Current Issue #488

Home Alone Film Fest winners reflect on isolation

Lucy Gale
A Very Lockdown Birthday still

Held during the first week of June while most of the country was still in lockdown, the Helpmann Academy Home Alone Film Fest awarded three emerging filmmakers with $13,000 in prize money for their insights into isolation.

Supported by the Nunn Dimos Foundation and presented in partnership with the City of Adelaide, the Home Alone Film Fest was an online, short-film competition that called on eligible South Australian filmmakers to respond to the theme of ‘creativity in isolation’, as they navigated living and creating through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The result was a selection of stories told by filmmakers, composers, visual artists, animators and actors. The shortlisted films were judged by an esteemed panel of judges that included director of the Emmy award winning Nanette, Madeleine Parry, Adelaide Film Festival CEO/Creative Director Mat Kesting, award winning documentary director Maya Newell (In My Blood It Runs), acclaimed film/television director, producer and writer Richard Jasek (Making a Mark), and multi-award winning director Scott Hicks (Highly Strung, Shine).

Emerging filmmaker and Flinders University graduate Lucy Gale was awarded the top prize of $7,000 for her stop motion short A Very Lockdown Birthday. The judges stated that her film was an “honest, well executed reflection of the experience of COVID-19 in Australia.”

Gale revealed that the film was a semi-autobiographical account of her own birthday in lockdown. “I was planning to go to a music festival for my April birthday and that obviously wasn’t on the cards. With the new restrictions, I wanted to reframe my situation as a positive opportunity. I knew I wanted to upskill in the stop motion animation space and was struck by the potential it had to tell a visual story. Your imagination is your only limitation,” Gale says.

“It also transformed my universe as making the project was such a great distraction from lockdown, as I was concentrating on learning and growing rather than the restrictions in the community. I wanted to make something that could make people smile and remind everyone how you can make the best of a bad situation if you approach a problem with creative innovation.”

Lucy plans to use the funds from her prize to update the equipment and software she uses for the other projects she is working on in isolation, including a dramedy web-series and an experimental documentary web-series about dreams.

“It’s really rewarding to receive recognition for something I spent so many hours working on in the storage room of my house. I’ve been treating this project as my full-time job; it’s meant I have stayed really productive and been able to learn and grow during coronavirus despite losing my other work. The prize really doubles down on these positives and I feel extremely motivated to keep creating,” says Gale.

Gale was joined by visual artist and University of South Australia graduate, Joseph Haxan, whose dark and atmospheric film Tolf took out the Judge’s Commendation prize. A starkly different film to Gale’s, Tolf paints a different perspective on the effect of isolation on the human spirit.

“I was so flattered that the judges recognised the merits of telling a story about isolation that isn’t perhaps so obviously a response to the current pandemic. I think the level of competition also highlighted just how differently people have experienced the isolation of quarantine and the value of different voices telling stories from the same starting point,” says Haxan.

Haxan’s film follows the story of Alexander Tolf, a man whose loneliness starts to transform him in strange and unsettling ways.  

Joseph Haxan
Tolf still

“I made the film with the goal of capturing a mood of isolation and lonesomeness, rather than trying to tell a story about it. Being lonely is something almost all of us have experienced at one point, but most are lucky to be rescued from it by friends or family, or just through being a member of society in one way or another,” says Haxan.

“I liked thinking about a person who hadn’t been so lucky and had let being alone shape every facet of their life. The idea that someone like that could be totally forgotten and left to their own devices, to whatever end; that interested me.” 

Composer and University of Adelaide graduate Josh Belperio was awarded the People’s Choice Award, with his moving musical piece In Time – which received the most reactions from an online audience that stretched from Australia to the far corners of the world.

All shortlisted films are still available to be viewed via the Helpmann Academy Facebook page

The Adelaide Review is a media partner of Helpmann Academy

Mahalia Tanner

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