Tropfest winners have usually already made a mark and this is the case with Alethea Jones, director of last night's first prize winner Lemonade Stand, about the mateship and courage shown by her two leading men, Benny and Granddad.
The Melbourne-based director, writer, actor and choreographer's 17-minute film When the Wind Changes, won the 2011 IF Award for best short and has been seen at festivals worldwide. The comedy about three boat charter operators is set against a very serious topic: Australia's water crisis.
Jones's first documentary, Tissue, screens in March in the ABC's Anatomy series, and examines the husband-and-wife team behind SymbioticA, a research laboratory attached to the University of Western Australia that enables artists to produce art that is semi-living.
She studied film at the Victorian College of the Art and says she “loves thinking up strange ways to make people laugh, in film and life”. Presumably she wasn't laughing when, according to the Tropfest winners statement put out overnight, she recently signed up for unemployment benefits.
Hopefully the $10,000 cash from Happy Feet production company Kennedy Miller Mitchell, the trip to LA to meet film executives and the equipment she won last night will help her continue her filmmaking – and earn a living from it.
Rupert Reid, director of second prize winner Boo!, has worked for several Sydney theatre companies as an actor, and Queensland-based Michael Noonan, director of third prize winner Photo Booth, several years ago won the IF Award for best documentary for Unlikely Travellers. Boo! also earned Don Reid best male actor while Kate McNamara won best female actor for Kitchen Sink Drama.
Jason Van Genderen, 2011 runner-up and the New York Tropfest winner in 2008, won $5,000 in the Tropfest sidebar event for films made on mobile devices: The 53rd Hour, is about life as a single dad.
Lawyer-turned-filmmaker Marie Patane won the Women in Film Award for How Many More Doctors Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb? Given this year's signature item was a light bulb, how could she resist making a sequel to her similarly named 2006 Tropfest best comedy winner?
In the Trop Jnr competition, high school friends Max Barden and Tim Sheehan from Ken in Victoria, made the winning entry Let's Make a Movie, a comedy was about the difficulties of picking a genre for their film, and the runners up were The Cascades from Emily O'Connell and the claymation I Think You Stink Show, from Yianni Rowlands. Even Rowlands is a seasoned filmmakers: now aged 11, she started make stop-motion films four years ago and was a 2011 Trop Jnr finalist.
Tropfest director and founder, John Polson, announced on the night that next year's entries have to contain a balloon and that there will be a further expansion of the brand into New Zealand and Las Vegas.
Tropfest was held at various outdoor venues throughout the country. Congratulations should also go to the thousands in Sydney who decided to stay to watch all 16 finalists despite pelting rain.
More than 700 entries were received.