Image above from TropJr winning film: Outcasts Anonymous
Banner Image: Best Actor winner: Dad from Rainbow Chasers

It’s the urban noise we all recognise , a large group of teenagers excited about something.  Travelling up the escalator to the cinema for the TropJr judging, the noise is inescapable.  And it’s not just the competitors in the prestigious event who have a buzz about them.  Siblings and carers all gather to watch as we media take photos, chat with the young people and do on camera interviews.

Excited is a word keeps coming up when you speak to these filmmakers of the future.  Nervous also gets lots of mentions.  But when you draw them out most are working on a new project now and keen to watch the films of their peers, most will go to tonight’s Tropfest also. I’ve put the name of one  young man into my memory store he’s excited … about making the contacts.

The judging panel included Lincoln Younes (Home and Away), Madeleine Clunies-Ross (A Place to Call Home), Sean Keenan (Puberty Blues), Julian Maroun (Romper Stomper), Tiarnie Coupland (Neighbours), and winner of Trop Jr 2017 Nick Ward.

And their decisions?

First Prize to Tadji Ulrich for Outcasts Anonymous.
Austin Macfarlane (Greenslopes, QLD) took home Second Prize with The Sock Dimension. 
Third Prize went to Daniel Nailand (Russell Lea, NSW) for Mr Wolf. 
Best Male Actor was awarded to Paul Butler, the director’s own father, for his hilarious role as an enthusiastic rainbow fanatic in Rainbow Chasers.  
Best Female Actress came to a heart-racing tie between Katerina Alexander (Love, Ella) from Surry Hills, NSW and Jayda Hall (Iris) from Pymble, NSW.

How the judges came to any decision today is a mystery, every film is outstanding in its own way and every single frame is quality plus.  I loved every single film I saw today.  Congratulations to all the finalists.

MR WOLF  ... Daniel Nailand (Collingwood, VIC). Age: 15
 This offering was superbly filmed with the camera in semi-constant motion.  Zooms and pans and tracks of a snowy landscape pulling into closeup storytelling by the end to give a very dynamic and restless horror feel.

LOVE, ELLA ...  Katerina (Kat) Alexander (Sydney, NSW) Age: 14

What a charming, gentle film.  It was  wonderful in  its use of natural light especially sunshine.  Plus a thoroughly entertaining family of actors the naturalness of whom was absolutely hilarious and their laughter infectious.  Great central role from the filmmaker as Ella too.

ISSUES ... Finalist: Kate Falconer-Flint and Layla Farook (Wahroonga, NSW) Ages: Both 13

Very detailed concept work in this film which cleverly manipulated colour by putting red on white to define the images.  There was a lovely nod to music/ fashion videos in the middle of the film.  And stunning use of ambient sound.  Silences or low music broken only by lockers slamming or echoes off walls or the scrunch of paper.

IRIS ...Finalist: Annabelle Richens (Pymble, NSW) Age: 15

This filmaker pulls no punches here with a condemnation of religious mores in a simple, effective offering which is uplifting and relevant . Gentle and sensitive acting melds beautifully with the evocative and moving music choices.

THE SOCK DIMENSION ... Finalist: Austin Macfarlane (Greenslopes, QLD) Age: 15

So  much fun to be had in this spectacularly good combination of terrific acting and special effects. The lost sock universe is a whirlpool of danger, made scarier by the excellent sound effects and vintage horror style.

THE RAINBOW...Finalist: Jayden McGinlay (Pacific Pines, QLD) Age: 12

The audio was really well chosen in this film.  Not just the music but the metal on metal of a pen being picked up and the heartbeat behind in one scene. The time travelling was cleverly created with a series of shots and costume changes.  A powerful piece about self belief.

THE LIGHT...Finalist: Mia Schirmer (Lennox Head, NSW) Age: 15

The lyricism of this little film is stylish and so well rendered.  A freewheeling, interpretive creativity about shots selection to elevate what could be seen as despair.  Hope's arrival storyboarded perfectly for maximum impact.

RUN ... Finalist: Matthew Simmons (Ryde, NSW) Age: 14

This was such a fun film to watch.  A boy's own adventure complete with guns and running to music and hand to hand mortal combat.  A real genre piece with typewriter exposition, jumpcuts for dynamism and syncopated background music to rollick the film along.

RAINBOW CHASERS ... Finalist: Charlie Butler (Nairne, SA) Age: 16

What a clever idea!  And scripted to perfection with hilarious dialogue filled with optimism and solidarity.  No family drama here. The reproduction of traditional short TV piece with interviews intercut with action was achieved with such skill that Charlie could slip into a camo job on A Current Affair, no worries.

PICK A COLOUR ...Finalist: Damian McLindon (Fitzroy North, VIC) Age: 15

This stop motion Lego offering was so visually exciting to watch with so many small, discrete movements to match the dialogue.  And spectacular command of depth of field, which is so difficult in close up work.  And the hero was great fun ... I loved his cynical side.

OUTCASTS ANONYMOUS ... Finalist: Tadji Ulrich (Upwey, VIC)  Age: 15

A 'reel' ensemble piece for this offering.  A gracious host and a cast of endearing weirdos.   The script was good but the performances were just cracker!  And the use of makeup really made this film standout.  Fred the deadpan Zombiew was my fave out of all the charcters I saw on screen today.

INTROSPECT ... Finalist: Amelia Pieri (Earlwood, NSW)  Age: 15

Truly great use of symbolism here to show inner workings and that T-shirt aspect was handled with great care for what the viewer would see and when.  But I loved the edits, especially the ones where he walks into fill the frame to create a blur out.  And the subtle use of slo-mo ... terrific.

RAINBOW ... Finalist: Ivan Farkas (Quakers Hill, NSW) Age: 11

Precision and long hours, I bet,  combine together to present a lovely life affirming work here in an animation with little knitted figures.

HUED ... Finalists: Jessica Nipperess (Mudgee, NSW) Age: 12

I had a little cry at this one.  Have no idea why it touched me so deeply.  Great job Jessica.   Do Good sounds simple but the theme was developed with a thoroughly nuanced performance, well chosen music and a great script using lots of locations.  And I really enjoyed the shutter speed used to give the strikingly washed out look of the dream.  

DEATH DAY... Finalist: Larisa Jacono (Shelley, WA) Age: 15

The sense of myster was vey well developed in this film.  The filmmaker had a clear focus for the ending and the piano underscore really built the tension.  Script wise, beginning with the clean up was very evocative and struck just the right note to show how the girl was feeling.

DEAR MELODY... Finalists: Piper Stapledon, Jade Jackson (Mosman, NSW) Ages: Both 15

The detail of this film was very striking.  the use of costuming to foreground how the girl was feeling and the lovely voice acting over the action really developed sympathy for her.  The subtle use of colour for the mean girls was especially evocative as was the use of on-screen text.  That text graphic was really well created too.

DAMAGED OR THE PERPETUAL LONELINESS OF BEING LOST IN A DREAM ... Finalist: Mason Hubbard, Jarrod Dearden, Fraser Robertson (Sydney, NSW)  Ages: Mason TBC, Jarrod 15, Fraser 14

This was a superb rendering of a post apocalyptic world and with the early scene washed to a stark black and white, the lone figure's isolation was somehow exacerbated.  Very hard to act when your face isn't shown but this actor really was good at expressing the despair.  That fractured, dialogue-less, audio track also deepened the isolation.