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Oops! I got into a film festival!
by Paul Garcia

Take One: I'd like to thank my mother and father for their inspiration and for getting me this far. Being a Tropfest winner has changed my life...

Take Two: OK, so maybe Oops! didn't win a thing - writing this before the fact I thought it best to hedge my bets. But, as they say in the biz, it was an honour simply being a finalist. Or something like that.

The Backstory: I must admit, our story does not make good copy. Nothing dramatic here about having to raid the piggy bank in order to have a final fling at the remote possibility of international recognition. Nothing about having to beg, borrow or steal in order to put together a meagre crew and produce the whole thing on a wing and a prayer. In fact - and I confess here with sincere contriteness, deeply regretting it wasn't otherwise - ours was quite a slick operation; a thoroughly professional production with an embarrassingly long-suffering cast and crew.

OK, so maybe there was a little begging and borrowing - but certainly no stealing! It's true, nobody was paid, but that shouldn't surprise anyone, since nobody agrees to participate in these little productions in order to get rich quick. Hopefully that comes soon afterwards. And here is the rub: ours was a cold and calculated attempt to jump onto the Tropfest bandwagon - the glitz, the glamour, the publicity. Exposure, exposure, exposure.

It started when Mark Bellamy (writer, director, friend) and I had just finished a short funded by the NSW Film & Television Office Young Filmmakers' Fund. The film was Heaven on the Fourth Floor and it was an epic in every way - a 19 and a half minute film shot in six days and finished over a period of almost nine months. It's a great little film, except that it is too long for most short film festivals around the world (it's very difficult to programme a 19 minute short before a feature in a festival's main line-up). It is also heavily dialogue driven, placing an obvious burden on either the producers or festivals when subtitles or dubbing are required.

Longing for fame and fortune at all costs, Mark & I agreed we needed to make a festival friendly film - ideally a comedy, no dialogue and around the five minute mark. We had our own limited funds (doesn't everybody?), so we knew we had to find both talented and generous people to make this work. We also needed a deadline in order to provide some productive pressure. Tropfest became the most obvious provider of such a deadline. It also provided a loose theme where Mark could try and write with a specific audience and genre in mind. And so he did.

Through old contacts, new contacts, favours and good fortune we put together an amazing cast and crew, proving once again that the film industry here is populated by many generous souls. A couple of post-production facilities bent over backwards to help us (can I mention Digital Pictures and Shot Productions here?!), and soon we had a shooting schedule, a location and film running through the camera (how about Lemac?).

The Pitch: I warned you there was nothing magical, nor noble, about our particular process. And maybe this is the moral of the story. Undoubtedly Tropfest has injected an amazing amount of adrenalin into our local film industry. So much so, however, that it is in danger of being mythologised. Don't fall for it. By all means enjoy the event, but don't let your filmmaking ambitions be unilaterally dictated by their calendar. Certainly use their resources - particularly the Tropfest Production book - to find people of like mind to fulfil your vision. Go to the nearest bookshop that stocks the Encore Directory and/or Production Book, take a notebook and jot down some names (who the hell can afford those publications, anyway?). If you believe in your idea, grab a phone and start calling.

You'll be genuinely surprised by the spirit of generosity out there in film land. And, if you want to know the real story behind the story of Oops!, drop me a line at face.it@usa.net. In fact, you probably know much more than I do about producing, so I'm keen to hear your story and learn along the way.

---Paul Garcia

link directly to this feature at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/feature.php?feature=23
originally posted: 05/08/99 09:14:20
last updated: 05/19/99 02:14:27
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