The 5th Newcastle Film Festival (NFF) was held from the 17th to the 19th of November 2000 with filmmaking seminars, international short films and the Newcastle Short Film Awards at The Cambridge Hotel and Performing Arts Newcastle building. Students from the University of Newcastle – Amelia Robertson and Angela McKay (public relations), Andrew Slattery (producer) and Marty Middlebrook (director) – coordinated the event. The Festival was a great success, attracting over 500 people during the two afternoons and nights.
Friday night saw a variety of world shorts, including the psychotic Black XXX-Mas (Pieter van Hees) from Belgium and Rick & Steve the Happiest Gay Couple in all the World (Q. Allan Brocka), the comedy lego-mation that’s proving a favorite with festivals worldwide.
Plenty of in-the-know ex-Novocastrians [A Novocastrian is the term for someone from Newcastle. ed.] were on hand over the weekend to panel on NFF’s two seminars. Glenn Fraser (Indulgence and Boy) and Paul Klarenaar (Race Around Oz) arrived to discuss ideas during the short filmmaking seminar, whilst Anthony O’Connor (Angst), George Mannix (Hunterscreen Entertainment) and others rolled in to town to talk about writing for the screen. The seminars provided both an escape from the belting rain and a wealth of information for some of Newcastle’s budding filmmakers.
The Newcastle Short Film Awards were held on Saturday night. Twelve local shorts were screened out of competition, then the top ten in competition. Some high-profile judges were on hand to view the best that Newcastle had to offer – Beth Phelan (director, World of Women Film Festival), Kristi Street (director, Shootout Film Festival), Yahoo Serious (Mr. Accident) and June H. Tayloe (Project Manager for the Newcastle Film and Television Office). The shorts showcased a diversity of genres and themes from local filmmakers – with documentaries, comedies, experimental and animation films making up the finalists.
The Best Film prize – a video camera – went to Andrew Gibbons for Stuck, his riotous tale of a couple, that while having sex, get, well…stuck! This opening premise allowed a whole range of whacky occurrences and secured the film the best script and audience award (a helicopter joyflight with Yahoo Serious). Gibbons was elated, not seeming all that concerned about being Stuck in a Chopper with Mr. Accident.
Amanda Matthews took the editing award for her documentary Behind the Scenes about Newcastle’s Regal Cinema. The cinematography award was shared by Emily Maksimovic for Electricity and Jason van Genderen (winner of the Sydney Shootout) for Release The. Tony Reynolds received a special judge’s commendation for his unique chase film, Cliffbanger. And Owen Elliot’s film The Making of a Short Film didn’t make the finals, but he did take out the Novocastrian Extras Agency Best Extra award for his role of “that guy sitting on the bench” in Andrew Gibbons’ Stuck.
The Cambridge Hotel proved a great success for festival organisers to showcase the best films from Newcastle. “What better way to celebrate our egalitarianism than to hold a film festival in a pub,” said Yahoo Serious in his welcoming speech.
“The entire festival went off without a hitch!” said Festival director, Marty Middlebrook. “With an entire crew of volunteers – the weekend went phenomenally well…hopefully they will all have left inspired for next year’s festival.”
The Newcastle Film Festival will be back in November 2001, continuing to play a key role in the development of screen culture activity in regional NSW.