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SHORT FILMS GIVEN SHORT SHRIFT?

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Once upon a time, short films were seen as the key to a successful Australian filmmaking career. Ideally, at the start of your professional trajectory, you’d make a stunningly crafted short film that would win awards locally or receive recognition internationally at Cannes, Venice or Berlin. Maybe your short film would even win an Oscar, like Adam Elliot’s Harvie Krumpet (2003) or Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann’s The Lost Thing (2010) did. Then you would be supported to make a feature film, and away you’d go.

Or that was the plan, anyway; successful shorts have never guaranteed sustained filmmaking careers. But, since the Australian film-making renaissance of the 1970s and the establishment of our film schools – including the Australian Film Television and Radio School, the Swinburne Film and Television School, and the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) – around the same time, the short film has held a sacred place in the industry as a training ground, stepping stone and artform in its own right.

While numerous short films continue to be made and submitted to dedicated short-film festivals like Tropfest, Flickerfest and the St Kilda Film Festival, Donna Lyon suggests that ‘the short film as we used to know it is dead’. Speaking to me in a 2019 interview for screenhub, Lyon – associate director for teaching and learning at the VCA and a film producer herself, with a number of short films under her belt – recounted her experience of overseeing the huge project of digitising and making accessible all the school’s graduation films since 1966. Following a public exhibition in October, the historic archive

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