Inspiration from weeing on a stick
Ali Crew and Angela Blake met in 2013 while considering weeing on a stick. This collision of creative fervour became the driving force behind SmartFone Flick Fest (SF3), a national film festival of short films made with smartphones.
Weeing on a Stick was the title of the soon–to–be–award–winning 10–minute play that each was drawn to at Sydney's Short and Sweet Theatre Festival. Former dancer Angela had just returned from a long stay performing and studying in Los Angeles, and saw the play as an opportunity to flex her directorial muscles. Ali, an experienced actor, radio announcer and journalist, loved the piece, recognised in Angela a kindred spirit and the performance partnership was born.
Written by Melbournite Adele Shelley, Weeing on a Stick won the Best Wildcard award, and Ali and Angela went on to make it into a short film. The seeds of the Flick Fest were sown.
A 21st century festival
'We wanted to do more together, so we hunted around for an absorbing project,' Ali Crew told Media Super, now a supporter of SF3.
The pair noticed that smartphone film festivals were erupting overseas and this low entry/high tech combination appealed as a project worthy of their energies.
'Anyone with a smartphone has an entire film production company in their pocket. Already, mainstream production companies are exploiting this very sophisticated technology in advertising, documentary–making and even feature films,' she said.
Last year's judge and head of Pocket Film Academy, Jason Van Genderen was a winner at Sundance London for his documentary Red Earth Hip Hop filmed on his Nokia. Sean Baker directed the Sydney and Melbourne film festivals' hit, Tangerine, and shot it on an iPhone. And from the sublime to the select, Bentley not only shot an ad for its $300,000 Mulsanne on an iPhone, but edited it on one of the iPad Air computers built into the car!
'While the technology of smartphones is hugely sophisticated, we wanted to showcase the boundless opportunities for creativity they offer. Add lenses, use editing programs [also available on your phone] and it's move over Hollywood,' Ali laughed.
Build it and they will come
'Last year, we just put it out there just to see what might happen. We did put a bit of order around it, including a time limit on the length of each film, which gives entrants some parameters. We got 500 entries, so we knew we were onto something.'
The time limit was arrived at by the highly scientific method of looking at the world's largest short film festival, Sydney TropFest's ceiling (7.5 minutes) and landing inside of that (6.5 minutes).
'It may not sound like a long time, but last years' experience taught us that a lot of clever storytelling can be revealed within those constraints, leading to quite a satisfying cinematic experience,' Ali said.
The groundswell of interest is growing. Apple has come on board, offering SF3 workshops in its Sydney store on 7 July; The Hub Studio will run workshops from script to final edit on three consecutive weekends in time for the August closing date for entries; and major sponsor Pocket Film Academy's website continuously offers myriad tips and tricks.
While entries were free in 2015, there will be a small charge this year – $15 and $10 concession – to help meet costs. Typically low–key, Ali and Angela researched the price by quizzing their interns (uni students) as to what they could afford. The upshot was that for students, there is a $10 barrier. Beyond that, spending decisions come with some serious head scratching, so the price was settled.
'Young people are highly tech–savvy, so we were keen not to exclude them. We want to emphasise the festival's accessibility and affordability. Anyone with a smartphone can have a go – last year's winner, Steve McGrath, was in his 40s and shot his offering, LSD Man, on an old Samsung 4,' Ali said.
More Weeing to come
Weeing on a stick has yet another life. The Short and Sweet Festival is taking it (and Ali and Angela) to Los Angeles in September, where it will be a feature of the Festival's US launch. Meanwhile the duo are readying themselves for the inevitable deluge of films minutes before the closing date of 1 August. To enter or find out more about the festival visit www.sf3.com.au