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The Monthly Column on Film and Media Arts
for the New England Entertainment Digest

By George T. Marshall, RIIFF Executive Director/CEO


(February 2004) Breaking into the film business was never an easy task and today with the plethora of films schools, the competition is even greater. In Rhode Island alone, there are five schools, all within spitting distance of each other, that teach film studies or filmmaking. Multiply Rhode Island by all the other states in the Union, throw in Canada, and North America is film central. Naturally, the historical Mecca’s remain. Success on the east coast means New York City. Los Angeles still has that mythical allure. And within the Film Festival circuit, Sundance has the power to inspire and build dreams.

Unfortunately, not all dreams become reality. A stint in New York may not mean growth. Los Angeles may not open doors. And, a win or have acceptance at Sundance does not always translate to anything beyond the moment.

So what about all those toiling in the field, looking for that big break which will jump-start their careers?

During the Summer of 2003 I had the good fortune of meeting a dynamic young couple from Australia, Thomas Baricevic and Anna Reeves, who have created one solid option to at least expose the work of unknown artists to a larger audience. At the time, they were curating “Short Trips,” a collection of short films from around the world. Since that time, they have morphed that into it’s own Festival and plan for further expansion.

They fell in love with New England and were greatly impressed with the high quality of creative work they witnessed. One of their goals will be exhibiting work by our talented artists as an ongoing side-bar in Australia. They represent a growing trend that is outside the mainstream and serve as a critical platform to launch careers. For many in the indie field, the older models have become too rigid and for some just another form of gatekeeping.

I caught up with them recently and found that they had were active as ever with their new program, Fitzroy Shorts. That seemed a natural starting point to begin our conversation.

NEED: Tell our readers about Fitzroy Shorts? How did it develop and who are its principles?

Thomas Baricevic: The popularity of short film has grown exponentially over the last decade in Australia. Annual short film festivals such as Tropfest, St Kilda Film Festival and Melbourne International Film Festival have never been more popular.

Fitzroy Shorts is the brainchild of Anna and I. We’re both filmmakers and recognized the need for a regular screening outlet for the overflow of films being made to satisfy the audiences hunger for this unique medium.

NEED: When do you plan to begin your programming?

Anna Reeves: Fitzroy Shorts will be launched on 4th February 2004 and will screen up to 10 short films on the first Wednesday of every month for 10 months at a venue in the heart of Fitzroy. Our programs will consist of the most unusual, most inspiring, most adventurous short films we can find from around the corner, the country and the globe.

The one thing that is certain is that with access to over 400 short films from Australia and the world. Fitzroy Shorts will never be short of a short film.

NEED: That’s a great exhibition concept. What else are you planning to make the program unique?

Thomas Baricevic: The highlight of the Fitzroy Shorts screening calendar will be The Inaugural “Fitz Short Film Awards” ceremony to be held on 3rd November 2004. This event will celebrate a year of short filmmaking finery. It will also be chance to reward the loyalty of our filmgoers and to say thank you to our sponsors and supporters.

In its inaugural year the Fitz Short Film Awards will to screen in the newly restored Fitzroy Town Hall; which was originally built in 1886.

All films selected for the monthly screenings will also be eligible to be nominated for The Fitz Short Film Awards, to be judged by a panel of esteemed celebrity judges. The Awards will encompass a cash prize of up to $5000 and in kind prizes up to the value of $4,500. Audience members are able to vote for the People’s Best Film Award and will also be eligible themselves to receive prizes on the night.

NEED: That’s inventive and certainly an inducement for filmmakers to participate who rarely see anything financial for their first work. Tell us a bit about yourselves.

Thomas Baricevic: Well, I began my career as an Engineer and later studied Sculpture at The Victorian College of the Arts. My first short film Ghost of Wannawong screened at The Buenos Aires International Film Festival in 1997. Since then I’ve Written/Directed and Produced over 9 short films including a documentary We Live Through These Times about student protests against educational funding cuts in the arts, which went on to win Best Video Production at 1999 St Kilda Film Festival. My most recent project is a 40 minute retrospective on the History of Breakdancing in Australia being produced in conjunction with well known Australian Hip Hop outfit 1200 Techniques.

I’ve worked with The Melbourne International Film Festival 1996 & 1997 and was also the co-founder of Short Trips a monthly short film event that ran for three years which showcased local and international short film makers. I’ve screened over 500 short films in my capacity as Event Programmer.

Anna Reeves: My passion for film has come primarily from the experience of working with directors from the Victorian College of the Arts where I originally trained as an actor. I currently practice as an entertainment lawyer specializing in media/film and television law. I’ve represented many local and international producers and directors such as Scott Hicks (Shine, White Butterflies) and Paul Cox (Innocence, The Human Touch). I was the Australian Co-Coordinator of Strategic Partners 2002 an international film conference which was part of the Atlantic Film Festival in Canada. And I was also one of the founding members of The Melbourne Underground Film Festival and have acted as a consultant to many local film events such as The Jewish International Film Festival, Short Trips, In the Realm of the Senses Outdoor Festival 2003 and The Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Also on board with us is Sandra Baricevic, has studied Criminology at The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology which has given her an acute understanding of audience behavior. She has worked as the Events Co-Coordinator for The Princess Theatre, Melbourne for several years and has been involved in the co-ordination of local film-related events on a regular basis. She has also appeared as an actor in several short films, most recently Miss Black and Neon Kiss.

NEED: A technical question: What do you think sets short films apart from features?

Thomas Baricevic: In principle short films are not dissimilar to feature film formats. In that audiences should feel as though they have been taken on a journey. Short films are also not dissimilar to short stories or even poems. They are a slither of life or a small piece in a greater story. Audiences are very receptive to the short film format as they enjoy the filmmaker’s craft of being able to tell a story condensed in a short time frame. That time frame is gradually defying traditional boundaries of what story telling is about. In Australia for example we have television funded initiatives for 50 min. short features. The results from these programs have been extraordinary.

NEED: How did you get involved with filmmakers from New England?

Thomas Baricevic: In August of this year, Anna and Thomas were invited to present a paper on “The Art of Short Film” with Academy Award winning NY short filmmaker Eva Saks, for The Rhode Island International Film Festival 2003. RIIFF has now become an affiliate of Fitzroy Shorts for what we hope will be a long association between the two organizations.

NEED: What are your goals with Fitzroy Shorts?

Anna Reeves: We want to accomplish several things with this program that we feel can be attained.

First, to create an alternative and visible screening culture for today’s audience hungry for new ways to enjoy entertainment in the heart of Fitzroy.

Second, to provide filmmakers with an opportunity to screen their short films on a regular basis with an opportunity for them to see films made by their peers and other filmmakers from around the globe.

Third, to promote the exchange of Australian Short Films with sister events such as the Rhode Island International Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival and to establish formal exchange programs in the next few years. This will work both ways as we want to create a platform for filmmakers from your region to be given international exposure.

Fourth, to screen short films to disadvantaged and local community groups who may otherwise not be able enjoy these films.

And finally, to inspire, create; live and encourage short filmmaking as an innovative and dynamic art form in its own right

NEED: Tell us what have you learned in developing this Festival?

Thomas Baricevic: We have learned the importance of allowing the audience to have their say about the films they like – to let them decide.

Anna Reeves: We are always fascinated with what audiences consider a “good short film” and whether there are different audience tastes across cultures. The search for what is a “good short” is almost an obsession with us, we absolutely never get tired of watching short films.

Thomas Baricevic: We were very impressed with the selection of shorts at RIIFF in 2003. The quality of films was very high and the variety of filmmakers from different backgrounds and countries made the experience all the more interesting. One film in particular “Pink” by Ed Gass about a young girl coming to terms with Apartheid, was incredibly powerful. We were astonished to learn that although the story was set in South Africa, the actors and director were French Canadian. That inspired us to encourage our short filmmakers to be bold in their exploration of subject matter – to develop their own unique stamp for the world.

Anna Reeves: Also the challenges of making a film festival economically viable and running year after year is one of our biggest challenges. Growing a festival from monthly screenings to a major international event is something which we are confident we will achieve in time, but one which will take enormous energy and support. If our theory is correct it is passion which will drive us, madness which will make it work and laughter which will make it fun.

NEED: From my experiences, I think you understand the recipe. You both have traveled the globe for what is obviously a shared passion. Tell us about some of your experiences.

Anna Reeves: By far the most exhilarating experiences in our trip during the summer of 2003 was after we visited RIIFF, when we unexpectedly decided to get married in City Hall.

Thomas Baricevic: We were inspired by the story told by Jo Andres about her and actor Steve Buscemi who also got married at City Hall. They told the story at the closing night of the Festival. We thought how hard can it be!

Anna Reeves: Little did we know that the day we chose to tie the knot (amidst serious security checks at the City Hall) half an hour later the whole of the East Coast shut down in the big BLACK OUT! It was an experience we will never forget and one which we are already making a film about!

NEED: Did you learn anything about New England filmmakers when you were here?

Thomas Baricevic: When we were in Rhode Island we really felt like RIIFF actually celebrated film, a film-makers film festival where it’s not solely about the deals. Where film makers genuinely discussed their ideas about the craft of film-making.

NEED: You have a lot on your plate. Your immediate plans for the future?

Anna Reeves: Our aims for the future are to expand the monthly screenings Fitzroy Shorts into the Fitzroy International Short Film Festival with the help of our local government council...
Thomas Baricevic: ... to follow the lead of the RIIFF in creating an event which embraces filmmakers from around the world and creates a buzz within the local community...

Anna Reeves: ...and to keep making good short films to send to RIIFF !!!

• • •

If you want to learn more about Fitzroy Shorts, you can go to their Website at
www.fitzroyshorts.com; or E-mail: info@fitzroyshorts.com

Their mailing address is Fitzroy Shorts, PO Box 2597, Fitzroy VIC, AUSTRALIA 3068.

According to Anna and Thomas, when visiting Australia – you are always welcome at Fitzroy Shorts. And, if you want to meet them personally, they plan on being back in the States this August for the annual Rhode Island International Film Festival.

About the Author:
George T. Marshall is the Producing Director of the Rhode Island-based Flickers Arts Collaborative, the creators of the annual Rhode Island International Film Festival for which he also serves as Executive Director. He teaches film and communications at Rhode Island College and speech communications and documentary film at Roger Williams University. He is a director, writer, producer of commercials and industrials for numerous business clients in the region and will be presenting his current research paper “Teaching and the Blogosphere” at the Annual Conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) in August. He can be reached at flicksart@aol.com