History of Tropfest


Born 20 years ago in a cafe (‘The Tropicana’) in Sydney, Australia, Tropfest is now the world’s largest short film festival. It is supported by some of the biggest names in the international film community and has received thousands of submissions for its film festivals in Australia, Tropfest Arabia in Abu Dhabi , Tropfest USA (in Las Vegas and New York. In 2013 Tropfest premiere in New Zealand and South East Asia.

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 years on, Tropfest in Australia attracts a live national audience of more than 150,000 people on a single night. The event is hosted at Sydney’s Domain in the Royal Botanic Gardens, with live satellite links to outdoor locations in major cities including Melbourne, Canberra, Perth, Brisbane, Hobart, Adelaide and Surfers Paradise. See highlights from Tropfest celebrating its 20th birthday in Sydney 2012.

In 2009, for the first time, Movie Extra conducted a live television broadcast of the event. This partnership brought the festival to more than 1 million subscribers live at home and at unofficial sites including pubs, clubs and community centres around the country.
Tropfest enables emerging filmmakers and others to have the opportunity to take part in this global phenomenon. If selected as a finalist, they will see their short film screened in front of a massive live and online audience and count themselves amongst an impressive alumni of filmmakers whose careers have been kick-started by Tropfest.

Truly an innovative concept and platform for filmmakers of diverse backgrounds to gain exposure and experience, Tropfest has become one of the world’s best springboards for emerging talent. Scores of films made for and screened at Tropfest have gone on to gain commercial distribution (eg. the hit US TV series “Wilfred” on FX began life as a 2002 Tropfest short film!)

Past Tropfest finalists include: Sam Worthington (Avatar); Joel Edgerton (The Great Gatsby, Warrior, Animal Kingdom); Alister Grierson (director of the James Cameron-produced Sanctum); Nash Edgerton (director of “Spider”, “Lucky”, “The Square” and “Bear”) and many more.

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, Sam Neill, Ewan McGregor, Jane Campion, Salma Hayek, George Miller and Gabriel Byrne to name a few.

The Tropfest mission is to continue to develop the most exciting forum in the world for audiences to come together and celebrate premium short films; and to continue to offer filmmakers – regardless of their financial constraints – a bigger and better platform from which to launch their professional careers.

Other discussions are underway in territories around the world including China, Singapore, Paris, London and more.






As part of its continuing global expansion, Tropfest will be launched in South East Asia and was held in Penang, Malaysia in January 2014.
The short film competition will be open to all residents and citizens of the region – regardless of background or experience and countries included are –

East Timor
The Philippines

TROPFEST South East Asia’s aim is to contribute to the development of the film industry in ASEAN by providing opportunities for filmmakers to bring their short films to the community in the region as well as to the rest of the world – a public screening on festival night of shortlisted films will be available for viewing online, providing an excellent platform to showcase the talent that exists in this region. A nominal entrance fee of RM50.00 per film submitted has been set.

There are a few simple guidelines Tropfest South East Asia entrants must follow:

• all entries must be made specifically for the event and have their premiere at Tropfest South East Asia;
• films cannot exceed seven minutes, including titles and credits;
• each film must contain the Tropfest Signature Item (TSI), which changes each year and is different in each Tropfest territory.
• Films can be in any language with English subtitles

In Tropfest tradition there are no budget restrictions, and films can be shot in any format – even a mobile phone. The Tropfest premise advocates strength of idea over ‘slickness’ or technical merit. For some inspiration visit some of our favorite films from the past twenty years here.. Many of the films you see here cost just a few dollars and some are even made in just a couple of hours!

Festival Countdown

  • 9 Months
  • 7 Days
  • 22 Hours
  • 1 Minutes