|This article reads like a news release, or is otherwise written in an overly promotional tone. (June 2013)|
Tropfest began in 1993 as a screening for 200 people in a cafe in Sydney but has since become the largest platform for short films in the world. Tropfest Australia takes place in February each year and is broadcast live to an audience of approximately 150,000. The main event takes place in Sydney but live satellite events are also staged in Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, Adelaide, Hobart, Perth and other cities. The event is broadcast live on television and webcast to viewers around Australia and the world.
Tropfest has expanded to cities around the world including Abu Dhabi, London, Berlin, Toronto, Bangkok, and New York. The inaugural Tropfest Arabia, encompassing approximately 33 countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa, took place in Abu Dhabi in November 2011. Tropfest launched into the United States in June 2012, with a weekend-long event in Las Vegas and a fully-fledged Tropfest New York competition in New York on 23 June 2012 at Manhattan's Bryant Park. Tropfest New Zealand will take place for the first time in 2013.
Tropfest distinguishes itself from other events by being a "content generation" platform, rather than merely an exhibition platform. Filmmakers are required to create new works for the festival which must include an item, known as the "Tropfest Signature Item" (TSI) and which changes each year. The films must be less than 7 minutes (including titles and credits) and be world premieres at the Tropfest event.
Tropfest's prize pool is one of the richest in the short film arena, and includes international trips to develop filmmaking careers and "work experience" with top filmmakers. As a result, Tropfest has become known as the undisputed premiere launch pad for filmmaking careers, although to date this has been most notable in Australia, where many commercial and critical successes are directed by Tropfest alumni.
The festival's name is derived from the first year's location—the Tropicana Cafe in Darlinghurst, an inner-eastern suburb of Sydney. Created by well-known Australian-born filmmaker John Polson, the first festival was held in 1993 and was originally called the Tropicana Short Film Festival.
The support and involvement of film personalities from around the world has become one of the trademarks of the festival. Selection of the winning Tropfest film takes place live on the night of the festival by a panel of high profile industry and celebrity judges, in addition to the previous year's winner. Past judges have included Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, Naomi Watts, Toni Collette, Rose Byrne, Geoffrey Rush, Russell Crowe, John Woo, Samuel L Jackson, Baz Luhrmann, Keanu Reeves, Sam Neill, Ewan McGregor, Jane Campion, Salma Hayek, George Miller and Gabriel Byrne. Corporate supporters have included Intel, Sony, Qantas, Cointreau and MadFish Wines. Movie Extra used to be the primary sponsor of Tropfest Australia.
The festival attracts a wide degree of media coverage but it is the casual, grassroots nature of the event, rather than its high profile, which ensures the continued support of its patrons and guests. The competition is taken very seriously and is considered the winner's ticket to a successful career in film or television. Notable alumni include filmmakers such as Alister Grierson, Rowan Woods, Clayton Jacobson, Joel Edgerton, Nash Edgerton, Peter Carstairs, Rob Carlton, Sam Worthington, Robert Connolly, Leon Ford, Justin Drape, Tim Bullock and Elissa Down.
Other Tropfest programs have include:
- Trop Jr, a short filmmaking competition and festival for kids under 15,
- APRA TROPSCORE, a film scoring and synching competition, and
- Nikon DSLR Film Category, a category in the competition awarding short films created using DLSR technology
In 2006 there were over 700 entrants and every year 16 finalists are screened in public parks and cafes around Australia. Sydney's annual audience of around 100,000 people attend The Domain to watch the finalists on three large video screens. Over 150,000 people attend Australia-wide.
The Sydney screening of Tropfest 2006 was abandoned after 13 films due to severe electrical storms. Screenings in other cities were not affected. With the judges located in Sydney it was necessary to announce the winners two days later at a press conference.
Each film must be no longer than seven minutes, have never been shown publicly before and contain the Tropfest Signature Item, which in 2008 was ‘8’ (could be anything that incorporates an eight) to show that the film was made specifically for the festival.
For Tropfest 2007, Hoyts had a La Premiere VIP Lounge which sat atop the Tropfest production marquee in Sydney.
For Tropfest 2009, pay television channel Movie Extra replaced Sony as the naming rights sponsor for the next seven years. A new feature in 2009 was the live national broadcast of Tropfest and screening of the finalist films on the Movie Extra channel.
Tropfest Australia 2011 was by far the largest Tropfest ever staged, and reached a national audience of approximately 1,000,000 people (not including the internet).
Prior to the first full Tropfest New York competition in June 2012, Tropfest held annual New York screenings between 2006 and 2008. Signature items were a manhole cover, a slice, and a sunflower respectively. In November 2011, ahead of the 2012 competition, filmmakers were invited to "grab a camera, start shooting and tell their story through film", using the Tropfest NY 2012 Signature Item of "Bagel".
Over a weekend in June 2012, The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas celebrated Tropfest's 20th anniversary, culminating in a screening of the best 16 films from the past two decades in the Tropfest All Star Competition. With judges Toni Collette (President of the Jury), Tobey Maguire, Rebel Wilson, James Woods, Anthony LaPaglia, Trevor Groth and Charles Randolph presiding over the competition, The Story of Bubble Boy, directed by Sean Ascroft, ultimately took out the top prize.
A few weeks later, on 23 June 2012, Tropfest New York had its debut in Bryant Park. Hosted by Hugh Jackman and including musical performances by Alexi Murdoch and Milagres, the festival attracted a crowd of approximately 10,000. Judges Rose Byrne, Judah Friedlander, Jennifer Westfeldt, Scott Foundas and Ted Hope awarded the $20,000 first prize to director Josh Leake for his film Emptys.
In February 2013 festival founder John Polson announced a change of date to December 8 and a change of venue from the Domain to Centennial Park We feel like we are changing gears, we are growing every year and Centennial Park is in some ways the emotional heart of Sydney
Each year, Tropfest requires that entries include a particular "signature item" or action to ensure that they are unique and are made specifically for the festival. The following are TSIs by year:
- December 2013 - Change
- 2013 - Balloon
- 2012 - Lightbulb
- 2011 - Key
- 2010 - Dice
- 2009 - Spring
- 2008 - The Number 8
- 2007 - Sneeze
- 2006 - Bubble
- 2005 - Umbrella
- 2004 - Hook
- 2003 - Rock
- 2002 - Match
- 2001 - Horn
- 2000 - Bug
- 1999 - Chopsticks
- 1998 - Kiss
- 1997 - Gherkin
- 1996 - Teaspoon
- 1995 - Coffee Bean
- 1994 - Muffin
No TSI was required for the 1993 festival.
- List of festivals in Australia
- 2006 Tropfest finalists
- 2007 Tropfest finalists
- 2008 Tropfest finalists