FOCUS FORWARD touched down at the Melbourne International Film Festival last week just in time for the Shorts Weekender, and we’ve been in a state of bliss ever since. MIFF is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year – it’s one of the oldest continuously running film festivals in the world – and they’ve carved out a premium space for international short filmmakers and industry types to meet, network, and show their work right in the middle of their 17-day run. Our first engagement was at a panel entitled “Shorts: Calling Cards or Artform?,” programmed as part of the festival’s Accelerator Program, a director development curriculum of talks and seminars. We were honored to share the mike with reps from Screen Australia, Film Victoria, New Zealand Film Commission, and the German Short Film Agency, all smart, talented people whose commitment to cultivating new talent and funding projects in the southern Pacific region was impressive and inspiring.

    After taking in some excellent films in the official MIFF program – Mads Brügger’s The Ambassador was a standout – we hosted our own lively panel discussion and screening at the Forum Theatre’s Festival Lounge, a Gothic revival-meets-Graecian-kitsch playhouse and music venue built in 1928. The setting was perfect for “Say It With a Short: Creative Storytelling for 21st Century Audiences,” where we proudly premiered Fredrik Gertten’s The Invisible Bicycle Helmet and Lixin Fan’s Operation Free Lunch (along with three other FF shorts) for an audience of 200 enthusiastic guests. What made the event extra special was the presence of both filmmakers on stage. Fan, who’d arrived from Beijing the day before, and Gertten, whose feature film Big Boys Gone Bananas*! was already a big hit at MIFF 2012, both spoke eloquently about their films, the three-minute format, and their support of FOCUS FORWARD’s mission. We were honored to host them both. Joining us in conversation about short-form content in the Internet age were producer Sue Maslin, who introduced us to her intriguing cross-platform work Coral: Rekindling Venus, and Anna Broinowski, another Australian filmmaker who called our attention to the rise of amateur auteurists on YouTube. The panel was moderated by Screen Hub editor David Tiley.

    Of course, in addition to the world premiere films mentioned above, which screened in front of features in the official program, we also debuted Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern’s The Sky Is Not the Limit and Stanley Nelson’s The Auto-Tune Effect for Melbourne’s culturally savvy filmgoing audiences, whose appreciation of our “Short Films, Big Ideas” initiative was palpable—and quite vocal—during our event. To see the films, click here, here, here, and here.