World Film Fair (New York) – filmmakers & distribution

world film fair logos - me

The first World Film Fair was held in New York on 26th to 31st October, 2018. Joy House Film Festival was invited to attend this event and we submitted all our 10 finalists’ work and one of our own feature films, The Casting Game, to be judged among thousands of entries from across the world.

The opening dinner was held at Trump Hotel, 1 Central Park West, New York, where many filmmakers and directors from other international festivals attended. Here media asked, “what makes a good film?” & “what makes your film festival different from all the other festivals in the world?” My answers were, “a great story and the right chemistry of characters/ actors, especially the leads and the way the film was shot – cinematography.” (Key points I’ve learned from Australian distributors.) The answer to the second question was, “to spread joy through the many films selected and awareness in diversity – not only through the casting of the actors but through the story itself. My aim is for people to feel uplifted after attending my festival and hope for social change in thought, action and behaviour. To change people’s views – acceptance, forgiveness, kindness and paying it forward. These have been popular themes for Joy House Film Festival films and my own work.”

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The films were shown at The Producer’s Club in uptown New York and Cinepolis in Chelsea. They were screened on rotation from 10am to midnight over four days. Here I was lucky to meet some wonderful filmmakers from New York, Los Angeles and Switzerland. Jillie Simon, Markus Otz, Emine Dursun, Phillip Walker. They were generous in sharing their thoughts about filmmaking. Many shared the importance of choosing people well, ones who are positive and enthusiastic throughout filming and who can actually deliver, in terms of cast and crew. And the importance of selecting great talent. I admire Jillie Simon’s tenacity in casting Eric Roberts in her film, “Hungry.” It took great persistence and it paid off in the end as her film has been selected in many festivals and won over a dozen awards. Well done Jillie!

world film fair people

On closing night, it was a great surprise that our 2018 Joy House Film Festival winner, “Joy and Heron” won best World Film Fair’s international animation award, and “Give me a minute” won best World Film Fair short film in Australia/N.Z/Asia & “The Casting Game” won best World Film Fair feature film in Australia/N.Z./Asia too.

World Film Fair best animation  World Film Fair Give me a minuteWorld Film Fair Best Australian Film

I went to New York with no expectations as I was just happy that our films were selected for exhibition and came back extremely proud and chuffed that our films were well received and won awards. We look forward to World Film Fair 2019.

DISTRIBUTION     

While over in New York I was fortunate to meet distributors outside from World Film Fair. I’d like to share some important food for thought & lessons I’ve learned, as I’d like filmmakers in my shoes to be prepared and receive contract deals too.

Firstly, always make contact before going there and show a press kit of your film, trailer and a private link to your film too. Some distributors may only have time to read your press kit and see your trailer, so carry a USB of the best parts of your film and your whole film too – they’ll probably have time to just watch 10 mins of your film with you. Others do watch your film privately.

Secondly, they’ll ask for the budget breakdown of your film. Who brought in what. Never give a budget based on in-kind work or evaluations, as I learned in Australia in my first ever distribution meeting, that the market value for some work is based on experience and to over value your work as first time filmmakers is perceived to be arrogant / narcissistic. So keep the figures real. Over here I was asked, “Were your E.P.’s on board in title/name only, where they bring in at least a fifth of the budget and finish their work when filming finishes or are your E.P.s on board fully-fledged, finishing after the festival circuit is complete and distribution, and have ownership of rights / profits etc?” Also distributors would like to see a copy of the chain of title – rights to the story and ask what each of you are currently doing.

During conversation, you’ll be asked what made you want to tell your story and why you’re the best person to tell that story. It’s also great to find a connection with the person you’re dealing with, like I did with one here. It’s important to show humility – we talked about how life is too short to hold grudges and the power of forgiveness, and we connected when talking about our fathers.

Once you break down any fronts/barriers a person may have and just be in the moment, (don’t go in with any preconceived ideas or perceptions or expectations, and if you have a good enough product that has won awards, and has been selected into festivals), you have a greater chance in securing a distribution deal. I hope this helps you in reaching your goals and dreams as filmmakers. Don’t ever expect things in life as you’ll be greatly disappointed, just enjoy the ride!

Interview with Joy House Film Festival’s Best Women’s & People’s Choice Award Winners

The Annual Joy House Film Festival was on again at Hoyts cinema on Sept 9th, 2018. The only uplifting festival Downunder that promotes stories of JOY and celebrates DIVERSITY, supported by the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance’s Diversity Committee.

I had the privilege of interviewing our Winners, this week my interview is with our Best Women’s Filmmaker (“Munchies” – Hayley Warnock) and People’s Choice Winner (“That’s Life” – Katharine Rogers).

Munchies    That's life

1) What made you want to produce / make your short film?
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H.W.: I am a self taught stop motion animator. For every stop motion that I make, my aim is for it to be better then the previous one. This particular film Munchies had the biggest, most detailed set i’ve ever made before. It had proper film lighting instead of my desk lamps and I used stop motion computer software to help capture the animation. My overall goal for this film was to keep enhancing my animation skills and tell a story along the way.
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K.R.: Growing up I spent a lot of time watching movies.  They formed a lot of my childhood and I had an understanding of movie images and the power of stories to move people.  When I started telling stories it seemed natural to tell them in a visual medium.
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Hayley Warnock  Hayley Warnock Katharine Katharine Rogers
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2) What do you consider important as a filmmaker and why? 
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H.W.: When you don’t have human characters that people can relate to, I think as an animator you have to work extra hard for your characters performance to be taken seriously, however I think every element that goes into filmmaking is equally important. If you have a message that your audience can take away from your film, and they think about your film after it is shown, then you have created more than just a film.
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K.R.: It always comes back to story.  Everything you do should be informed by the story you’re telling.   And only tell the story if it’s something that matters to do you.
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3) Did you see any challenges whilst making your short film entry?
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H.W.: My biggest challenge while making Munchies was the ability to create realistic smooth movements. Stop motion obviously requires an incredible amount of patience and if you lose focus even for a second you can lose the flow of your movements. After creating all the elements of the set with plasticine or other materials, another challenge arose when I had to move house. It meant carefully picking up and transporting the set across Melbourne. To top it off it also meant tilting the set on its side to fit through the doorframe! It was a delicate process. Luckily there were only a few carrots that didn’t survive the trip.
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K.R.:

It’s always challenging making a short film. No have no budget or very little budget and you’re trying to make everything work to your advantage with only minimum help.   In my case I only had some of the actors for a short window of time, so I had to figure how to get the most out of the time and get the essential shots to tell the story.
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Munchies set  Munchies set
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4) Who inspired you to be a filmmaker and why?
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H.W.: I don’t necessarily get inspiration from any person in particular but rather certain films or single moments in films. When I was much younger I wanted to make films but I didn’t have anybody that wanted to act in them, so thats when I decided to make my first animation. I didn’t need to rely on any actors, I could create my own. However in saying that, YouTube has been an incredible source of inspiration for myself and if I had to pick a singular person, it would be Brit Marling.
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K.R.: ‘m not sure there was just one filmmaker.  There were a number of filmmakers who have influenced me over time.  It changes, a little I think as your tastes change.  I grew up watching MGM musicals so those must have had some influence and then I saw a of arthouse and offbeat cinema which as a young teenager kind of blew my mind, so all that factors in.
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That's life scene That’s Life
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5) How did you discover the annual Joy House Film Festival and why did you want to enter?
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H.W.: When entering film festivals you never really have anything to lose, so when I came across the Joy House Film Festival in the online platform FilmFreeway, I was delighted to read about the festival and subsequently entered. There is something extra special about film festivals hosted in Australia, and it was a great opportunity for my film to reach a wider audience.

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K.R: Three of my films have played at JHFF.  I can’t remember how I discovered it, probably via one of the film festival entry sites.  I think it’s always nice to have a screening in your home town and they’re aren’t masses of short film festivals in Sydney so Joy House Film Festival definitely adds to that landscape.

6) What’s the best thing about the Joy House Film Festival?
H.W.: I was lucky enough to attend the Joy House Film Festival this year. The biggest thing I noticed was that everyone was very supportive of each other with a general vibe of happiness going around! I also loved that it was inside the Hoyts cinema. Everyone’s film looked fantastic on the big screen!
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K.R.: I really like that the festival’s focus is on Joy and Diversity.  There aren’t really any other festivals I can think of that focus on that topic.  A lot of my films are joyful, which is unusual in Australia (lots of shorts made here tend to be quite dark) so it’s nice to have some place to show films that focus on something positive.
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Joy House Film Festival is always held on the Sunday after Father’s Day in September every year.
Spread the JOY! Pay it forward.

 

Interview with the Joy House Film Festival’s Diversity & Youth winners 2018

The Annual Joy House Film Festival was on again at Hoyts cinema on Sept 9th, 2018. The only uplifting festival Downunder that promotes stories of JOY and celebrates DIVERSITY, supported by the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance’s Diversity Committee.

I had the privilege of interviewing our Winners, this week our Youth & Diversity winners –   Shejuti Hossain (Creed) & Ehsan Knopf (Digby Webster)

S  Shejuti Hossain

E.  Ehsan Knopf

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1) What made you want to produce / make your short films?
E.K. : Digby Webster is a short excerpt from a longer feature documentary called “Flying Solo”, inspired by my own diagnosis with a disability, Asperger’s syndrome.
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S.H.: For me, it was about the message that our short film conveyed. Many cross cultural youth in Australia, myself included, face issues with being caught in the middle of two clashing cultures. It becomes an internal conflict where one is torn between wanting to follow the beliefs and traditions that they’ve been brought up with at home, as well as trying to ‘fit in’ to the starkly different culture present in the country/city they live in.
The aim of the film is to contribute to building resilience and social cohesion so that different cultures aren’t seen as opposing cultures. It aims to educate non-islamic people about our side of the story, how our faith isn’t any less than their beliefs, and how we can all live in harmony if we look past our prejudices.
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Digby Digby Webster Documentary
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2) What do you consider important as a filmmaker and why?
E.K. : Using the craft to offer a glimpse of a world largely unseen by the general public, and using that unique perspective to transforms perceptions around certain subject matter or theme – in this case disability.
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S.H.: Film is a powerful medium to spread a message as, if done well, it can captivate an audience and leave a real impression on them. Humans connect through stories, finding areas they can relate, and learning about something outside of themselves.
Filmmaking gives one the power to invite an audience into a certain realm for at least the duration of the film, and perhaps open their mind up more, ultimately making our world a more connected and interesting place to live. It can spark discussions, present new ideas and open up space for groups or minorities that didn’t have space before. This is important for the audience as well, as the audience gets the opportunity to have an experience vicariously that they may not have had the chance to do otherwise, perhaps making them more curious about the world they live in.
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3) Did you see any challenges whilst making your short film entry?
E.K. : The feature film was produced off my own bat – largely edited, financed, produced and directed by me over five years. It required a lot of dedication and self-sacrifice to see it through to the end.
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S.H.: We faced quite a few challenges during the process of creating the short film. We had a very low budget for film, which was the root of many of the difficulties we had.

It was also challenging to film outdoors in Melbourne’s temperamental weather. There were days where there were intense storms and hail – not ideal for shooting a soccer film.

Nevertheless, the dedicated cast and crew persistently overcame these challenges to make this film a success.

Creed  “Creed”

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4) Who inspired you to be a filmmaker and why?
E.K.: BBC presenter David Attenborough and is passionate interest in the natural world kindled wonder in me – as well as the drive to help in turn kindle it in others.
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S.H. :My parents inspired me to be a filmmaker through their love of film. Although they are not filmmakers themselves, my parents have encouraged a culture within our family of watching movies together, and discussing them, for as long as I can remember. We wouldn’t only talk about the stories, but the interesting way the films were shot, creative decisions from the director, the music, the acting, the subtle and overt messages and so on and so on. They inspired me to look at film as something powerful and malleable, limitless in its ability to tell a story.
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5) How did you discover the annual Joy House Film Festival and why did you want to enter?
E.K. : Through a friend. I thought the festival would be a wonderful opportunity to help reach a new audience with the film – through the short film format and to film festival attendees. Compared to where it had previously had screened, as a two-part feature documentary on ABC’s Compass program.
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S.H: I discovered the Joy House Film Festival through the FilmFreeway portal. I wanted to enter as I admired the theme of ‘Spreading joy and happiness’. I think that’s important, as the day to day things we see on the television and in other media is often not very positive, and I saw this festival as wanting to change that.

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6) What’s the best thing about the Joy House Film Festival?
E.K.: It’s desire to embrace and celebrate diversity.
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S.H. : The best thing is the opportunities being part of the festival opened us up to. Being part of Joy House Film Festival gave us the opportunity to show our film to a wider audience in Sydney, network and take our film to the next level at the World Film Fair.
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JHFF crowd sitting 2018.jpg
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Joy House Film Festival is held on the Sunday after Father’s Day in September every year.
Spread the JOY! Pay it forward.

The Casting Game (feature film) by Joy Hopwood

The Casting Game is an ensemble piece that highlights the journeys of a group of unconventional actors trying to make it big in Sydney, an Asian-Australian family trying to make a visiting relative feel at home with Might- T- mite and meat pies, and a seemingly ill-fated love.

Gary is a 35-year-old brick layer who has had no luck in love. On a night out with his high school mates – Lynn, Indigo, and Luke – he ends up in a bet to see if he can land a date with the next woman he sees. Along comes Sarah, a beautiful radio producer who is in a wheelchair.

 

In a Love Actually meets Muriel’s Wedding in a modern day twist, this film explores what it means to find happiness and joy in a diverse, dynamic world, in a beautifully fun and meaningful way.

An Aussie story full of heart and triumph amongst a diverse group of friends, The Casting Game is a relatable story that tugs at our heartstrings while making us laugh. It reminds us that we can find belonging in unexpected places.

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Writer / producer, Joy Hopwood, wrote the screenplay just under two weeks after watching a film last September in 2016 and was inspired to write something just as good with diversity at the forefront!

“In our current modern society, I feel that it’s driven by ego, self importance and over evaluation, this film takes us on a journey and reminds us, in a subtle way, what it’s like to step in other people’s shoes from all walks of life and to be mindful of others. I feel that’s what our society is missing – mindfulness and humility. My aim is to entertain people yet bringing that sense of community back into our society, which I feel is desperately missing,” says Joy.

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Leading lady, Stacey Copas says, “when Joy asked me to act in her film at our first meeting together I couldn’t believe what an amazing an opportunity it was and I pretty much jumped at the opportunity right away! I’m passionate about everyone getting an equal opportunity and I’m so inspired by Joy and the whole team who have poured blood, sweat and tears into getting the project off the ground. Our camaraderie and joint purpose on set can definitely been seen in the final edit. I’m really proud of the Casting Game; its beautifully told story which everyone will be able to relate to.”

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Supporting actress Erica Long says, “During my script read, I found that with every page I turned, I became more and more immersed in the characters’ lives. The characters are all so different (in terms of their personality, ethnicity and personal background) and I loved reading about how they interacted with each other – it’s not everyday that you read a script, which reflects our multicultural society. There’s also so much warmth and hilarity in the script – I knew instantly that I wanted to be a part of the transformation from paper to screen. Pearl Tan (director) and Joy Hopwood (producer, writer and actor) are champions of diversity in this country and you really see this come across in The Casting Game. Joy specifically incorporated into her script a group of friends from different ethnic backgrounds, an intelligent and beautiful woman with a mobility disability, 2 Australian-Chinese sisters (who are more Aussie than Chinese!) and their long lost sister from China. It’s quite a feat! The different characters’ backgrounds of course contribute to the story but the characters are not reduced to a stereotype (e.g. your Asian nerd). During rehearsals we created each character’s own backstory and Joy was happy to make our suggested script changes to ensure that we were each happy with the complexity of our characters. When you watch the film, you will see that Joy has weaved a series of funny and nuanced stories together into a coherent whole and, simply put, you will forget about “diversity” as such – the end result of Joy’s hard work is that you just focus on how the characters interact with each other.”

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When asked, “Why did you want to act in The Casting Game?” Supporting actor Nicholas Brown says, “I’ve been a fan of Joy Hopwood and Pearl Tan for a long time. I met Joy several years ago when we both made speeches for the Asian Alliance for parliament We both found a synergy because of our experiences as non Caucasian actors in Australia. Pearl and I have written and worked together for several years. I’m inspired by both of these amazing women, their advocacy and their creativity. Besides fluffing I’d do anything on film for them! Plus it’s rare to see a cast so diverse in Aussie cinema. The fact that there’s no major reference to anyone’s ethnicity is refreshing. The cast are all Australian who just happen to be from diverse backgrounds. My character is a brickie! I love that. The actors have been cast against type and this is exciting and rare.”

The Casting Game, written & produced by Joy Hopwood (Joy House Productions) and produced by Priya Roy (Vissi D’Arte Films) and directed by Pearl Tan (Pearly Productions) premieres at the annual Joy House Film Festival September 10th, 2017. 4.30pm at Hoyts https://Joyhousefilmfestival.eventbrite.com.au

 

 

 

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