• A still from Spencer Susser's Tropfest-winning film Shiny. (YouTube)Source: YouTube
The LA-based winner at this year’s Tropfest has a strong Aussie connection.
15 Feb 2016 - 8:38 AM  UPDATED 15 Feb 2016 - 3:31 PM

[Watch the full broadcast of Tropfest 2016 at SBS On Demand]


The US winner at this year’s Tropfest has a strong Aussie connection which inspired him to enter the competition.

Director Spencer Susser is part of the same film collective as Australian filmmaking brothers Joel and Nash Edgerton, Blue-Tongue Films.

In fact, it was seeing the short film festival's infamous pineapple trophy, won by Nash Edgerton in 1997, around the production office that inspired Susser to enter the competition.

"My friend Nash Edgerton had won several years ago. So he had been talking about it forever. All I knew was Nash was part of Tropfest and there was a pineapple, because I'd always seen this trophy sitting around the office," Susser told AAP at Tropfest in Sydney on Sunday night.

Susser created stop-frame animation, Shiny, along with Daniel Cloud-Campos who appeared at the event via FaceTime on Susser's iPhone.

The pair created the film using an overhead camera with real clothing that they animated to move like people.

"It's basically all of my wardrobe, all of Cloud's wardrobe and all of everyone else's wardrobe that we knew," Susser said.

The film's message is about how people are obsessed with material things and how this can get in the way of everything else.

The LA duo's quirky film was chosen from a group of 16 finalists by a panel of judges including Hollywood heavyweight Mel Gibson, The Mentalist actor Simon Baker, actress Rebecca Gibney and The Dressmaker director Jocelyn Moorhouse.

Gibson awarded the first prize to Susser, which included $10,000 in cash and a round trip to LA, on stage.

The Oscar-winner who has been in Sydney directing World War II drama Hacksaw Ridge remained relatively quiet all night. He didn't engage with media and only spoke briefly while awarding the trophy to Susser.

"There has to be one winner and it's sad, but it's great for Spencer Susser and Shiny," Gibson told the crowd at Centennial Park. 

The 16 finalists were diverse in genre, ranging from animation, to comedy, to documentary and even mockumentary. But for all their diversity of style, the directors and actors were nearly all male.

Simon Baker was the first to point out this shortcoming as he awarded the $3000 prize (donated by Nicole Kidman) for best female actress to Natalie Bassingthwaighte who starred in short film Would I Lie.

"Women were pretty grossly under-represented in the acting department tonight," Baker said from the stage in Sydney's Centennial Park.

Judge, and director of documentary Gayby Baby, Maya Newell called for next year's festival to have more diversity as she pointed out that only one of the 16 filmmaking finalists was a woman.

But while the festival drew thousands on Sunday night with early estimates at about 90,000, its future still hangs in the balance.

Bailed out this year by CGU Insurance after its initial cancellation back in December, the festival's future is uncertain.

The festival's founder and director John Polson is confident, though, that he can work out a solution to make sure the festival is sustainable.

"We're working with a big adviser which we'll be announcing in the next week or two, they're going to come in and help us rebuild the way the company works," he told AAP.

Polson also said he's stepping in to take on more of a hands-on approach to the business.

"This is my baby, this is what I started and it's incredibly important to me," he said.

But on Sunday night, the only thing threatening the festival was the weather. Halfway through the screening, Sydney experienced a brief electrical storm, but it coincided perfectly with the festival's interval.

And as the rain stopped just in time for the second half it seemed for once, luck was on Tropfest's side.


Watch the full broadcast of Tropfest 2016 at SBS On Demand.