“The world has never been through a pandemic like this in our lifetime; we want to see what that world looks like from each individual’s perspective.”

Three new competitions have launched this week pegged at filmmakers who only want to thrive within newfound limitations. One arising from grassroots filmmaking collectives and another from independent cinemas, the third comes about from a Festival whose own unique creative parameters are more COVID-adaptable than most.

“With many parts of the world in lockdown right now we know that many people have had a lot of extra time on their hands (not true for everybody of course) and they’ve been looking for creative outlets,” continued Ali Crew, co-Founder with Angela Blake of Australia’s dedicated Smartphone Flick Fest SF3. “That’s why we’ve created the SF3 ISO category this year, to tap into that creative energy; by limiting the maximum time for the films to 3 minutes we hope the shorter time-frame will appeal and inspire even more people to pick up their phones and tell their unique stories during this time through film.”

“I anticipate the coronavirus could be a common theme, but our everyday lives have changed and the world in which we live is a very different place right now; with so many going through such hugely life changing experiences there are bound to be some incredible stories emerge and we can’t wait to see them.”

SF3 has now for years generated an uncommon mix of filmmaking talent, with the smartphone format both encouraging new and emerging creatives while too attracting seasoned filmmakers ready to experiment with shorter or less resource-intensive projects. Knowing that there is no expectation that it will necessarily look like it was shot on a $10,000 camera, because you can’t enter anything shot on a $10,000 camera, has broken down a barrier for many reticent to otherwise put themselves out there.

The prohibition on equipment beyond what’s already in most pockets has also permitted a greater breadth of filmmaking than one would typically see at Festivals from solo artists or those otherwise bounded by budget or access to either talent or higher-end tech. Now, with even the most experienced creatives lacking the lenses, casts, crews and funding, a category and indeed Festival specifically primed for filmmaking constraints is poised to engender a tide of entries from across the creative spectrum.

I think the fact that our Festival is a platform for accessible and affordable filmmaking means there’s never been a better time to pull out your phone and make a film, whether it’s your first or it goes for 3 minutes, 20 minutes, or even a feature,” said Ali, with entries set to open tomorrow. “It’s the perfect creative outlet during these times, filmmakers can recruit their family members, use their homes as sets; the only limit is your imagination!”

With traditional movie-making on hold for the moment, some cinemas aren’t wasting any time either. Melbourne’s Lido, Cameo and Classic Cinemas alongside chain partner Ritz Cinemas, a favourite of the Sydney scene, have already launched and opened for entries the Isolation Film Festival. With a deadline extended to May 11 and seeking entries likewise no more than 3 minutes long and made within the confines of all self-isolation and social distancing measures, the prize winner and winner of the U18 category will each receive a year of free movies at their closest cinema (once the Ritz et al are allowed to reopen) and $1,000 and $500 respectively; with each entry set to nab a double pass.

“We’re hoping to capture this craziest of moments in time via film and highlight what unites us all in this fragile human race of ours,” said the Cinemas’ Owner Eddie Tamir. The chain, curators of the Jewish International Film Festival, Fantastic Film Festival Australia and the Children’s International Film Festival, will too be granting a CHIFF Festival pass to the U18 winner. Short-listed entries will also screen on the cinemas’ social media channels.

So far, there have been films ranging from those that are shot really professionally, to films shot solely on smartphones, and even one or two stop-motion animation films,” said the Festival. “Thematically, we’re expecting that we’ll get a lot of submissions depicting the daily struggles and joys (if any?) of living in self-isolation, but we’re open to anything! We’re just as happy seeing films that are recreations of classic film scenes, or even completely original stories.” 

No stranger to filmmaking limitations are Sydney’s filmmaking guerilla outfit Kino who, having run their latest short filmmaking night online, attracted numerous home-centric entries from filmmakers who absent traditional resources and outlets might not have had another forum. In conjunction with the Film Championships collective, which specifically arose to support and further filmmakers in the current environment, the crew have initiated a new COVID-conscious 48 hour filmmaking comp. Set to kick off tomorrow night, filmmakers are confined to the 2-day window, a theme and a 3-minute time limit. Creatives are also encouraged to take part in Kino #149, with the monthly film night set to take place this Monday.

“So many creatives are offering online content during this time of lockdown and there’s a hungry audience looking for new and unique content,” said Ali, set to launch the open SF3 categories alongside SF ISO with virtual screenings of SF3 2019’s feature smartphone winner ‘Blue Moon’ this weekend, commencing tomorrow. “After last year’s festival we had a lot of people express their disappointment at not being able to make it to the SF3 2019 Blue Moon screening and asking us where they might be able to see the film.”

It hasn’t been online until now so we hope to bring an even bigger audience to the film this time around. It’s a wonderful film, shot on a smartphone over the course of one week on a budget of $12K NZD. We’re hosting the Online Premiere for the launch of SF3 2020 in the hope it will inspire others to make their own smartphone masterpiece, whether that be a short or even a full length feature

Currently set for the second half of the year, SF3, alongside numerous other Festivals, too faces the prospect of heading online.

“If large public gatherings are still banned in October then we will take the Festival online; we didn’t want to be deterred by something that might or might not happen and decided to proceed with the Festival either way,” said Ali of a conundrum preoccupying Festival organisers with schedules set for months away. “We figured those involved will be very accommodating and understanding regardless of the outcome.”

The online premiere of ‘Blue Moon’ will be a good test to gauge the interest and appetite for people looking for alternative online entertainment. Part of the thrill for filmmakers and audiences coming to SF3 is seeing films shot on small smartphones blown up on a huge cinema screen. They really do look amazing and generally exceed everyone’s expectations. That element will be lost in an online screening but at the end of the day it’s about bringing an audience to participants’ films and if we can still manage to do that then we’ll be really happy with the outcome.

on FalkenScreen