Two Australians have won Tropfest NY with the animated story of an ambitious rat.
SBS Film

24 Jun 2013 - 8:00 AM  UPDATED 24 Jun 2013 - 8:00 AM

Australian filmmakers Tristan Klein and Nick Baker have won the top prize at the New York edition of Tropfest, which took place in Brooklyn's Prospect Park on the weekend.

The pair claimed the major prize for a film called The Unlikely Maestro, an animated story of a humble rat who harbours dreams of becoming a world-famous conductor.

The aspiring filmmaking duo beat out 15 other hopefuls in the Tropfest NY competition, and earned $20,000 and a 'week of meetings' with notable executives and producers in Los Angeles, courtesy of the Motion Picture Association.

Liev Schreiber hosted the event, attended by 20,000 New Yorkers. An all-star panel of judges included Academy Award-winning producer Fisher Stevens (The Cove), actress, writer and director Lake Bell (Childrens Hospital, upcoming In A World), screenwriter and producer Charles Randolph (Love & Other Drugs), journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell (The New Yorker, The Tipping Point, Blink), and WNYC host Leonard Lopate.

Aspiring filmmaker Carmine Famiglietti came in second and Max Damashek rounded out the top three for their films Rooftop King and University Glimpse, while Yuri Pleskun and Eve Danzeisen earned best actor and best actress honors for their starring turns in The Snatcher and The Hardest Part respectively.

“Winning Tropfest New York is a strange mix of jet lag, a hangover, and humility. It's a very humbling experience to place first amongst all of these strong films,” said co-director Nick Baker.

The finalist films were each made specifically for Tropfest NY and followed the format guidelines, including incorporating the 'Tropfest Signature Item' (TSI). This year's TSI was 'Bridge' which could be interpreted in any way the filmmaker chose.

The next Tropfest will take place in Sydney's Centennial Park on December 8, with the ceremony broadcast nationally on SBS 2, and streamed live online.