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DOP Jac Fitzgerald wins Best Cinematography at Flickerfest 2009.


Summer Breaks - short film by Sean Kruck
January 2009, Flickerfest marked its 18th anniversary and the awards in the International Short Film Festival were hotly contested. The Miller Camera Support Award for Best Cinematography in an Australian Short Film was awarded to the film Summer Breaks written and directed by Sean Kruck, produced by Caroline Barry and shot by Cinematographer, Jac Fitzgerald; who picked up a Miller DS10 Solo Tripod System for her outstanding imagery on the film.
 
Jac Fitzgerald was born in New Zealand, although her career in cinematography began while living in Sydney in 1995/96 and at the time she didn’t know anything about the film industry. After travelling around the world, some friends from New Zealand came to Sydney to study at AFTRS, together they shared a warehouse as home. They brought home from film school a Steadicam and a BL camera, Fitzgerald fell in love with all the technical equipment that focused around capturing images. To satisfy this new love affair, Fitzgerald volunteered on ten projects at the Film school over a six month period. Over the next year she picked up various loading and video split jobs. Then returned to New Zealand, and worked her way up through the ranks from loading to vid split and focus pulling, Fitzgerald admits “The experience of volunteering at AFTRS gave me a good foundation of knowledge when working in New Zealand.”
 
Jac was hired as on set loader for the massive Lord of the Rings trilogy, during the first day when multiple cameras were setup she became the unofficial focus puller for the first four months, before officially being recognised and credited in the role of Focus Puller for all three films. For Fitzgerald it was the most enjoyable project, 18months of work, and a feeling of never wanting to see that much chain mail again.  The French stills photographer on Lord of the Rings said at the time, “You realise Jacqueline, this will be the best film you will work on in your life”, which is pretty hard to hear at the beginning of your career, but Fitzgerald hopes that won’t be the case when she gets the opportunity to be a DOP on a feature.
 
Post Rings, she focussed on more short form work, by focus pulling on TVCs and shooting music videos as well as shooting small ads in New Zealand. From there it all happened as a natural progression to end up shooting full time and has actively honed her craft in TVCs and Music Videos. In the last few years Fitzgerald has been seeking out projects in Drama, preferably shot on film, to broaden her experience and avoid being typecast as a DOP for a particular genre.
 
Now basing herself in Sydney, director and producer friends gave Fitzgerald the opportunity to shoot Summer Breaks, a short drama fiction produced on a small $25000 budget, shot on 35mm film with interstate locations. The film fridges of Australasia were raided for their short ends of 35mm stock. Hats off to Caroline Barry the producer of the film who managed to make the project work on the budget, they utilised a small crew with adequate equipment. The camera department included a loader, focus puller, a grip and gaffer with varying levels of experience, which presented a lot of new people to work with and a lot of laughs. The trickiest thing for Fitzgerald was squeezing this film in between the commercial job world, jetting between Melbourne and New Zealand for jobs, where most of the pre-production for Summer Breaks was done as conversations with the Director, Sean and producer Caroline over the phone.
 
Principal photography was completed in early 2007, writer/director, Sean, worked really hard to complete the long post –production process and was determined to get specific music tracks, and grading was completed at Frame, Set & Match in Sydney.
 
By the ever-growing selections and awards list for Summer Breaks, the long and hard work is paying off for the team. At the Sydney Film Festival 2008, Summer Breaks was announced the winner of the Rouben Mamoulian Award as part of the 20th annual Dendy Awards for Australian Short Films which came as a huge shock to the team who saw their work up against a really strong body of work from other entries in the festival. Reflecting on the film and pondering why its having such success on the festival circuit, Fitzgerald said “It’s a really low key film, that’s has a naivety and charm, that is simply the day in the life of the teenage characters, getting up to all the things we have all done ourselves; its sweet and not complicated, a story that audiences can relate to.”
 
Summer Breaks will screen alongside five other Australian films at the 59th Berlin International Film Festival in February and it was recently selected for the 2009 Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival.
 
The publicity-shy Fitzgerald was coy about her first award win in Australia, at Flickerfest. The best cinematography prize of the tripod system from Miller came as a very welcome prize, with Fitzgerald commenting. “I really needed a tripod, the Miller system will be coming to a very happy home.”