PARK SLOPE — The world’s biggest short film festival comes to Brooklyn this summer, bringing with it the silver screens it's used to help launch dozens of careers over the past two decades.
Tropfest began 21 years ago in a small cafe in Sydney, Australia, where founder John Polson screened a six-minute film produced on a shoestring budget of $100. But it has since burgeoned into a globetrotting festival, one that hopped from New Zealand to the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere before landing in Manhattan’s Bryant Park last year.
“Tropfest has become a truly worldwide film festival,” Polson said in a statement. “And where better to stage it than at what has emerged as the center of the creative world, Brooklyn.”
Anyone can submit a film, and there is no minimum budget to be met — some submissions have even been shot on cell phones for little more than pocket-change, Polson said. Every entry, however, must be shorter than seven minutes, made specifically for Tropfest, and contain the "Tropfest Signature Item:" this year, it is “bridge,” last year, it was “bagel.”
A star-studded panel of judges, whose names have not yet been announced, will adjudicate the film entries — last year's judges were "Adventureland" producer Ted Hope, actor Judah Friedlander and actress Rose Byrne. Actor and producer Liev Schreiber will serve as host, taking the reins from Hugh Jackman, who emceed the Manhattan event last summer.
“New York is an incredible opportunity for emerging filmmakers to have their work seen by a huge audience,” Schreiber said.
The festival has built a reputation as a golden opportunity to achieve wide exposure and a shot at the big time. Last year's event in Bryant Park drew roughly 10,000 attendees. What's more, the FX series “Wilfred” starring Elijah Wood started as a 2002 Tropfest film, and actors Sam Worthington and Joel Edgerton appeared in Tropfest films early in their careers.
Film submissions and the festival itself are open to the public. The deadline for submissions is Thursday, May 16, and the selected films will be screened at a free event on Saturday, June 22, where one winning movie will be awarded a Grand Prize of $20,000 and access to producers via the Motion Picture Association of America.
Last year, emerging filmmaker Josh Leake beat out seven other contenders to take home the Grand Prize for “Emptys,” a movie about can collectors in Portland that was made on a budget of $1,300.
To learn more about Tropfest, visit the festival's website.