Tropfest tips on how to make a festival winning short , News

Tropfest tips on how to make a festival winning short

Screen NSW caught up with the team behind Tropfest to find out who should enter, what the festival is looking for and how Tropfest finalists have progressed within the industry. 


The short films in Tropfest are always sleek and well produced, is Tropfest only for established filmmakers? 

Not at all. We’ve always had the belief that everyone has a story to tell and that anyone, regardless of age or experience, can share that story through Tropfest. That said, over 600 entries are submitted to Tropfest’s annual competition so only the best ideas and stories make the shortlist. Both established and emerging filmmakers strive to be in the Official Selection, not only because of the sheer scale of the exposure being a finalist brings with it, but because it is essentially a challenge. It’s a challenge to get your film finished by the deadline, it’s a challenge to work within the constraints a short film creates, to be a creative problem-solver and to persevere to realise your story.

So, it’s definitely aspirational, which is a great thing.

Do you need to have a big budget to consider entering? 

Our pre-selection panel and official judges never take budget into consideration when shortlisting or awarding films. It always comes down to the strength of the idea and how that was executed.

Obviously, money can help the filmmaking process, there are only so many things you can get for “mates rates”. But this is part of the challenge, and the experience of making short films – being resourceful!


Why should emerging filmmakers enter the festival? 

Tropfest presents a great opportunity for emerging filmmakers to hone their craft. It’s the perfect playground, with the right amount of motivation, a clear deadline, and a new Tropfest signature item to play with each year. There’s also the potential to receive massive prizes and international exposure.  But I believe, personally, that it’s the opportunity to find your creative collaborators to build your team.


What tips do you have for first time entrants? 

Don’t use the whole seven minutes. If you can tell your story in four or five, do. Use all elements/crafts of filmmaking to tell your story!


Can you tell us of any filmmakers that have been unearthed through Tropfest? 

Nash Edgerton won Tropfest back in 1995, and has gone on to become an incredibly successful and well renowned filmmaker, as well as stunt man and actor. His short films Spider and Bear have been internationally recognised. Nash’s brother, Joel Edgerton, has also been a Tropfest entrant. Joel recently wrote and directed feature film,The Gift, which is a hit in cinemas right now. 

Emma Freeman, who won in 2002, is currently getting rave reviews for her series Glitch on ABC. Damon Gameau won Tropfest 2011 and his recent documentary film That Sugar Film is the second-highest-grossing Australian feature length documentary in the local market. Rebel Wilson and Sam Worthington also appeared in Tropfest Finalist films before cracking Hollywood, in fact Sam directed one. And Wilfred, Jason Gann's hit US TV series, began life years before as a Tropfest winner.


What opportunities does Tropfest open up for emerging filmmakers? 

For most people, making a film is largely about getting an audience for that film. Put simply, Tropfest is the largest live audience for a short film - arguably for any kind of film - there is. 

Nationally, we have a live event audience of around 150,000 people, our broadcast on SBS 2 reaches around half a million viewers and our short films have had more than 36 million views online. 

That's a lot of eyeballs on a short film, and there's no doubt that helps open doors for our filmmakers.

With more than 600 entries each year, what advice do you have for emerging filmmakers to get their film noticed?

Keep it short, if you can. Spend more time developing your script before entering production.

Focus on the story – create the film you want to create, don’t make a film that you think will suit Tropfest.

Any other tips you want to share? 

Keep making films. Keep practicing your craft. If you do make it as a Tropfest finalist, don’t slow down. Use the platform to propel you forward and keep making new, better, different films. Keep telling your story.

For more on Tropfest visit

Entries to Tropfest close October 8 

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