John Polson started the ‘Tropicana Short Film Festival’ (as it was originally known) as an informal short film screening for cast, crew and friends at the Tropicana Cafe in Sydney, Australia. More than 200 people showed up for that first screening and, inspired by the turn out, John decided that a full-fledged short film festival was the next step.
Twenty two years on, Tropfest attracts a live national audience of around 150,000 people on a single night in Australia and has expanded to include standalone competitions in South East Asia, New Zealand, North America and the Middle East.
The short film competition is unique in that all films entered are made specifically for Tropfest, will premiere at Tropfest and include the Tropfest Signature Item (or TSI), which changes each year.
The festival itself is a FREE outdoor celebration complete with live music and entertainment, public catering and bars, red carpet arrivals and the highly anticipated film screenings followed by an awards ceremony.
The support and involvement of film personalities from around the world has become one of the trademarks of the festival. Selection of the winning Tropfest film takes place live on the night of the festival by a panel of high profile industry and celebrity judges. Past judges have included Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, Naomi Watts, Toni Collette, Rose Byrne, Geoffrey Rush, Russell Crowe, John Woo, Samuel L Jackson, Baz Luhrmann, Keanu Reeves, Liev Schreiber, Malcolm Gladwell, Bryan Singer, Sam Neill, Ewan McGregor, Tobey Maguire, Jane Campion, Kriv Stenders, Robert Luketic, Adam Elliot, Sam Worthington, Salma Hayek, George Miller and Gabriel Byrne to name a few.
The festival attracts a wide degree of media coverage but it is the casual, grass roots nature of the event, rather than its high profile, which ensures the continued support of its patrons and guests.
The competition is taken very seriously and is considered the winner’s ticket to a successful career in film or television. Notable alumni include filmmakers such as Alister Grierson, Rowan Woods, Clayton Jacobson, Joel Edgerton, Nash Edgerton, Peter Carstairs, Rob Carlton, Sam Worthington, Robert Connolly, Leon Ford, Justin Drape, Tim Bullock and Elissa Down.