Get Tasered at Tropfest this Sunday

TASER w Ben Simpson director Matt Bird

With Tropfest happening this weekend, all across Australia, we have a conversation with Matt Bird about being a three-time finalist:

In 1993, in a little Sydney café called Tropicana, John Polson decided to set up an informal short film screening open to the public. Over 200 people showed up. It was then John knew he had hit upon something good. 20 years on and Tropfest has become the world’s largest short film festival, and for many of those involved, the ticket to making it big in the film business.

But despite the film festival’s growing prestige on an international level, the festival continues to emphasize the importance of its grassroots basis. The competition is open to anyone, and the winnings: over $100,000 in prizes. Tropfest draws in an eclectic mix of artists from all over the country, with varying levels of professional experience.

With over 700 entries on average, only 16 finalists are lucky enough to be selected. So it’s a pretty massive honour to be selected as a finalist three years in a row. I caught up for a brief chat with Sydney-based director/producer Matt Bird. A former student of Media Arts and Production at the University of Technology, Sydney, Matt’s skills have managed to position him as a Tropfest finalist since 2011:

Matt Bird2013 has welcomed you in as a finalist for Tropfest for the third year in a row. How does it feel this time around? What feels different?
It’s actually more nerve wracking the third time round! There’s a lot more buzz around the fact that I’m a three-time finalist and people seem to hold high expectations for me this year, which adds quite a bit of pressure.

The synopsis for your short film entry Taser goes as follows: “With 50,000 volts aimed at his back, Eddie wonders how it all came to this”. That’s a pretty short and suspenseful teaser. Without divulging any of the mystery, what inspired the plot and overall project for Taser?
While the story for Taser is fictitious, it was inspired in part by the recent controversy surrounding taser abuse, particularly the terrible incident in Sydney last year where a young Brazilian man died after being repeatedly tased by police. On a deeper level, my film explores how we all draw conclusions based on our own prejudices – for example, we see a story on the news and make assumptions about a person or situation without knowing all the facts. Taser presents a situation, then goes back in time to explore the events which led to that moment.

Love/Hate dichotomy: what are the worst and best in the filmmaking process for you?
I love the filmmaking process as a whole, but there are always times that are stressful or challenging. Pre‐production is a stressful time as there is so much planning and organising to do, things can fall through at the last minute, and all you want to do is start making the film. Shooting can be challenging when the clock is ticking and you’re at the mercy of things like weather. That said, there can be such great moments when you’re filming and you capture that perfect take. I love post‐production because you’ve got all your ‘ingredients’ and the magic of storytelling starts to happen – all the different pieces come together and the story takes shape before your eyes and ears. Ultimately there’s nothing quite like finishing a film and showing it to people… the hardships are quickly forgotten; it’s such a rewarding feeling.

With the 2013 Tropfest Festival day right around the corner, what three words would you use to describe your feelings at this point in time?
Anxious, excited… anxious!

What other things can we expect to see from you this year? Any major plans/projects?
I’ve got three feature film projects in development, and I hope the exposure and connections I make through Tropfest will help to create opportunities to give these momentum.

Come and check out Matt’s film at one of the Tropfest screenings happening this Sunday all over Australia. Admission is free. Details of all the events can be found here.