Young Melbourne filmmakers making waves in Portland

August 14, 2019

Young filmmakers from a Melbourne high school have made an impact on international audiences when they were awarded runner-up for Best International Film at the 2019 International Youth Silent Film Festival (IYSFF) in Portland, Oregon this July. Story by Monique Mulcahy and Lachie Mulcahy
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Young Melbourne filmmakers making waves in Portland

Young filmmakers from a Melbourne high school have made an impact on international audiences when they were awarded runner-up for Best International Film at the 2019 International Youth Silent Film Festival (IYSFF) in Portland, Oregon this July. Story by Monique Mulcahy and Lachie Mulcahy

A team of seven students from Huntingtower School in Melbourne’s east produced and directed their film ‘The Great Escape,’ a three-minute silent film that mixed stop motion with live action film techniques. The team was made up of young storytellers and visual artists Lachlan Soo, Eleanor Bentley, John Kokkinias, Paris Moore, Emma Russell, Elise Ozga and Madhu Iyer.

“Our film is a mixture of two filmmaking styles, both stop motion and live action,” Lachlan told us. “It’s about a group of pop vinyls in a classroom that secretly escape when no one is around, and they go off to make mischief around the school. It’s a fun little story with a big influence from other movies like Toy Story.”

While silent film seems like a niche artform in 2019, the team spoke highly about why they enjoy that side of storytelling.

“I really enjoy silent film because you don’t really need dialogue to tell a story,“ Paris said thoughtfully. “Silent films use techniques to tell the story in a different way – it’s all about show, don’t tell.”

“When it comes to silent films, I love the German 1920’s film Metropolis, which is a classic cult silent story. It has a lot of emotions even though there was no sound or spoken dialogue apart from music, and is definitely a big inspiration,” John said of the expressionist dystopian drama that has inspired a plethora of science fiction films.

Speaking about directing their film, there were several challenges that the team had to overcome.

“We wanted to celebrate the nature of youthfulness by using these toys and embracing the idea of stop motion,” said Madhu. “I really liked the challenge of using these toys because they didn’t give us a lot of movement to work with, which naturally gave us lots of constraints. We had to keep finding ways to work around them and find solutions, which was often time consuming.

“It was challenging but rewarding figuring out the technology and using different styles to shoot,” Emma explained. “The scene where four figures pop out behind a wall was difficult, we had to essentially lie on top of each other and time it perfectly, which took a lot of takes to get right!”

After shooting the film during their Year 11 studies, the team found themselves as a finalist at the 2018 Victorian Regionals for the IYSFF. The Vic Regionals is held each year at the prestigious Astor Theatre, a cinema long famous for its presentation of classics, cult favourites and select new releases.

Becoming a Victorian finalist secured the team’s invitation to travel to Portland and be screened in front of international audiences in July 2019.

Considering the team didn’t expect much to come out of their film that they treated like a personal passion project, they were in disbelief to discover they came second place overall for the festival.

“Our industry in Australia is still very small, we need to build it up,” John exclaimed. “We need to keep supporting festivals like the International Youth Silent Film Festival to encourage young people to invest their time in filmmaking.”

“Just go for it,” Eleanor advised other young aspiring filmmakers thinking about entering the festival. “We entered thinking we wouldn’t win anything, but we were pleasantly surprised. Make something that you like, don’t try too hard to make a silent film that fits in with the 1920s style. Do it your own way, people will enjoy it more if it is genuine. Have faith in your abilities and back yourself.”

Following this momentous achievement, the students are now completing their Year 12 VCE studies.

About the International Youth Silent Film Festival

The IYSFF is a free to enter non-profit competition for aspiring filmmakers 20 and under. It is an opportunity for young storytellers and artists to kick-start their careers in the film industry by gaining exposure to international audiences.

As an international organisation, the IYSFF holds regional competitions in Melbourne, Adelaide, New Zealand, the USA and the Middle East.

Entrants must create a three-minute modern silent film to one of ten original soundtracks supplied by the festival. Awards consist of $1,000, $500 and $250 for 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize respectively, and submissions close Sunday 1 September.

The top three films of each regional competition also have the opportunity to screen and compete at the International Awards Show in Portland, Oregon USA in 2020.

This year’s Victoria Regionals will take place on Friday 25 October at the Astor Theatre.

The Great Escape

Find out more > http://www.makesilentfilm.com/

You can get in contact with the IYSFF > [email protected]

PHOTO CREDIT: (Left to Right) Huntingtower School Vice Principal Mel Beal, John Kokkinias, Emma Russell, Lachlan Soo, Paris Moore, Madhu Iyer, Elise Ozga and Eleanor Bentley