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NZIFF 2012 to put on shorts for winter

The New Zealand International Film Festival (NZIFF) today joined the ranks of competitive festivals, announcing its first ever competitive strand offering cash prizes for local short films. The competition ups the ante for local festivals aimed at attracting short films, and follows the announcement that the Oscar-qualifying Tropfest will open up shop here next year.

Similar to Tropfest’s criteria, the NZIFF competition is open only to short films having their NZ premiere screenings at the Festival (Tropfest specifies world premieres).

Acknowledging the impact of other short film festivals, but not Tropfest, festival director Bill Gosden noted, “We are well aware that short film programmes are competing with a vast array of other Festival films for audience attention. The success of the 48 Hour and Show Me Shorts Festivals has changed the terrain considerably since we introduced the Homegrown programmes of short films 15 years ago.”

Presumably, in requiring a NZ premiere, 48 Hour finalists (whether or not they won) will be ineligible for entry to the NZIFF competitions.

Gosden explained the rationale for the contest as being, “A more gladiatorial event with a recognisable curatorial hand involved appealed to us as a means of highlighting and rewarding the achievements of emerging filmmakers.”

The NZIFF comeptition will accept narrative and documentary, animated and experimental films of 20 minutes duration or less, with the filmmaker being a NZ national.

Entries will be culled to 12, then to a programme of five New Zealand’s Best finalists to be presented in Auckland and Wellington simultaneously. The prize winners announcement will come on the festival’s closing night in Auckland.

Although not competitive entry until now, the $3,000 Friends of the Civic Prize for an emerging filmmaker with a short film in the Auckland leg of the Festival will now be judged by the festival’s short film jury.

Two new prizes will be added to the mix.

The Audience Choice Award will be, as its name suggests, determined by popular vote. Attendees at the New Zealand’s Best screenings will vote on the five films presented. The prize is of indeterminate value, set at 25% of the box office takings from the NZB screenings in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin – so its value won’t actually be known until after the winner is.

The final prize, set at $5,000, comes courtesy of distributor Madman. Best known as a distributor of international (especially Asian) content, Madman is engaging more closely with the Australasian industries and will distribute Mark Albiston & Louis Sutherland’s in-production Shopping in NZ and Australia.

Michael McDonnell, NZIFF Assistant Programmer, is handling submissions for the competition, which is accepting submissions until 20 April.

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