“As they read the name out I just tried not to think about it too much and embarrass myself in front of the audience.”
The 13-minute drama was one of eight finalists selected from almost 4,000 entries from around the world.
Shot in the Melbourne suburb of Dandenong on a shoestring budget, the film tells the story of Tempest, an adolescent attempting to untangle his memories and reflect on a challenging relationship with his father.
It was inspired by the filmmaker’s own experiences.
Ethiopian-born Yared Scott, 12, who was adopted by Australian parents and raised in Melbourne, took on the lead role. His casting even led Williams to re-write the script.
“It was important to get the right soul and the right presence for this character … the race, and to some extent the gender, were things I could re-write around,” Williams said.
It is unusual to re-write after casting, he admits, but not unheard of.
Choosing an African-Australian actor too, was also unintentional, but admits it influenced the “feel” of the film.
“That helps everyone see each other as ‘people’ and not specifically where they’re from and what their previous background before being Australian is.”
Williams said Melbourne’s Ethiopian community was pivotal in ensuring the script was authentic, and ultimately successful.
“It was more about making sure we were accurate to certain bits of dialogue, behaviour, costume, and production design”.
But casting Yared was the masterstroke.
Williams said the head judge at Cannes was full of praise for the young star and encouraged them to work together again.
“He told me … something about him on screen was so compelling that I’d be crazy not to make a [feature] film with him.”
The young actor didn’t think his initial audition was successful, he told SBS News, but it earned the Scott family a ticket to the Cannes red carpet.
“The paparazzi everywhere and the amount of security was insane,” Yared said. “To watch the film and how big the screen was, was kind of overwhelming.”
What’s more, acting has enabled him to break stereotypes, he says.
“Being African myself and some of the stereotypes being in place, there not a lot of people expect me to do acting.”
His father, David Scott, couldn’t be more proud.
“I think he sets an example for everyone,” he said.
“I don’t think the colour of your skin matters that much. If you’ve got some passion and you want to achieve something, go and achieve it.”