2022 Newsfeed

Enlighten’s Lights! Canberra! Action! – a scavenger hunt short film competition

The Senate Rose Gardens of Old Parliament House filled with people as the sun goes down and short film festival Lights Canberra Action prepares to start
Canberra’s National Triangle saw a large crowd of people unite to enjoy a nice night of films

On Friday 11 March, the Senate Rose Gardens outside of Old Parliament House were bustling with an energetic atmosphere, filled with hundreds of people ready to enjoy the emerging film industry in Canberra.

The Lights Canberra Action festival, first introduced almost 20 years ago, continues to give local artists the platform to showcase their talents.

All of Canberra’s arts sectors, from music and stage to visual arts, took a big hit in the last two years due to the pandemic.

This year they provided the best filmmakers in the city the theme of reflection, a list of 12 items they had to include in a short film and a timeframe of ten days to complete the film.

A list of the 10 items all film makers had to include in their films for the Lights Canberra Action festival this year

With a theme like reflection, the entries had one thing in common; they were all a very interesting and unique exploration of what personal reflection really means.

A young girl sits playing in a backyard with her teddy bear, in Riley Eli Jones and Jade Whelan's 'Bear'
Riley Eli Jones and Jade Whelan’s ‘Bear’ was just one of the heartfelt explorations of the theme of reflection
A bear is stranded in the floor of a corridor, abandoned, in Riley Eli Jones and Jade Whelan's short film, Bear
‘Bear’ told the story of a woman reminiscing on the bear that got her and her sister though their childhoods, but left behind upon moving

There were films that warned us of the dangers of putting too much trust and reliance on machines, like Sam Hoskin’s Lydia’, and stories about coming to terms with your own flaws and to not allow people to force you to be something else, like Mikey J Watson’s ‘A creature like me’ or Lyndsey Turnbull’s ‘Cherry Jam’. 

Marko Matosevic’s ‘Easy Money’ took a different approach to the theme, framing it as a man who sees a mirror and through its reflection, he notices he can pass through the mirror to other locations. The film almost didn’t get to air due to technical difficulties, but luckily had a chance after the midpoint interval. 

Sophie Edwards, a local musician, graced the audience with a performance accompanied by one of her students she teaches music to.  

Local Canberra musician Sophie Edwards took to the stage to provide the pre-event and mid-interval entertainment
Rising star of the Canberra music scene Sophie Edwards provided the crowd with some great live music to enjoy, both opening the night and performing again in the interval

In the break the crowd had a chance to see a bonus film by Spencer Wilds, an under 18’s entry ‘Double Vision’. This film was about two teens wandering around the city, when one of them spots an identical doppelgänger, and is suddenly hunted by people seeking to silence him about what he knows.

The more mature themed entries were showcased after the break like Alistair Lauro’s vampire comedy Fete du Sang, which would later go on to win the people’s choice for best film, and Mikey J Watson’s entry that took a serious reflection of how damaging it can be to let people’s opinions cause you to be insecure of yourself.

A young vampiric woman is welcomed to a house party by her friend, in Alistair Lauro's 'Fete Du Sang'
‘Fete Du Sang’ had the whole crowd laughing and went on to secure the awards for people’s choice of the night
The main character of Mikey J Watson's 'A Creature Like Me', yelling at a demonic manifestation of himself
Mikey J Watson’s ‘A Creature Like Me’ was one of the more personal and touching stories told throughout the night

Two of the standout films in the festival also managed to claim several awards. 

Callum Lawrence’s ‘Limited Time Only’ showcased editing and production value that make it unbelievable that it was made in the 10 day deadline. It showcased how time freezes around the main character, and a commercial on the TV starts talking directly to her while the product from the ad appears in her hand. As the ad tells her to press different buttons on the remote, the world around her rewinded and fast-forwarded, the room changed and put her in outer space as quick as a change of channel. The commercial breaks the walls of reality and guides the character through complete bending and manipulation of time and space. 

Callum Lawrence’s ‘Limited Time Only’ won the award for Best Editing

And then the final film to be shown, Max Jasinski’s ‘Not Everything is About You’, disguised its dark plot behind an extravagant, witty and colourful musical number, done to perfection by the cast. With Micheal Caruna featuring as Johnathan Bicycles, this film had the entire audience laughing throughout the whole film.

Together, these two films took 10 of the 16 awards at the end of the night. ‘Not Everything is About You’ won the awards for Best Screenplay, Best Director, Best Acting Performance, and naturally as the sole musical to be included this year, it won both Best Sound Design and Best Original Music awards.

Max Jasinski and Micheal Caruna, who claimed several awards for their piece ‘Not Everything is about You’, pictured with event director Marisa Martin

Meanwhile, ‘Limited Time Only’ won the awards for Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Most Memorable Performance and Best Use of an Item for its creative use of the black hole prompt. ‘Limited Time Only’ also managed to win the highly coveted ‘Best Film’ award, securing filmmaker Callum Lawrence with a $300 prize.

The festival also featured a number of other notable awards. Scott Cadzow won the awards for Best Animation and Best Art Direction for his fully animated film ‘Living with Sea-19’, while Sofia Alvarez won the award for Best Student Film for her film ‘Relationships for Dummies’.

All of the filmmakers of the top 12 entries of Lights Canberra Action 2022, alongside event director Marisa Martin

Event director Marisa Martin says that one of the main things Lights Canberra Action has aimed to do in all the years it’s been running, has been to not only provide a platform for our local filmmaking scene, but also to present Canberra on screen as a city we live in, instead of a political backdrop it sometimes gets coined as.

“That’s why we keep the Canberra places as a requirement of the films” Ms. Martin says, “it’s really nice for a Canberran audience to see Canberran stories on screen”.

Martin also took the time to talk with me about some of the ways she has seen the event have a positive influence on the city and our filmmaking scene.

“Its a great way to get noticed” Martin says, “it’s a great way to meet the people who run the local production companies, and for them to see your work”.

“Allowing artists who usually work in isolation, or in little groups, to meet each other allows for further art creation”.

She says that not only does it get these filmmakers the opportunity to make connections with production companies and their fellow local filmmakers, it’s a great and most importantly fun way to build teamwork and bonds with the team of people that help make these ideas come to life on the screen.

Martin also believes that the strict deadline and parameters that need to be followed in order to submit a piece are great for building a portfolio of work.

“It gives filmmakers focus, there’s no time for procrastination, you have the deadline and a theme and a few other parameters and they all help funnel your attention and creativity.” Martin says.

While speaking about the crowd that makes up the attendance, Ms Martin believes that showcasing stories that are ‘Canberran’ is a key factor in the success of the film festival.

“It’s a hidden gem of an event in Canberra,” Ms Martin said.

“They know about it and have been coming every year and love watching Canberran stories on screen, seeing Canberran faces and places and enjoying them with other Canberrans in a lovely outdoor screening.”

“Film is a great art form – the ability to connect and tell stories is strong in filmmaking and audiences know that. It’s a great night every year”.