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Foreign Language Film takes out cinematography honours at 24/7

Thirty three hopeful teams of young filmmakers joined this year’s 24/7 Youth Film Festival in Sydney's Northern Beaches and once again Miller was one of the proud sponsors.

The guideline is simple; 24 hours to make a 7 minute short film. Each contestant has (some of them) a script, actors, editing facilities, lighting and other equipment already organise for the night; others trust faith to do their job.   They are given locations, items that they must include, sentences to slot in their scripts, concepts, symbols and a secret rule; making the competition interesting and extremely creative.

Winner Tristan Harley and Manufacturing Director Mark Clementson

With great prizes up for grabs for the creative winners, the competition can not only be enjoyable but also stressful. As part of the tradition that we’ve proudly being involved for three years now we reward the film with the best cinematography. The prize is a 1637 DS5 Solo System, also known as the ‘Miller Prize for Best Cinematography’. Presented by Mark Clementson, Miller's Manufacturing Director and infamous 24/7 finals judge. (Picutred right with Tristan and tripod)

This year’s winner was a black and white, foreign language like film called: ‘Podwodny Prad (translation from Polish - Current under Sea) and we caught up with this year’s winner Tristan Harley interviewed by Miller's Gabriela Diaz festival coordinator for Miller Camera Support, of the 24/7 Youth Film Festival.

Gabriela: How was the 24/7 Youth Film Festival experience for you?

Tristan: It was amazing really. As a group, we had never made a film together before so being able to bounce off creative ideas with one another was a great experience. The fact that you only have 24 hours to make a film from start to finish meant that you are always working and thinking on your feet. You don’t have the luxury of being able to spend time procrastinating or worrying about all the little things that go into filmmaking. It’s all about surging towards the 8 pm deadline.

Gabriela: How long did it take you to start the ball rolling in terms of the shooting?

Tristan: We spent a month or two prior to the event discussing what kind of film we wanted to make and how we would go about making it. While we were not allowed to start shooting in this time, we were able to do some test shots (namely for the egg sequence) and compose and record the music. Jonathon Dooley, whom I play in a jazz ensemble with, was really inspiring in creating an improvised, solo double bass soundtrack which, looking back, played a huge role in shaping the style of the film.

Image from the film Podwodny Prad

Gabriela: The secret rule this year was to have a word in a foreign language other than English. Why did you opt for your whole film to be in a foreign language?

Tristan: We actually planned to do that before we heard about the secret rule. So it was really a coincidence. Two members of our crew were involved in long-distance relationships at the time so it was interesting to consider the way the world seemed to be paradoxically both expanding and contracting. By making the woman’s voiceover entirely in Polish, while shooting the male protagonist on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, we hoped to explore the spatial dislocation of the characters through a separation between sound and image.

Gabriela: What was the hardest thing about making the film?

Tristan: I think the hardest thing about making the film was working out how to translate the ideas we had come up with onto the screen. With limited time, facilities and a zero budget, there are always going to be things you simply can’t achieve. We were constantly thinking of how we could get around these problems while still maintaining the integrity of our ideas.

Gabriela: Did everything go to plan?

Tristan: On the whole I think it did. There were many elements of our film that we wanted to be predominantly improvised to allow for the signature items to be incorporated. As the festival location requirements determined where we would be shooting, we decided not to do any storyboards and instead just have a structural plan. The same was the case with the script, which was almost entirely written during the 24-hour period.

Image from the film Podwodny Prad

Gabriela: If you were to sell this film and they asked you what is it about, how would you sum it up in one sentence?

Tristan: I think it is a film that explores the ways in which two people communicate with one another in a relationship which is emotionally close, yet physically separated.

Gabriela: With the weather not being on your side, what other problems did you encounter while shooting?

Tristan: Looking back, I think we had a pretty good run in terms of what could have gone wrong. There were some minor problems relating to the technical aspects of filmmaking (flimsy tripods, computer malfunctions etc.) but, at the same time, there is an inherent beauty in working out what to do when these things don’t work out. Filmmaking is always interesting when tracking shots and pans are beyond the capabilities of the equipment you are using. Saying that, no doubt a good Miller tripod will come in handy.

Gabriela: I really wanted to talk about your film being shot in black and white. Why did you decide to do that?

Tristan: From an early stage, we really wanted the cinematography to play a central role in the narrative development of the film, and not just reflect the ambience of the voice over. By shooting in black and white, and beginning the film with an extended sequence of still life’s in Manly, we really tried to explore the weight of time that exists within any long-distance relationship. There is one line in the dialogue where she says, “I pray that someday time will go faster”, and I think in many ways that plays upon what we were trying to achieve through the cinematography and editing.

Image from the film Podwodny Prad

Gabriela: Would you be doing it again next year and what would you do better?

Tristan: Hopefully. This was the first year any of the crew had entered the festival and we all thought that both the professionalism of the competition and the standard of the entries was quite remarkable. Personally, I'm not sure if I will ever lose the rush you get when you see a film both coming together during the editing process and then complete on the big screen. If all goes to plan, we would like to enter again next year. I'm sure we can improve on a lot of things as we develop our ideas and learn more about the filmmaking process.

Gabriela: What tips can you give next year's competitors?

Tristan: We found from competing this year that it is important to be both prepared and flexible. Knowing what film you are making prior to starting is important, but you also need to be willing to adjust your idea as you find out the signature items that need to be included. Other than that, as a wise filmmaker and terrible comedian must have said sometime, just give it your best shot.