Alethea Jones won Tropfest’s 20th birthday competition last night, where heavy rain and intermittent lightning failed to dampen the spirits at the country’s biggest short film festival.

Jones' film Lemonade Stand was awarded first prize by a judging panel of Oscar Winners – Geoffrey Rush, Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett and acclaimed actresses Toni Collette and Asher Keddie.

Tropfest founder and director, John Polson said: “Lemonade Stand is an incredibly well made film and a favourite amongst the judges. There was intense discussion in the judging room, and some really interesting debates. Alethea should be very proud to have been selected by some of the industry’s greatest talent.”

The winning film, a comedy about a man and his grandfather whose efforts to sell lemonade bring a clash with an officious neighbour, has changed everything for Jones, who revealed she had signed up to the dole only two weeks ago and was now ready to take the next step in her filmmaking career.

Tropfest’s overall winner will take home a $10,000 prize from Kennedy Miller Mitchell, a money-can’t-buy trip to LA to meet with film industry executives, agents and managers and a brand new Nikon D800 and lens prize pack.

Jones has previously won last year's IF award for Best Short Film with When the Wind Changes, as well as the Audience Choice award and Best Comedy at Flickerfest and St Kilda Festival.

The runner-up at Tropfest 2012 went to actor Rupert Reid for his film Boo! – the story of an elderly couple who take a joke one step too far with deadly consequences. Boo! also took out Best Male Actor for Don Reid’s great performance, as well as the Telstra Crowd Pleaser Award.

The third prize went to Photo Booth by Michael Noonan, with the story of three soldiers who find a photo booth in a war torn landscape that reveals their shocking fate.

The night, which was studded with filmmaker and actor royalty with the likes of Baz Luhrmann and Tobey Maguire taking a break from The Great Gatsby, also revealed Tropfest 2011 runner up, Jason Van Gendern, as the winner of Tropfest’s mobile category.

While the adults enjoyed a successful night, 15-year old filmmakers Max Barden and Tim Sheehan celebrated their Trop Jr win at the world’s largest short film festival, for kids by kids – with their short Let’s Make a Movie.

Tropfest also revealed the 2013 Tropfest Signature Item: "Balloon", and announced two more global expansions for Tropfest: Tropfest New Zealand and Tropfest Vegas to join the other Tropfest events around the world in London, Berlin, Toronto, Bangkok, New York and Abu Dhabi.

A copy of the 20th anniversary DVD of the Tropfest finalist’s films will be available in the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday February 25.

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