Melbourne WebFest Report 2016
This weekend just gone, I had the absolute pleasure of attending the fourth annual Melbourne WebFest here in my home town of…yes…Melbourne.
Melbourne WebFest is basically a film festival for webseries and was created as a means of celebrating digital content and content creators. With more and more content being streamed and broadcast online, this is the perfect platform to highlight some of the best work being produced globally. Series are submitted from all over the world (they had over 270 submissions this year) and the top 55 are selected for screenings in the festival and are also eligible for awards on closing night. 23 awards were presented this year!
Not only does the festival offer an abundance of screenings, they also offer professional development masterclasses, a pitching competition and ample opportunity for networking. Here is a brief rundown of my top 5 festival highlights in order of events.
1. Spotlight on Melbourne
There was a special screening block designated specifically to showcase locally produced content, held at one of my favourite Melbourne venues, Loop Bar.
While these shows are not official selections, it was fantastic to still acknowledge the local talent and include them in the festival. A special congratulations to Movement (a personal fave) for picking up the ‘Best of Spotlight’ award.
I also have to give a biased congratulations to Shakespeare Republic for screening here, as I have signed on as a cast member and co-producer of season 2 (shameless plug. Because I can).
2. Professional Development
I love that MWF isn’t just about showcasing, it’s also about up-skilling. Opening the day was Lean Filmmaking with Kylie Eddy, before moving on to a pitching workshop with International Guest John Cabrera, the morning was packed full of producers, directors, writers and actors thirsty to learn.
Then we had lunch. And it was great. I had a chicken sandwich and a donut. Thanks for asking.
Then we moved in to ‘Working with Talent’, a presentation given by Sally McLean focussing mainly on how to work with actors but also how to communicate and collaborate with your other talent on set. This was superbly conversational and every creative in the room had their chance to ask a bunch of questions and learn from Sally’s decades of industry experience.
Closing the day was a masterclass in producing Virtual Reality from LENS co-founder and CEO Yan Chen. Actively demonstrating what Yan calls ‘immersive storytelling’, the room left inspired by the technology and the potential for their content to become interactive.
My hot tip: 2017 will see the rise of independent interactive narratives. Melbourne Webfest may soon need to add a new category!
3. Opening Night
What a celebration. There was a jumping castle, fairy floss and a PONY! Not really, but it was even better than that! First off, free drinks on arrival. Thank you very much. There was a real buzz in the air as artists of all mediums mingled and congratulated and air kissed and media-walled. New friendships were made, old friendships were reunited and creative conversations soared. I need to say at this point that being actively involved in the last 3 MWF’s, this night felt like a family reunion, but one where the family embraced the cousins’ new partners with open arms. There was a real sense of community, but no sense of clique.
Which brings me to the keynote speech from the wonderful John Cabrera. This guy. What a guy. His speech was my number one highlight of the whole festival and it resonated with me so profoundly. The entire room was silent for the entire 40 minute address. Nobody dared leave for the bathroom through fear of missing a pearl of wisdom. The speech will be available shortly on the Melbourne WebFest website, but for now, here is a taster:
“Content isn’t King. Maybe it never was. What is King, is community. The community is the art…Stop thinking of your content as content. Start thinking of it as a haven for community. As an extension of community…” – John Cabrera.
This perfectly set the tone for the rest of the festival as everybody celebrated and explored each others work. Throughout the entire festival I never caught a whiff of judgement as we all supported each others work as colleagues, and gosh, in this industry that’s mighty impressive.
4. Pitch Perfect
Wow. What an event! This year MWF offered a pitching competition with the winner receiving a $5,000 cash prize to head to Marseilles WebFest and attend writing workshops to develop their series before returning to Australia to pitch it to ABC iView, the digital platform for our National broadcaster. Hosted by the wonderfully sassy Heather Maltman, each entrant only had 2 minutes to make their case to the panel before being shut down by the surprisingly intimidating time-keeping intern, Harrison Lawrence. On top of 15 preselected pitchers, 5 wildcard entries were chosen from twitter and announced at the event. There were some amazing pitches, most notably ‘You F****d with the wrong Mockingbird’, a grind house, violent sequel to one of the most respected pieces of literature of all time but it was Jenny Wynter who took out the top prize with her series Viking Mama. I spoke to Jenny live on Periscope after the awards presentation which you can watch HERE.
5. Closing Night/Awards Ceremony.
The culmination of the whole festival, this event was high energy, fast paced celebration of all things webseries. Hosted by the Queens of Melbourne musical comedy, Dash and D’Bree who had the crowd feeling “Fieeeerce” from the outset. They did amazing work throughout the fast paced night hosting the ceremony and keeping the audience bopping along with their hilarious musical interludes.
Big winners of the night included The Justice Lease, taking out Best Director and Crowd Favourite and Wizards of Aus winning Best Supporting Actor, best Sound Design and Best Visual Effects. This was doubly sweet for Mark Bonanno, who as well as winning best Supporting Actor for Wizards (quipping in his speech “I thought my part was bigger than supporting but…there you go”) also took out Best Actor/Ensemble with his co-stars Broden Kelly and Zachary Ruane from Aunty Donna.
As was expected, The Katering Show season 2 took out best Australian Comedy. If you don’t know the show please go and watch them immediately.
The Grand Jury Award went to a beautiful show from the UK titled Ren: The Girl With The Mark which is now touring the world with series creator Kate Madison receiving an all expenses paid trip to LA WebFest. Check out my interviews with award winners, John Cabrera and Festival Director Steinar Ellingsen HERE.
As one might expect from a room full of creators, the celebrations continued well in to the next day resulting in a lot of selfies and Instagram regret.
Congratulations to all of the selected series, award nominees and recipients and thankyou to Melbourne WebFest for having me along for the ride! Cheers to next year!