Did you know the average age at which a director makes their feature film debut is 32.6?
This major milestone – seen as the ultimate goal by many filmmakers – is often interpreted as the first step in establishing a career. The truth is, however, that for most feature filmmakers, reaching that goal is only possible after years spent developing a style, exploring techniques, experimenting, collaborating, and opening themselves up to critique.
The Melbourne International Youth Film Festival (MIYFF) is both a celebration of these endeavours, and a means to providing support and opportunity for young filmmakers from across the world. The inaugural festival runs across three events held on May 31st and June 1st, with 25 short films by filmmakers under the age of 25 set to screen.
“Creating a platform for young filmmakers to present their work to a wider audience is so important for their development as both filmmakers and as storytellers”, says programmer Alice Fairweather. She, like everyone involved in MIYFF, is a Bachelor of Communications student, working under the guidance of Cerise Howard, co-founder of the Czech and Slovak Film Festival and Melbourne’s Trans and Gender-Diverse Film Festival.
“Short film festivals like MIYFF provide young filmmakers with not just a platform to present their work to a large number of people and, in MIYFF’s case, their peers, but they also give filmmakers a platform to express both their stories and modes of visual story telling.”
The program, which features 17 Australian premieres and two world premieres, celebrates an array of visual and narrative techniques, which Head Programmer Alana Meehan calls “a great sample of what films are going to look like in the future”.
Meehan is particularly excited to be screening the Australian premieres of Elle Ralph’s mixed-media documentary on synaethesia, My Dad is Orange, and opening night short Scenes from the Men’s Toilet at a Ceilidh, Louis Norris’s queer drama about a couple whose relationship comes under threat when it’s revealed one member hasn’t come out to his family.
Norris, a prolific filmmaker and recent Cambridge University graduate, knows the important role a festival like MIYFF can have in establishing a career in the industry.
“One of the tricky things about filmmaking, as compared with theatre or dance or other kinds of narrative art, is that you’re kind of on your own. Theatre projects don’t usually get made until a building invests in them and provides them with a space to be performed in – whereas with independent filmmaking, that stage of the process only happens after the project is finished. Once you’ve managed to get it made, you then need to get it seen.”
So why not just share the video on Youtube or other social media networks? Why go through the effort of submitting to international festivals, with their slew of criteria (plus, in many cases, submission fees) when such a large potential audience already exists online?
The answer, at least for filmmakers like 184 Cups of Tea director Lauren Hunter, is connection.
“I have the ability to put my film anywhere online, but I choose not to. I find festival audience members to be very genuine people; they are there to watch and discuss films made by independent, unknown filmmakers. So when my film is being screened, it’s being seen by the people who matter, and that is the most important thing. Quality over quantity.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Norris.
“Aside from the valuable legitimacy festivals lend, there’s nothing like having a live audience, especially if you can be there for the screening, because people’s collective reactions when they’re sat watching something together are so much more articulate than when watching alone.”
The final word comes from production team member Bridie O’Dare, who says that while the films on show may be small – running anywhere from three to 12 minutes – MIYFF’s goal is far from it.
“We hope our audience will see that anything is possible. It doesn’t matter how young or experienced you are, you can make something amazing and have an impact on the world. Your voice matters, and it will be heard.”
MIYFF runs May 31st and June 1st.
For session details and tickets, click here.