"I want to get young people to really think about… why they’re making a film, what they want to say, the ideas that they want to present to the world."
Maria Tran's career to date has the makings of a true success story. Living in Western Sydney, she hasn't done any of the traditional training that wannabe film people often take on – she hasn't been to NIDA or AFTRS, and instead holds a Bachelor of Psychology from the University of Western Sydney. However, Tran has a stronger creative CV than most young filmmakers dare hope for. She has won awards for her short films (including Best Film and Best Achievement in Directing for Happy Dent at the 2008 Shortcuts Film Festival), and she's currently working on her passion project, a mixed-genre film titled Quest For Jackie Chan!. Tran also works for Screen NSW, so all in all, she knows far more than most about the nitty-gritty of getting from “I want to make movies” to screening a finished film to an audience.
“I want to get young people to really think about… why they're making a film, what they want to say, the ideas that they want to present to the world,” says Tran, explaining her thinking behind her two Industry Talks sessions taking place at the Bayside Film Festival, which runs until Saturday 28 July. Her two sessions, Will My Idea Make A Good Film? and Will My Film Have An Audience?, are intended to help budding filmmakers critically develop their ideas and market the finished product accordingly.
“I'll pretty much be drawing on my experiences as an independent filmmaker, but also as someone working within governmental structures,” explains Tran. “I'll be bringing some of my experiences in how projects are pitched, what is good storytelling.” Nothing, Tran says, trumps storytelling in the importance stakes. “As much as it's great to have stunning production values, at the end of the day… story is the most important thing. A film can survive marginal acting, bad lighting and other things… but if the story hasn't been thought through, or hasn't had an emotional attachment from the person who's making it, a lot of times audiences aren't engaged.”
Indeed, engaging an audience is something Tran wants young filmmakers to consider more carefully – hence her second session, Will My Film Have An Audience? “People make films, but they don't always think about how they're going to get someone to watch it,” she says. “If they think that their film is going to get everyone as an audience, the reality is, it won't. It's all about being strategic in terms of who [filmmakers] want their film to be seen by – who's going to like it?”
It's an issue that Tran has spent much time pondering, and as a result, she's starting to gain some traction with her favoured film genre. “My genre that I'm really pushing for in Australia is the martial arts/action genre,” she says. “It sounds bizarre, but I've got all these strategic plans and thinking behind it.” For Tran, her filmmaking future is rooted in the idea of expanding what we consider our national filmic identity to be, and pushing those boundaries in a more multicultural direction. Her hope is that, by inspiring young filmmakers to push themselves creatively, we'll end up with a professional, creatively accomplished screen industry that all Australians can enjoy.
Industry Talks runs on Thursday and Friday, Bayside Film Festival, Palace Cinema Brighton.
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