The Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) has partnered with the Victorian College of Arts (VCA) to spotlight films from the 2020 and 2021 graduating classes on its MIFFPlay online platform.
Films from VCA’s 2020 cohort from were delayed by several Victorian lockdowns, with many students only now finishing work on their graduating projects.
One of the short films in the showcase will be All We Have Is Time, a sci-fi drama written and directed by Masters student Fraser Pemberton.
He describes it as a project that meditates on the concept of time.
”In Melbourne we’ve all experienced the days blending together and feeling like we’re caught in a time loop,” he tells IF.
In a normal year Pemberton would have put this project long behind him, with production held back for seven months. He and his fellow students were writing films while unsure as to when they could begin and what restrictions would be in place when they did.
The unpredictable nature of the pandemic meant there was often no warning when things were shutdown.
Two days before Pemberton was due to shoot All We Have Is Time, Melbourne was sent in snap lockdown in February, leaving 40-odd cast and crew adrift.
“We couldn’t guarantee in five days when we came out of the lockdown we’d start, because in Melbourne that was never a sure thing. That was inherently very nerve-wracking.”
Fortunately, the February lockdown only lasted for the expected five days or the whole project would have been at risk.
“Had it lasted any longer we probably wouldn’t have been able to shoot because we had a huge set that was being stored in the green-screen studio [at VCA].
“Semester 1 was about to start so we couldn’t rightly have left an entire spaceship in this room for months on end.”
Once filming did begin the crew still had to contend with a host of restrictions.
“The restrictions when we were filming were very intense,” Pemberton said, “They went further than the industry standard in a lot of ways.
“Actors couldn’t touch each other at all they had to remain 1.5 metres away at any given time.
“They banned us from using smoke machines or hazers because of the hotel quarantine thing in February.
“That was a bit of a blow because we had an entire spaceship set [which could use those effects].”
Last year MIFF showcased eight VCA short films from over the last 20 years, which VCA head of film and television Andrew O’Keefe told IF was the catalyst for the partnership.
“We had 15,000 independent views on it, so we thought, ‘Wow, that’s interesting. I wonder how that would translate if it was our graduating showcase.’
“It’s going to be geo-blocked to Australia so it’s not going to affect international film festival distribution, but it’ll be open to industry.
“They’ll be able to see it and watch some of the films and we’ll be able to invite people to see specific projects.”
Pemberton believes the MIFF partnership should extend the reach of all of the graduates’ films.
“In years past it was just family and friends that went to see the films whereas this has deeply entrenched industry ethos.
“If nothing else, people in Melbourne are hungry to watch films because we weren’t able to for such a long time.”
MIFF programmer (shorts and VR) Mia Falstein-Rush expressed MIFF’s excitement at the VCA partnership, noting the films coming out of VCA year-on-year are “always a step above.”
“MIFF Play will provide a professional platform for the budding filmmakers to have their work shared with the broader MIFF film community nationally.”
Despite the hardship, Pemberton thinks this project has taught him something as a filmmaker.
“The one thing that I have gotten from this whole experience is not shying away from limitations,” he said.
“It’s a hugely ambitious thing to have done during a pandemic, specifically a day after a lockdown.
“The beautiful thing about film is you can always make something amazing even with restrictions and it actually pushes you to overcome them.”
Pemberton is a part of the Dogmilk independent filmmaking collective. While still in post-production for All We Have Is Time he is already planning his next project, a feature length production.
All We Have Is Time, along with the rest of the films from the 2020 class, will be presented on the MIFFPlay platform over two weeks in September while the 2021 class showcase will take place in February.
The program will be separate from the festival which takes place August 5-22.