FILMMAKERS MOST OFTEN CREATE SHORTS as calling cards for longer works, however, on attending this year's Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival it became apparent to me that there is a short film 'universe' out there with an incredible appreciation for this peculiar medium in and of itself. Apart from resulting in the consumption of an inordinate amount of bread, wine and cheese, attending a major European short film festival can open up enormous opportunities for the filmmaker. Here is a glimpse of the world that I discovered--the AFC travel grant system, the outrageous size of the festival, the sales opportunities, the invitations to other key international festivals, the press coverage, and the astounding coup of having two Australian films take home awards from Clermont-Ferrand 2004.
This year the festival received nearly 3000 entries for their International Competition, with seventy-nine films selected. From the 113 Australian films submitted three were chosen for International Competition and three for 'The Lab' experimental section. In previous years organizers have screened the work of Jane Campion, Cate Shortland and, last year, a major Ivan Sen retrospective.
The Australian contingent in International Competition this year included the short drama, Deluge (Flordeliz Bonifacio, 2003), the crowd-pleasing 35mm animation, Ward 13 (Peter Cornwell, 2002), and a short comedy directed by myself, Soar (2003). In 'The Lab' were director Daniel Askill's We Have Decided Not to Die (2002), Little Noel Wants to Fly (Nassiem Valmanesh, 2002) and Excursion (Cris Jones, 2002).
The AFC Travel Grant System
There are seven festivals for short film for which the Australian Film Commission offers travel grants to enable Australian filmmakers to attend. These include the Official Shorts Competitions at Cannes, Berlin and Venice, as well as the shorts-specific film festivals at Aspen, Oberhausen, Tampere and Clermont-Ferrand. The AFC sees attendance at key international festivals as a worthwhile investment in the inspiration of filmmakers, and to assist them in making international contacts for future work. Courtesy of the grant system and the generosity of the festival a representative from each film was present at Clermont-Ferrand, and we met nightly for screening post-mortems and the sharing of contacts and tips over beer and crepes or baguettes and wine.
The Unparalleled Size of the Festival
Clermont-Ferrand is the birthplace of Michelin. It is a town that, until recently, was far better known for its tyre production than its contribution to the French cultural landscape. Yet, over the week of the festival, around two hundred thousand individual session tickets were sold for short films from as far afield as Nigeria, Taiwan and the Ukraine. Imagine hundreds of people queuing for over an hour to view a screening of six short films, with many turned away once capacity was reached. This was the case from 9am through until midnight in the 1400-seat Jean Cocteau Theatre, and in five or six other 300-400 seat cinemas across Clermont-Ferrand for the week of the festival. The thought of being exposed to the unknown in a cinema--to be challenged by and to discover something new--does not seem to perturb the French, even in a relatively small industrial city. This kind of fever seems to be reserved for sporting events in Australia, and it is difficult to imagine such dedication to film-going occurring in many other nations on earth. It is in this environment that Australian and international filmmakers were given the opportunity to exhibit, discuss and sell their work.
Attached to the festival is the largest short film market in the world--twelve-hundred square metres of trade fair space populated by international distributors, sales agents, networks, festivals and film bodies, offering interaction with key industry players and sales opportunities to TV, airlines and theatrical distributors. …