly sized collection the ways in which the films play off each other are interesting. There’s a particular theme that’s emerged amongst short filmmakers working in Melbourne; a lot of people are working in a low-key character drama mode, shooting on 16mm. That seems to be a particularly Melbourne thing,” he says.

On the rooftop The ReelGood Film Festival. (Photo: Shannyn Higgins)

For Luscri, one of the most exciting films on the line-up is A Day in the Life by the Karrabing Film Collective, a grassroots Indigenous media group from the Northern Territory.

“A Day in the Life is really about housing and recidivism and the ways in which that plays into a larger, oppressive, white colonialist history. The background is the Northern Territory intervention. It’s incredibly layered. There’s really absolutely exquisite use of montage and superimposition. There feels like there’s no other equivalent really in Australia; it almost feels like late Godard… for work to arise in this way in Australia is like seeing a UFO.”

ReelGood has been running since 2014 and Luscri has ambitions to see it grown; it has recently applied for triennial funding from Boroondara Council, which if successful will allow the team to double the program.

“We want to grow it to be the most significant short film festival in Victoria outside St Kilda.”

Outside of the festival, Luscri is developing a docudrama hybrid film with writer-director Melissa Anastasi and writer-performer Ayeshah Rose, dealing with trauma and its aftermath. Deanne Weir is the project mentor and Megan Simpson Huberman is the script editor.  

With Chhorn, he is also in early stage development on a feature about the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia.

He’s also moving into directing, working on a feature documentary on end of life stemming from his work on Courtin-Wilson’s Man on Earth.

Ultimately, Luscri feels that working as a producer, who also has a job at a post-production company and curates a festival allows an evolving, “holistic conversation” with filmmakers and the creation of longer-term relationships.

“I look for soul-nourishing conversation and a real connection. A bit like dating; I’m looking for my people. And this is the way, I think, to do that.

“And Post Lab IO allows me the opportunity to value-add onto the existing relationships and also to proffer a different level of support.”

The ReelGood Film Festival is held tomorrow April 22 at Lido Cinemas.