The Sydney Film Festival has launched a new $200,000 cash fellowship to kickstart the careers of four Australian filmmakers.

The Lexus Australia Short Film Fellowship will be the largest cash fellowship for short film in Australia.

Up to four annual Fellowship winners will receive $50,000 each to produce their next short film in 2016 and 2017, to premiere at the Sydney Film Festival in 2017 and 2018.

A shortlist of the best Australian entrants to the Lexus Short Films series will be curated by the Producers at The Weinstein Company, and sent to the Lexus Australia Short Film Fellowship jury. 

This jury, headed by Sydney Film Festival’s Festival Director Nashen Moodley, will then select the four winners of the Fellowships grants.

Moodley said this substantial new investment would open up vital funding to local filmmakers to enable them to tell their stories.

Australian filmmaker Gillian Armstrong, whose films include Oscar and Lucinda, Charlotte Gray, and Little Women, said short film was an important launching pad for young filmmakers. 

"The best shorts are like a little short story or poem, a tiny jewel in themselves," she said. 

"My 10 min AFTRS short, One Hundred a Day, which was screened at the Sydney Film Festival in 1970 truly launched my career. 

"The producer of My Brilliant Career, Margaret Fink always said it was the best thing I ever made."

The Piano and An Angel at My Table director, Jane Campion also won her first award at the Festival in 1984 for her short A Girl’s Own Story, later saying, "I knew that it could be a career changer”.

Sotiris Dounoukos, this Festival’s 2015 Dendy Live Action Short Award winner for A Single Body, is now working on post-production on his first feature film, Joe Cinque’s Consolation.

He said the freedom and purity of the short film form invites the filmmaker to discover themselves and refine their point of view through the questions they are willing to ask about the world around them and about cinema itself.

Red Dog director Kriv Stenders, who twice won awards for his short films at the Festival, is also a strong advocate for the format.

“Shorts are becoming a medium unto themselves because of the internet," he said.

Australian filmmakers must enter the international Lexus Short Films series before October 25.

Their film will be viewed by The Weinstein Company, who will select the Australian finalists.

2016 Finalists will be announced in November 2015, and the inaugural Lexus Australia Short Film Fellows will be announced in April 2016, and see their work premiered at the 2017 Sydney Film Festival.

It’s a simple process with no entry fee and no complex application processes. All filmmakers have to submit by October 25 is an eligible film and CV.

Australian filmmakers also have the chance to be one of the international winners of the series, who go on to direct short films that will be produced and receive first-look deals courtesy of The Weinstein Company, and tour to four international film festivals, including Sydney Film Festival.

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