THE WORLD'S LARGEST SHORT FILM FESTIVAL

Tropfest is Australia’s most prestigious short film festival and one of its most iconic cultural events. It is also the largest short film festival in the world. At home, Tropfest is recognised for its enormous contribution to the development of the Australian film industry by providing unique platforms for talented filmmakers through its events and initiatives, and new and expanded audiences for their work.

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’s Darlinghurst. More than 200 people showed up for that first screening. Inspired by the turn out, John decided that a full-fledged short film festival was the next step.

Twenty-five years on, Tropfest Australia attracts a live national audience of around 150,000 people on a single night. The event is hosted at Sydney’s Centennial Park, with live screenings in outdoor locations in major cities including Melbourne, Canberra, Perth, Hobart and Surfers Paradise. The event is also broadcast on national television via broadcast partner SBS 2.

The annual short film competition is open to anyone who wishes to enter – regardless of their background or experience. 16 Finalists are selected from an entry pool of an average 700 annual entries and compete for more than $100,000 in prizes. Tropfest films are unique in that they have all been made specifically for Tropfest, will premiere at Tropfest and include the Tropfest Signature Item (or TSI), which changes each year. The TSI for Tropfest December 2013 was “CHANGE” and the TSI for the 2014 festival is “MIRROR”.

 

Tropfest is free to attend. The festival itself is an 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.

Tropfest has expanded internationally to now include new competitions and festivals in New Zealand, North America, South East Asia and the Middle East. 

John Polson

John Polson is an award-winning actor and director, as well as the founder and director of the World’s Largest Short Film Festival, Tropfest.

John is the creative force behind Tropfest’s success and global expansion, from its humble beginnings as a screening of one of his own short films at Sydney’s Tropicana Cafe in 1993. Tropfest in Australia attracts a live audience of over 100,000 people on a single night, as well as hundreds of thousands more via a simultaneous television broadcast. Tropfest has been held in countries all around the world with stand-alone festivals now in New Zealand, South East Asia, New York and Arabia.

First and foremost, though, John’s passion lies behind the camera as a film director. Creating his first short film AN EVENING WITH HERMAN in the early 1980s, John has since garnered worldwide attention with feature 

films such as SIAM SUNSET (starring Linus Roache), which won awards at numerous film festivals around the world (including the Cannes International Film Festival). He also directed the US feature films SWIMFAN (starring Jesse Bradford, Erica Christensen) and HIDE AND SEEK (starring Robert De Niro, Dakota Fanning), both of which opened at Number 1 at the US box office. John’s latest feature film TENDERNESS, in which he directed Russell Crowe and Laura Dern, was released in 2009.

Today, in addition to his feature film work, John flexes his creative muscle on the small screen as a producer and director on shows such as ELEMENTARY, FRINGE, THE MENTALIST, THE GOOD WIFE and FLASH FORWARD.

John is currently developing a number of feature projects as both director and producer in the US and Australia.

Tropfest Signature Item

The TSI for Tropfest Australia 2017 is ‘PINEAPPLE’. Below are some of the past TSIs.

Tropfest is unique in that all films made for the festival must include the Tropfest Signature Item (TSI). The TSI changes each year and it proves to us that films have been made specifically for that year’s festival.

  • Dec 2013
    Change
  • Feb 2013
    Balloon
  • 2012
    Lightbulb
  • 2011
    Key
  • 2010
    Dice
  • 2009
    Spring
  • 2008
    The Number 8
  • 2007
    Sneeze
  • 2006
    Bubble
  • 2005
    Umbrella
  • 2004
    Hook
  • 2003
    Rock
  • 2002
    Match
  • 2001
    Horn
  • 2000
  • 1999
    Chopsticks
  • 1998
    Kiss
  • 1997
    Pickle
  • 1996
    Teaspoon
  • 1995
    Coffee Bean
  • 1994
    Muffin
  • 1993
    No TSI

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We believe that everyone has a story to tell ... and that those stories deserve an audience.

John Polson, Founder of Tropfest