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 was launched in South East Asia in 2014, and its inaugural event was held in Penang, Malaysia on the 25th of January that same year.


This short film competition is open to all residents and citizens of the region,  regardless of background or experience and countries included in this collection are:


East Timor


TROPFEST South East Asia’s aim is to contribute to the development of the film industry in Asia 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.  The public screening of finalist films on festival night provides an excellent platform to showcase the filmmaking talent that exists in this region. What more, after the festival is over, these finalist films will be available for viewing online, hence creating an international launch pad for these talented filmmakers.


In line with the 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

  • 3 Months
  • 9 Days
  • 2 Hours
  • 20 Minutes