Over a decade after his short film Swinger won first place at Tropfest, internationally renowned director Gregor Jordan is back on the short filmmaking scene alongside Australian film veteran Bryan Brown.
Together the pair, with the support of Harley Davidson, have created the Open Road Film Festival; an initiative devised to engage and challenge young Australian filmmakers.
The premise is as simple as it is unique. Jordan (Two Hands, Ned Kelly) has directed a 75-second ending to a film and challenged entrants to come up with the beginning. The entire product must be under six minutes in length.
“I like that (the festival) is based on one ending and a whole lot of other beginnings,” Jordan says.
“Anything that sort of experiments with the craft of filmmaking and tries to push it to new places I find really interesting.”
Jordan is the first to admit the festival is part-promotion for Harley Davidson, who put up the money to fund the project, and further states the initial idea came to him through marketing agency 303 Lowe.
“It was a collaboration… The festival was dreamt up as part promotion and part desire to create something new,” he says.
“It was pitched to Harley Davidson to be involved as a sponsor, as it could fit in with the (24-hour test drive) promotion they wanted to push. They liked the idea enough to put up some money, and away we went.”
Jordan dismisses the idea that a corporate-funded festival is merely free advertising for companies (Canon has since joined as another sponsor).
“I think there is a little bit of cynicism in the community about corporate-funded festivals,” he said. “It’s been done before. Jamieson did one, Optus did one, and I think people begin to ask, ‘why should we go out and make films for what is essentially an ad?’ To that, I say, ‘this is a forum. This is an opportunity. Whether it’s paid for by the Federal Government or a brand doesn’t matter.’
“I believe the more opportunities made available to young filmmakers the better.”
Open Road differs from other festivals in that Brown and Jordan were on-hand as mentors to the short-listed finalists throughout the process.
Both Brown and Jordan read all the scripts entered (roughly 100 in total) and came up with a short-list. The pair then contacted the filmmakers with notes on their scripts, and continued to provide support by looking at their edits and cuts and giving feedback.
“The mentoring process made this a really interesting thing,” Jordan says.
“Some filmmakers were very receptive and some not so much, which is fine. It was always like ‘we’re here to offer advice if you need it, if you don’t, then that’s okay too.’”
Their personal investment in each film meant both Jordan and Brown decided not to sit on the judging panel, which is made up of Toni Collette, Rowan Woods and Troy Lum.
The final eight films will make their world premiere tonight at a private screening held in Bondi, Sydney.
Jordan is proud of each of the eight and said audiences can expect the unexpected.
“I’m really proud of the films and the filmmakers and am astounded by their creativity,” he says. “We’ve ended up with what we’d hoped for out of this exercise… eight films that are completely different. I hope this is what will excite people about the festival.”
The winner will take away a Harley Davidson Iron 833 motorcycle and a Canon EOS-1DC.
There is a prize of a Canon EOS 7D for the runner up and Canon EOS 5D-MIII for the People's Choice Award.
Public voting opens December 1 and closes on December 14.
To find out more visit http://openroadfilmfestival.com/#thefilm