When I received the email (while I was away in New York City) from the Dungog Film Festival confirming that both Sandwich and One Moment were officially selected, I was more relieved than excited. For me, having festival recognition was like a validation for the films, a reward for the hard work of the cast and crew, and to justify the film’s very existence. I wasn’t going to be happy with either film until they got a screening, and the relief with that moment came at about 4:30am one (drunken) night in NYC when I randomly checked my emails before bed. I read the email about three times before announcing it to James and Dean with whom I was travelling with, I needed to be sure I was reading it properly first (it didn’t help that I was fairly drunk at that stage). I sent about 40 text messages while laying in my hostel bed, excitement slowly creeping in and keeping me wide awake for several hours.
Skip forward to returning to Melbourne and preparing the films, there was never any question that I wouldn’t attend. I had always said that I would go wherever the first screening occurred, I got lucky as both films were going to be at the same festival -made life much easier. Dungog is placed about 1 hour north west of Newcastle, so not entirely an easy place to get to from Melbourne. The festival, which has been running for five years now, is the largest screening of Australian films in the world. The festival might be large, but the town of Dungog isn’t, with a population of about two to three thousand people (the festival attracts five to six thousand visitors over the four days) -and many more cows! Due to work commitments none of our group could go for the full festival, so half of us decided to fly up on the Friday night, and the other half on the Saturday, with us all returning on the Sunday night. Accommodation was really tight as the area isn’t large enough to cope with all the visitors, so we ended up booking three bedrooms at a local house where the owners had rented out their spare rooms.
Our flight was delayed and we arrived fairly late, after a drive through the pitch black darkness of country farms on the back roads that Google maps lead us down, we finally arrived at the house we were staying at. The house was lit up from the outside, but there was no sign of life inside. After a tense ten minutes of knocking and trying to work out if we even had the right house, one of the owners came to the door and apologised as she had fallen asleep. The place was a dairy farm, and thus their day usually started around four thirty AM. The next morning the Friday night crew (Aleck, Rachel and I) got up early and made our way into town at about seven thirty, we needed to grab breakfast and our tickets for the day. The session that included Sandwich started at nine fifteen, and to our surprise even at that time of morning we had a full cinema. The three of us were joined by Luke and his girlfriend Charlotte, which was great to have a little crew there. This was my first public screening of any work, and the nerves were definitely flowing, actually my stomach was tightened like a rope. But to see it up there, hear people laugh at the right moments, and then get a round of applause was such a great feeling and its that type of feeling that makes hard work pay off.
After that session we spent the day checking out the other sessions that included other great short films like: A Bitter Sip of Life, The Telegram Man, Rain for Morgan, and Adam’s Tallit. We also really enjoyed the David Williamson masterclass and I felt pretty inspired afterwards. That night we were joined by Mahalia and my friend Dean, and also met up with David Williams, so there was plenty of people around to enjoy the festival with. The Saturday night party was great, with some pretty amazing entertainment, and we all had a slight hangover the next morning for the session that featured One Moment, which had another full cinema and was also received really well. It’s so good to see that your films can sit with other great short films and really hold their own, and I think that was the best thing I could take from the festival, that we are on the right track and making some interesting and good work. I learnt a lot, as always, and I’m excited to apply new ideas and thoughts on future projects. Thankyou to DFF 2011 for selecting the two films, and for putting on such a fun weekend away!
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