LIGHTS, CAM­ERA

The Tropfest short film fes­ti­val is here again and SBS co-host Marc Fen­nell reck­ons the works will be a cut above his first en­try

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Lighter, tighter, fun­nier and faster is how Marc Fen­nell reck­ons cov­er­age of this year’s Tropfest short film fes­ti­val will go. Con­tro­versy, he can live with­out.

Last year’s win­ning film, Bam­boo­zled, was ac­cused by some of ho­mo­pho­bia and trans­pho­bia. While oth­ers de­fended the film, Fen­nell, who co-hosts SBS2’s cov­er­age, wasn’t a fan.

“It’s one thing to be con­tro­ver­sial for con­tro­versy’s sake,” he says. “It’s another thing to be con­tro­ver­sial in a man­ner that makes a cer­tain seg­ment of the au­di­ence feel bad about them­selves. That was what that film did. I kind of kept my mouth shut at the time as host, but I think enough time has passed.

“I don’t think it was made (to be) ma­li­cious. But I com­pletely un­der­stand why a lot of peo­ple found it of­fen­sive and I’m kind of in­clined to agree. If you’re fram­ing trans­gen­der peo­ple, that’s re­ally hurt­ful. I’m not hav­ing a go at those guys, but it’s not the film I would have picked.”

At only 29, Fen­nell has al­ready been a film critic at SBS and the ABC for a decade. Look­ing ahead to the 23rd Tropfest, a film com­pe­ti­tion founded by Aussie ac­tor John Pol­son, he re­calls his ear­li­est foray into film­mak­ing, some­thing he swears he has got­ten out of his sys­tem.

“In 1999, I would have been about 14 or 15, I di­rected what could have been the world’s worst Tropfest film,” he says, laugh­ing. “I don’t have a copy of it. I know that it in­volves ants, and somebody drink­ing milk and it was dread­ful.”

“I ac­tu­ally live in gen­uine fear that somebody at the of­fice is go­ing to go, ‘We’ve found it, we found that film’. It wasn’t short-listed. I don’t think it was long-listed. So that would be my first ex­pe­ri­ence of Tropfest. I did go on to en­ter other films which were less em­bar­rass­ing, be­fore I dis­cov­ered the thing I love do­ing is talk­ing about films, more than mak­ing films.”

With co-hosts Jeanette Fran­cis and Adam Spencer, Fen­nell says this year’s live cov­er­age will rely on more pre­pro­duced pack­ages than in pre­vi­ous years.

“When you’re at the live event, you’re there with friends, hav­ing a pic­nic and it’s awe­some. From a TV point of view, that’s ac­tu­ally quite bor­ing. It is a very re­laxed kind of ap­proach to film, it’s not the Os­cars with lots of dresses that re­quire Hol­ly­wood tape. Although I will be wear­ing Hol­ly­wood tape.

“We want it to be faster and cheekier. It can be made fun of, and we make fun of it in a warm and loving way.”

Pic­ture: GETTY IMAGES

Marc Fen­nell be­fore the Tropfest Aus­tralia 2014 fi­nal­ist an­nounce­ment at the Syd­ney Opera House.

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