VERY SHORT FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD

DRUM ROLL, PLEASE

The numbers are in for the two People’s Choice Awards, and we’re over the moon to let you know that two hilarious films got the big tick – Imprisoned by Daisy Pyefinch took out the juniors, and Andrew Robb’s Karl Heinz reeled it in for the open category. If you haven’t seen them yet, it’s not too late – check them out here. And if you have, there’s nothing to stop you watching them again – we’re going to. They’re very short and very funny. We caught up with the two super talented filmmakers to talk about awards, the festival, the future and breaking embargoes.

DAISY PYEFINCH

Where were you exactly when you heard you’d won the People’s Choice Award?

I was eating my lunch at school, sitting next to my friends. I saw the email and before I could read the “Keep this to yourself and your family until we make the public announcement”, I had already told one of my closest friends (I had to tell someone). I was totally overjoyed and not expecting this email at all.

Sorry to have to ask this totally tactless question, but how did you deal with the whole thing of Imprisoned, one of five shortlisted films in the junior category, not picking up a gong at the festival itself?

I didn’t feel any sense of disappointment – I was honestly incredibly satisfied with the experience. I had just spent six hours with a group of young filmmakers who I had learnt so much from and was able to share the same love for film with – which was something I had never been able to do with anyone else before. The crowd’s response to my film of just pure laughter was a better reward than I could’ve ever asked for. The amazingly supportive and encouraging comments I received from people throughout the night kept the biggest smile on my face – I left the event feeling completely overwhelmed and overjoyed with the outcomes of the evening.

What are the main things you got out of being part of VSFF?

The opportunity to relate with people who share the same love for film. For as long as I can remember I’ve always felt such a strong connection with film but have never been able to relate with others on the same level as I did with the filmmakers at the festival. The encouragement from everyone from the audience and the judges to the fellow filmmakers was insane and just reassured me that my work means something and that I should continue.

What are you working on now, film-wise – and how committed (or not) are you to comedy?

I am forming ideas for my next short at the moment. I love the idea of doing a horror with themes of comedy and perhaps a continuation of the use of mockumentary somehow. Another idea I have is to create a series of shorts following a similar theme to Imprisoned, looking at the hopeless dreamers of the world. I am definitely dedicated to pursuing comedy in all my work, it’s what I love to do and I suppose what I’m good at. There’s nothing better than making people laugh.

Even though you were meant to keep the award quiet, I’m guessing you’ve let Audrey know. What was her reaction, and did it make her feel differently about wanting to spend her whole life in jail? 

I have let Audrey know about the award and she was very pleased to hear it – she loved filming the documentary and is glad to see it doing well! This news, however, did not change Audrey’s desire to live in jail for life. Her dream is pretty much set in stone and cannot be challenged by any means, I’m afraid.

ANDREW ROBB

Set the scene for us – where were you and what were you doing when you heard you’d won the People’s Choice Award?

Interestingly enough, I was sitting at my computer, which is a place I seem to spend more and more of my time these days. I was actually delivering for a group of people over Zoom, and saw out of the corner of my eye that an email had popped up. You know how you can sometimes see the first few words, and these ones said, “Congratulations, you have…” I didn’t know what came next, but I was in the middle of speaking and couldn’t tactfully swing across, so had to wait patiently for about half an hour. It came from Terese [Casu, Artology general manager], so I thought, “Oh well, that’s got to be good news of some description.” I was surprised and elated and very happy with the result.

This is a pretty insensitive question, but I’ll ask it anyway – sorry! Your film Karl Heinz was one of five films shortlisted in the open category, but didn’t pick up a gong on the night. How did you honestly feel about that – did you think the judges were a pack of idiots, how did you keep so cheerful on the night?

No, I definitely did not think you were idiots [laughs] – look, any filmmaker who says they’re not disappointed would be lying because of course we want to win, that’s why we enter our films into festivals. That’s OK, because I also know comedies are less likely to be at the top of the tree in terms of winning – you look at the Academy Awards and less than 10 per cent are comedies. I was disappointed but equally on the night I was pleased that so many people laughed so hard they missed a couple of the jokes – that buoyed me along. I was very happy for Mark [Bernard] and New Life, the winner – I loved all the other films and acknowledge the detail and story told in all of them. I must admit Daisy and I had a bit of a chuckle to ourselves – she said, “The two comedies didn’t get up.” And there you go – she’s the other people’s choice winner. There’s room for us all, for all the different kinds of films out there, acknowledged for different reasons.

What are the main things you got out of being part of the Very Short Film Festival?

I was a little bit surprised I was selected and was able to go to Tasmania – I loved the experience from beginning to end. There are not many festivals that are that generous in bringing filmmakers together, and obviously the long-term benefits of that are we get to know each other, ideas are born out of people meeting face to face and sharing each other’s passion for film. There was a lot of encouragement; professionals from film bodies, high-profile directors, actors and writers… lots of people, who made it much more than just a gathering to watch films. One of the other things, unlike any film festival, is the mentoring, where you can ask brutally honest questions of people who are going to give you information you can use and build on. It’s a wonderful opportunity for all of us filmmakers to learn from each other, and from the judges and industry professionals.

Can you tell us anything about what you’re working on now film-wise?

I’m bubbling along with my ‘Friends Of’ project, which is probably an episodic series, focusing on a disparate group of volunteers who care for a ragged little creek that runs through their suburb. It’s a story of the intersection between nature and suburbia, and how those people put in so many hours to nurture the environment on their doorstep. It’s a gentle comedy.

So back to Karl Heinz – I’m sure you’ve let him know about the People’s Choice Award. What was his reaction, and is he threatening to come back and celebrate with you?

Yes, I emailed him and gave him the good news. He asked me how I was celebrating, and I said, “By installing a really old radio in the Volvo”, which is true. I need Karl Heinz to come back, because I need someone to operate the radio for me. He’s very pleased, and said he’d be on the next plane. Seriously, he was very happy to be part of it and to hear that we’d won the award – he was very, very happy for the film.