LIGHTS, HANDYCAM, ACTION: Byron Bay film-makers Oliver Purser and Bassett Dickson are finalists this year’s national short film festival, Tropfest. The pair are pictured here with Suzie Wild, the subject of their film.
LIGHTS, HANDYCAM, ACTION: Byron Bay film-makers Oliver Purser and Bassett Dickson are finalists this year’s national short film festival, Tropfest. The pair are pictured here with Suzie Wild, the subject of their film. Kate O’Neill

$38 movie makes it into Tropfest festival finals

WITH a home handycam and a budget of $38, two Byron Bay film-makers have made it to the finals of the biggest short film competition in the world.

Bassett Dickson and Oliver Purser's, The Furry Cheque Book, has been selected in Tropfest's top 16 from 650 entries Australia-wide.

The duo shot their documentary in Mullumbimby two days before the Tropfest closing date and say the $38 was spent on a tool belt that acts as a prop in the film.

Oliver said their low budget approach set it apart from many of the other finalists in this year's competition.

“When we spoke to other directors (of the top 16) they were all talking about shooting theirs on 35 mm film, Super 16, you know flashy red cameras, and we've just shot ours with a basic three-chip home handycam.”

He said Tropfest had been going in a direction that made it less accessible for the general public to participate and had started to turn into an elitist short film festival.

“This has proven that it's become a lot more accessible to the average Joe,” he said.

Oliver and Bassett's seven minute film is about 'a sexual entrepreneur who has found a way of getting ahead' and is the only documentary in this year's Tropfest finals.

Oliver is a graduate of the Southern Cross University media course and Bassett studied film at RMIT in Melbourne.

It is their first film together, although they have known each other for several years.

The pair met in 2004 while working the graveyard shift on Big Brother, shot on the Gold Coast.

They bonded over their love of cinema and disillusionment with reality TV.

“We wanted to find an opportunity to tell some real stories or at least some stories that have some worth and merit, or are a little bit obscure,” Bassett said.

The chance arose when Oliver met Suzie Wild, the subject of their Tropfest film, in a fish and chip shop a couple of years ago.

“When we heard about the story, we put our heads together and thought this would be the first film we would have the opportunity to have a crack at,” Bassett said.

They missed the Tropfest cut-off date last year, but finally teed Suzie up just in time for this year's competition.

He says the time constraints meant the production values weren't great, but the strength of Suzie's story had pulled the film through to the finals.

“People are going to be fairly blown away by it on the night,” Bassett said.

Tropfest will screen at the Domain in Sydney on February 22.

Winners will be announced on the night.

WHAT IS TROPFEST?

TROPFEST is the world's largest short film festival. It was founded in 1993 by Australian film director John Polson and is open to anyone who wishes to enter - regardless of their background or experience. Sixteen finalists are selected from an entry pool of an average 650 entries. The annual event is held at Sydney's Domain at the Royal Botanic Gardens, with live satellite links to Melbourne, Canberra, Perth, Brisbane, Hobart and Adelaide. It attracts a live national audience of more than 150,000. Movie Extra will also conduct a live television broadcast of the event for the first time this year. The competition is taken very seriously and is considered the winner's ticket to a successful career in film or television.

“When we spoke to other directors they were all talking about shooting on 35 mm film, Super 16 ... flashy red cameras and we've just shot ours with a basic three chip home handycam.”



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