My Tropfest experience
Two Piece was written in an afternoon at my favourite cafe. I’d just bought a new laptop for my birthday, replacing my 10-year-old brick of a mac, and had downloaded some fresh screenwriting software. Inspired by a fraught trip I’d recently had searching for a new dress with my mum, the story of 13-year-old Ava shopping for her first bikini tumbled straight out.
Once finished, I checked the Tropfest deadline, thought, “oh boy, that’s a close one”, but sent the script to my friends anyway, asking if they were mad enough to want to produce it. They said yes, and we dived straight into pre-production, shooting the film over two days and editing it on my laptop whilst on holiday in Hobart.
I never really thought of Two Piece as a potential Tropfest winner. I’d watched Tropfest keenly throughout my teen years, when I was first beginning to toy with the idea of studying film. The shorts appealed to me as they were punchy, funny, moving and clever. However, as I moved into university, I couldn’t help but notice – and feel perturbed by – the lack of female directors processing to the final 16. Discouraged, I eventually tuned out, believing Tropfest was not for me.
In 2017, my perceptions changed again. Tropfest introduced “blind” judging to ensure that selectors would not be aware of any filmmaker’s gender, and thus not be influenced by any bias (whether conscious or unconscious). This peaked my interest, as it did with many other female filmmakers, who felt like Tropfest was ready and willing to embrace a much-needed change.
If it weren’t for the 8 inspiring female filmmakers who made up 50% of the finalists in 2017, I probably wouldn’t have entered. They showed me it was possible, which just goes to show how important representation is – as now I’m here, writing this blog post about my experience winning Tropfest in 2018.
The reality of having our film screen to such a massive audience didn’t sink in until it was too late. Of course, that had been the motivation for entering Tropfest all along – I’d grown tired of the traditional festival route, spending up to $100 on entry fees, only to be rejected most of the time. I wanted to be able to share my work with everyone and make it as accessible as possible, as even if a film of mine was lucky enough to be screened, its audience would still be limited to those who were able to buy a ticket and physically attend the cinema.
I had never entered the competition with the aim of winning, so I didn’t even familiarise myself with the prizes or various events surrounding the screening itself. I just wanted a deadline to work to, an excuse to make another film before the end of the year, with the vague idea that if we got selected it’d be a good excuse for a fun trip to Sydney. I was thrilled for Freya Van Dyke Goodman, the film’s star, when she was awarded Best Actress. That, for me, was our win. So, when Susan Sarandon announced Two Piece as the overall winner, I was overwhelmed with shock.
It took some time to realise why Two Piece is, actually, a winning film. It’s heartfelt, honest, and though deals predominantly with quite a specific experience, resonates with a lot of people. (I’ve received a lot of wonderful messages from people affirming this, but still – my favourite review of the film comes from YouTube commenter Jonny10001 – “rubbish, Tropfest has gone ARTY!!!!!!!”)
My experience winning Tropfest has taught me not to doubt myself, and to trust in the stories that I feel are important to tell. This goes hand in hand with the best advice I’ve ever received – make films for yourself, first and foremost, and if you can do that successfully, you will find an audience. It has also prompted me to think about the importance of creative rights as a filmmaker, and how to ensure I will be able to sustain an audience and a career well into the future. As a filmmaker who has had personal struggles with ownership over my film content – firstly with my university owning the copyright to my student films and secondly when a sequel to my own work was created without my consent – the great thing about Tropfest is that the films are supported and protected after the festival, whilst simultaneously being made available to the public through official channels such as iView and the Tropfest YouTube page.
Thanks to Tropfest and the MPA, I can finally envision a career for myself in the film and television industry. I am so excited for my trip to Los Angeles. I’ve only visited the city as a tourist in the past, and can’t wait to see a new perspective from within the industry. I hope to be able to make connections and learn from those with experience and wisdom to share. I want to be able to write and direct feature films in the future, and have a few ideas I would like to pitch to people for feedback – there’s no better place to learn about the business of it all than LA.
I’m so excited to see where the festival goes in the future! My hope is that it continues to diversify and is able to use its prominence to amplify the voices of filmmakers of colour and varied gender identities. Tropfest has always done a great job of leveling the playing field among filmmakers with differing budgets and levels of experience, by prioritising good storytelling and original ideas. Knowing that, I am positive that the festival will only continue to grow, and I feel extremely privileged to be have become a part of Tropfest’s narrative.
Greta Nash won Tropfest Australia 2018 with her film Two Piece. Watch the film now on YouTube here.