Best Young Filmmaker: My Film Festival Win

“I’ve always loved telling stories, so when it clicked for me that film making was a way to do that, it just made sense. Films can make us feel so many ways, they can make comment on the world or take us away from it all together. I think that’s pretty cool. When I first watched Wes Anderson's 'Moonrise Kingdom', it totally changed the way I viewed films and the effect they can have on us, and from that moment on I knew I wanted in.”


JMC graduate Tess Emmerson recently won the Best Young Filmmaker award at Noosa Film Festival, for her film 'Spinning In Slow Motion'.

We chatted to her after her win, to find out more about her journey. 

Could you tell us a little bit about your film?

'Spinning In Slow Motion' is a coming-of-age, slice-of-life short film about a young, free, gay girl who doesn’t really know what she’s doing with her life. We follow our main character, Tommy, as she loses what little control she has of her adult life and ends up spinning and dancing in a 7/11 Carpark. I think it’s pretty relatable to a lot of people around my age, who have dreams and passions but no clear path of how to get there. 

What made you enter your film into Noosa?

JMC Academy has a great affiliation with Noosa International Film Festival, and it has a great reputation for supporting local filmmakers so I thought it would be a really nice festival to be involved with. Myself and the team behind 'Spinning In Slow Motion' were (and still are) just really keen on getting it out there to a wide audience, and seeing reactions from people first-hand is an amazing learning experience.

How do you feel after winning ‘Best Young Filmmaker’ award?!

It felt so lovely to be recognised in such a way, especially in a space outside the walls of JMC. To know that other people are watching, let alone enjoying, a film that I worked so hard on is really just the best. This industry is super tough to crack into so having won this award is a great piece of encouragement to keep fighting on. 

How have the skills you’ve learnt while at JMC helped you bring your film to life?

It's hard to determine what I learned sitting in a classroom at JMC and what I learned whilst on sets, creating and spending time with other creatives in my time there. Either way, I learnt so much about teamwork, working with crew and actors, on-screen motivation, pitching and specific tips and tricks through all stages of production. We covered all bases, from initial conception, writing, pitching, crewing, casting, crowd funding, scheduling, shot-listing, shooting, editing, sound and colour editing through to distributing. Having skills in all of these stages has been incredibly helpful and really made it possible to create 'Spinning In Slow Motion'.

What were your favourite things about getting into JMC?

I think the best thing about going to JMC was the environment to learn and create in a team. I met so many people (classmates, crew, lecturers) that are now invaluable in terms of opportunities and networking. The lecturers are incredible, and have continued to support me since graduating, going above and beyond to make my transition into the 'real world' as smooth as possible.

What were the biggest hurdles in production?

Personally, the biggest hurdle was the pressure I put on myself to make this film ‘perfect’. It’s definitely good to set high standards and expect great things, but I found it wasn’t healthy to put that amount of pressure on myself (and sometimes others). In the end, I learnt that there really is no such thing as perfect in filmmaking, because it’s so subjective. There’s a fine line between making a film to please audiences and making the film that you want to make. The test-screening stage really taught me a lot, it was a bit tough learning that not everyone is going to like what I make, but it also showed me that there is an audience out there for this type of on-screen material, so that continues to encourage me to create.

What were your hopes for after graduation, and how has studying at JMC brought you closer to this?

I graduated in April this year and have since moved to Melbourne where I’ve been working on some short films and interning with some videography company’s. I’m in the early stages of pre-production for my next short film, which I’ll shoot in Brisbane next year. I've just completed a month-long shoot in Cairns for the feature film ‘Celeste’ directed by one of my JMC lecturers Ben Hackworth. JMC has helped me in that way, providing contacts and opportunities, but also gave me the passion, drive and skills to go out and continue making films on my own.

What advice would you give to upcoming students as they head into creating their next film?

As I said, it's important to make the film that you want to make. Always take into consideration audiences, and the opinions of experienced lecturers and classmates, but in the end this is your film and this is what you take out into the world now to wave around proudly and say 'HELLO! THIS IS ME!'. JMC, especially in the last few trimesters, is the first step to your career, so start thinking about what you want that to look like and make a film that embodies that. (Oh! And make sure to put aside some funds for good sound design/mixing and festival entry!)

Find out more about studying Film & TV Production at JMC