Tropfest Cancellation Brings Out Supporters

  • Article by Amy Bradney-George
  • November 13, 2015 at 2:04 PM

Some 23 years ago, Tony Polson gathered a group of cast, crew and creatives together for a short film screening at the Tropicana Cafe in Sydney’s Darlinghurst.

What started as a way to celebrate filmmaking with mates then grew to become one of the most popular cultural events in Australia, and the biggest short film festival in the world. Over the past two decades, Tropfest has showcased some of Australia’s most talented creatives – and opened many doors for them as the reputation for this festival grew.

But more than that, it was an arts event that appealed to all Australians, whether they were in creative fields or not. Audiences flocked to see Tropfest films at live events in Sydney and around the world, Fairfax newspapers offered DVDs of the finalist films after the event and, more recently, it was event screened live on SBS.

So when Tony Polson made an announcement on 12 December that the 2015 Tropfest event was cancelled, it sent shockwaves through the Australian community. The finalists had just been notified, the event was less than a month away, and prestigious judges (including US actress Susan Sarandon) were ready to go. But Polson had uncovered some serious issues with funding for the renowned film festival – namely debts “well into six figures”.

“In the past week or so, I have been made aware that the company contracted to raise the funding and administer the Tropfest event is unable to move forward for financial reasons,” he says in a statement posted on the Tropfest Facebook page.

“It goes without saying that this announcement is the most difficult one I’ve made in Tropfest’s 23 year history. My heart goes out to this year’s 16 filmmaking finalists, to our incredible list of sponsors and partners, and of course to our loyal and beloved audience.”

Polson statement suggests it’s still too early to figure out exactly what’s happened or whether the festival will bounce back, but after receiving a flood of support from fans and sponsors, it’s clear they are doing whatever they can to recover from this disaster.

“Since yesterday’s announcement, Tropfest has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from individuals and organisations around Australia.”

Polson has told The Sydney Morning Herald and other news outlets that the festival is “assessing its next steps” at this stage, including legal action against an unnamed company involved in the financial mismanagement.

Artists involved in the festival remain positive that it will continue in the future – especially with so much support in the wake of these issues. Long time Tropfest presenter Adam Spencer told ABC News that he will do whatever he can to help and believes the festival will fight through these challenges.

“She’s a tough old beast, Tropfest,” he says. “I was lucky enough to kiss Salma Hayek on the cheek, on stage, in the rain in 1999.

“I will do everything I can to make that happen again.”

Many of the fans on Tropfest’s Facebook page have also said they would be happy to go back to basics if it meant the festival would continue.

JOHN, it doesn’t have to be the big fancy doo (sic), make it humble again, ppl will still come – we don’t have to have all the celebrity hype,” Penny Willcocks writes, suggesting they “put it on in the park like they do ‘cinema under the stars’ as long as the finalists get to showcase their talents and get their trophies and prizes, thats what counts most!!!”

Images: Screenshots from the Tropfest website, source: supplied.


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