How to get your VCE film noticed

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Anyone can make a movie these days. The rise of easily accessible technology means that if you have a smartphone in your pocket you can record, edit and produce a film that can be entered into festivals globally (seriously, there are competitions specifically for films made on smartphones!).

But it takes more than technology to make a great film. It takes study, practice and an understanding of the art form in order to convey a story that’s meaningful to your audience.

For students in Victoria, VCE Media provides a pathway for emerging filmmakers to explore their passion. By the end of their studies, they will have written, produced, directed, and often starred in a finished production, before they even graduate. It’s an eye-opening experience into everything that happens before and after the cameras roll, and a great opportunity to experiment with techniques and storylines.

From 8 March–9 May, you can see some of the best of these films at Top Screen, the festival that celebrates exceptional VCE Media students.

To celebrate the return of Top Screen this year, we caught up with three students whose work will be screened as part of the festival. They reveal their inspirations, the challenges of being a student filmmaker, and how VCE Media helped to push their boundaries.

Rachel Hooker, Brentwood Secondary College

Tell us a bit about your film and what inspired it.

The Seasons of Olivia Adler is a film about going out of your comfort zone. The main inspiration for my film would be Wes Anderson, especially the way he chooses camera angles and shots. I’m also inspired by Submarine and Amelie in the use of music and soundtrack.

What was your experience of VCE Media like?

Making a film can be scary because it’s your independent idea, and you’re relying on how successful your idea is going to be. I hadn’t done something like this before. It was nice to have a supportive class and teacher, and friends that worked with me along the way. It could be pretty hard going; I was in the Mac Lab constantly, especially towards the end with editing. Having a final product at the end of the year as proof of your hard work makes the effort worth it.

What was it like to star in your own film?

It’s interesting being on both sides of the camera. On one hand, you’re trying to make sure this character is right, but then you’re also trying to be the director on the other side. You can get kind of picky as well, I did so many takes.

What attracted you to the medium of film for your media product?

I love movies, and the process of filmmaking to tell a story, it’s really fun.

Tell us a bit about your future plans.

I’m planning to do a Bachelor of Arts and explore different types of creative paths (as well as filmmaking).

Do you have any tips for students about to embark on VCE Media in Year 12?

Get a hard drive! I had three USBs that I used to edit on, and it was such a hassle. Trust in your own ideas, and don’t be afraid to put things on paper - and for it to not be neat - otherwise it will be harder to explain your ideas and actually have a nice creative outburst.

Victor Moore, Billanook College

Tell us a bit about your film and what inspired it.

The Keeper is a stop-motion animation made using Dragonframe. I was inspired by dystopian worlds and George Orwell, and visually inspired by director Wes Anderson.

How long have you been making animation works?

About three years, I started in year 10 in art class, where I made two animations. I made two the next year, which were featured in Top Arts 2017, and then The Keeper last year.

Is it all self-taught?

Yes, there’s so much content on the internet these days you can just check YouTube whenever you need to learn something. For a smoke effect, I searched ‘How to make smoke for animation’ and that’s how I learnt it.

What was your experience of VCE Media like?

I only decided to make a stop-motion film a few weeks before we started pre-production. I was kind of winging it a bit, I had all the dates set in and thought ‘Oh it’ll be fine, I’ll get it done in two weeks,’ but that wasn’t the case. I went massively over schedule; it probably took a few hundred hours! I didn’t know what I was getting into.

What attracted you to the medium of film for your media product?

I’ve been into film since I was pretty young. I love drawing and painting, but film is the perfect medium because you can paint a picture and make it move and convey more. So that’s why animation was the obvious choice for me.

What were your props made out of?

Things I found around the house. The set was made entirely out of wood and I got a lot of small dolls and furniture from my cousins. The main character was made from wire ‘bones,’ epoxy putty, and wrapped with a latex substance and cloth. My Mum made all the clothes, which was very sweet.

Tell us a bit about your future plans.

I definitely want to study film and possibly animation.

Do you have any tips for students about to embark on VCE Media in Year 12?

Have an idea that’s authentically something you like. I took a lot of inspiration from different areas, but at the end of the day I felt like everything that I did was mine.

Chelsea Stubbs, Catholic College Sale

Tell us a bit about your film and what inspired it.

My film is about the warped innocence of a child who is constantly misled and misinformed, and the naivety of such a way of life. The story of Yellow explores the promise of an adventure out in the wild as a full-blown fantasy in comparison to the horrors of real life.

Did the premise change much during pre-production?

I came up with the idea with the lead actress, my younger cousin. She was asking about Media and I was talking to her about how I was going to make a short film. We came up with the basic plot; the character is very much based on her personality. During pre-production some things changed but the basic story has always been the same - about a young girl going out looking for adventure and new life, and getting something she didn’t expect.

What was your experience of VCE Media like?

With Media, you can pretty much do whatever you want to do. You’ve got free rein when it comes to how you want your art to be represented and how you make it. My film could have been a set of photos and still have the same message – but as a film, I could play with sound and cinematography. I could build a sense of paranoia in the audience by having really quiet sounds followed by loud sounds and gaps of silence. Media gives you the chance to acknowledge the film theory you’ve learnt by putting it into practice.

Do you have any tips for students about to embark on VCE Media in Year 12?

You can make things that other people haven’t really thought about. It’s your head and it’s your art. Ask your teachers for help, they want to help your ideas become reality.

Tell us a bit about your future plans.

I’m moving to Melbourne to complete a Bachelor of Film and Television at Deakin University. I want to be a director in the future.