The team at North Fitzroy’s Empress Hotel wanted to put on a film night. Faced with hefty hire fees for big-name titles, and samey, uninspiring choices when it came to what was available for free, it came up with an unusual solution: start its own film festival.
Held on the first Tuesday of every month, the Empress Film Festival has no entry fee, no submission requirements (outside of being under or close to 15 minutes), and a $1000 cash prize for the winner.
Guy David, owner of the Empress, admits that initially the film night was a bit of a stab in the dark. “Given the problems the previous owner had with music – the residents had a bit of a reaction as far as noise was concerned – we weren’t going to go down that path again. So we thought, ‘How else can we get into the arts?’ Film seemed the obvious choice.”
Once David and venue manager Peter Sherwood decided on a short-film festival, the next stage was figuring out what kind of festival to have.
Sherwood says, “I had a look around and saw that a lot of film festivals had two main requirements: themes and exclusivity. Guy and I decided that if we could open it up to anybody, and include films that have been shown elsewhere and on any subject, we’d really provide an open platform for films to flourish.”
“The quality’s been fantastic,” says David. “We’ve had a lot of really good known and unknown talent coming through. The film industry has really rallied around this little festival.”