Press release from Cardinal Spin

Damon Gameau has won the 19th annual Movie Extra Tropfest – the world’s largest short film festival in front of crowds of 150,000 nationwide and a live broadcast on Movie Extra to hundreds of thousands more film fans.

Animal Beatbox was voted in by some of the film industry’s most respected, including well-known feature film director Bruce Beresford, living legend Olivia Newtown-John, Aussie favourite Jack Thompson, Twilight heartthrob Xavier Samuel, director Stephan Elliott, producer Liz Watts, last year’s Tropfest winner Abe Forsythe and Tropfest Founder and Director John Polson.

Surprise judge ‘Shakespeare in Love’ actor Joseph Fiennes weighed in live from Majorca Spain before casting his vote online.

The winning film is a branch into animation by Underbelly and Balibo actor Gameau, with a catchy lyrical and poetic narrative. The film was shot in his mother’s spare room for just $85 and on a liquid detox diet with his girlfriend by his side – somehow they are still together. “I’m quite new to stop animation, but I find it a quick and versatile way to express any idea that may be lurking in my head,” he says.

Thrown into Tropfest’s coveted prize booty this year was a surprise trip to Abu Dhabi to judge the first ever Tropfest Arabia – announced by Polson during the evening. Gameau also wins a trip to LA to meet with agents and film industry executives, a brand new Canon digital video camera valued at $10,499, $5,000 cash, and the kudos of winning one of the world’s most prestigious film competitions.

Founder and Director, John Polson says Animal Beatbox literally reverberated throughout the crowd. “It’s such an interesting and unusual film, unlike anything I have seen. The crowd reaction was incredible. It’s the sort of film that’s difficult to describe – an animated poem – that somehow resonated with the huge audience,” he says.

Polson announced “LIGHTBLUB” as the Tropfest Signature Item (TSI) for Tropfest’s 20th year saying it was the ideal TSI for the big anniversary since “Tropfest is all about the strength of the idea.”

Max Tropscore winner Sam Wyatt played his winning score “She’s the One I Want in my Life” live onstage to welcome Tropfest’s purple carpet. Wyatt, from South Australia, took home $5,000 cash and will have his score played on rotation on MAX music channel.

Steve Baker used animation to take out the Telstra Mobile Masterpieces mobile filmmaking category with “Following”, proving you don’t need sophisticated camera equipment to bring home a prize. Baker, from Queensland, wins $5,000 cash and a trip to the Sundance Film Festival to meet industry heavyweights worth around $13,000 from Telstra.

Tropfest’s purple carpet was a star studded affair. Festival goers and Movie Extra viewers were treated to some fine celebrity spotting with industry movers-and-shakers Andrew Denton, Cheree Cassidy, Chris Lilley, Rachel Ward, Mick Molloy, Pia Miranda, Damian Walsh Howling, Sacha Horler, Tara Morice, Sybilla Budd, Conrad Colby, Gracie Otto, Dieter Brummer, Emma Lung, Diarmid Heideneich, George Houvardas, Leeanna Walshmen, Gigi Edgley, Luke Ford, Matilda Brown, Rebel Wilson, Ryan Corr, Tim Pocock, Todd Lasance and Rob Carlton among the Tropfest fans.

Celebrity guests were greeted by Chaser pranksters Chris Taylor and Craig Reucassel who gave everyone a serve, and Movie Extra presenters Lizzy Lovett and James Tobin for the live broadcast. Comedy duo Adam Spencer and Julia Zemiro hosted the evening.

90’s Aussie rock legends the Baby Animals closed Australia’s short film night of nights with their power ballad “One Word” getting everyone off their bums – even the younger festival goers. And Sydney’s newest prince of pop, Jonathon Boulet kept the waiting afternoon crowds entertained, with the weather holding off despite a showery forecast.

Audiences relaxed on picnic blankets or joined in on the huge line-up of free entertainment, including a make your own flip book tent, roaming photo booths, and bucket loads of free things to take home.

If you missed out on seeing all the live action on the night, tune in to Movie Extra on Saturday 26 February for a two hour Movie Extra Tropfest special from 12.30pm -2.30pm (AEDT). Hosted by Adam Spencer and Julia Zemiro, you’ll have a chance to view the finalist films including the winning film of Movie Extra Tropfest 2011, and all the red carpet action.

For an insider look into Movie Extra Tropfest 2011 don’t forget to check out Top of The Trops, hosted by Renee Brack, presenting all 16 finalist films and interviews with the directors every night from Monday 21 February until Tuesday 8 March at 8.15pm (AEDT) on Movie Extra, channel 417.

All finalist films are available from the Tropfest YouTube Channel go to www.tropfest.com.au and comes free on DVD in the Sydney Morning Herald and Age on Saturday 26 February 2011.