The Tropfest Signature Item, or TSI, is one of the hallmarks of the Tropfest film festival. Films submitted to Tropfest must include that year’s TSI (it changes every year) to be eligible for entry and the requirement to have the TSI featured – in any way the filmmaker chooses – also ensures that films are made especially for Tropfest.
The notion of the TSI dates back to the second ever Tropfest festival in 1994, where the TSI was “MUFFIN”. Unfortunately (or fortunately perhaps?) this was before the term “muffin top” had been coined!
Previous TSIs from international Tropfest festivals include:
Light Bulb (2012)
Each year, filmmakers eagerly await the announcement of the TSI, so they can start thinking of creative ways to incorporate it into their Tropfest film entry. Here, we ask Tropfest’s founder/director, John Polson, some questions about the history of the TSI and find out some memorable ways in which the TSI has been used.
1. How did you come up with the original idea for the Tropfest Signature Item?
Tropfest was established to encourage production, not just exhibition, so pretty early on I realized that I needed a way to ensure people were making new films, not just pulling out their film school graduation film or whatever. The TSI works really well in encouraging new work.
2. What is the process for deciding what each new TSI will be?
Each year it’s different, mostly just randomly chosen by our staff – sometimes from suggestions that are emailed to us. We usually like the TSI to be a simple, unassuming item so that it can be incorporated into a story easily and be interpreted in really different ways.
3. Do you have a favorite TSI from festivals past and if so, what made it so special?
It’s hard to have a favorite when they have all inspired so many great films but I did really like ‘LIGHT BULB’ which was the TSI for our 20th Tropfest in Australia (2012). It came about because Tropfest is all about the strength of your idea, not your budget or your connections or whatever. So ‘LIGHT BULB’
seemed like a great choice for our 20th Birthday.
‘BAGEL’, which was used for the Tropfest New York 2012, was also a really fun TSI. Bagels are synonymous with New York City so it was a great fit.
4. Why do you think filmmakers have embraced the concept of the TSI?
Because it generates new ideas and new creativity, year after year. That’s why Tropfest has encountered the success it has, because at its heart it’s really about celebrating ideas and creative, powerful storytelling. People love the event because it’s accessible – anyone can create a film, and anyone can win, regardless of budget or filmmaking experience. Tropfest doesn’t discriminate.
5. What have been some of the most memorable ways a TSI has been included?
Some of our best films have simply included the TSI somewhere in the background of a single shot or scene. Others, like ‘My Constellation’ a Finalist of Tropfest Australia 2012, are built entirely around the TSI.
Don’t forget, the TSI for Tropfest New York 2013 is “BRIDGE”.