Getting my Mockumentary into a Berlin Film Festival: One Film Graduates Story

JMC Film and TV Production Graduate Jess Newman recently had his short mockumentary graduate project accepted in the Down Under Berlin Film Festival. We talked to Jess to find out how he got into film, what his short film is about, and how he found his time at JMC! 

A passion for film

I spent the majority of my time from 8 until around 20 years old skateboarding. I would spend every night after school down at the skate park and then head off into the city to film street parts of my friends and get them to film me to try and become sponsored. So, without really knowing it I always had a camera in my hand from a really young age. When I got a bit older, I started really enjoying editing the skate videos as well so, without knowing it, I was learning to become a film maker. After I came to the realisation I wasn't going to become a pro skater I started to film a bit more and started creating videos outside of skateboarding. It became more about getting a video to look good and cut together well over just getting cool tricks on film. So, after having a few people tell me I should try and do it as a career I enrolled in JMC and the rest is history.

‘The Cycle’ Mockumentary

'The Cycle' is a short mockumentary which I wrote and directed for my grad project at JMC. It is a story about a character named Jimmy, who loses his license after being caught drink driving, which his mother then suggests he take up cycling. Their relationship is tested when Jimmy starts to believe he can become the greatest cyclist of all time. 

I came up with the idea of the story after I myself lost my licence and as a joke told everyone I would take up cycling and become a professional rider. I never followed through with my dream/joke so that’s where this film takes over. The character of Jimmy very loosely resembles my attitude toward an idea of starting something new, thinking in my head of becoming the greatest or making the Olympics but then the phase only lasting a couple of weeks. Our goal was to create something that felt like a real documentary most of the way through until the jokes start becoming a bit too unrealistic. Comedy was the main driving force in the film so if I get a couple of laughs in the cinema then I feel like we have succeeded.

It's funny because I never thought the film was good enough for any festivals and wasn't really planning on entering it in anything but my classmate Jake messaged me on Facebook with a link to the festival and told me I should enter. I had a look online and it is a festival which only accepts Australian and New Zealand films so I thought why not, we have nothing to lose and only accepting AUS and NZ content gave us a greater chance than most other festivals. After I sent away the submission on Film Freeway a long time had passed and I had forgotten I even entered the film. I was receiving emails congratulating us on the acceptance of the film but they were all going to my spam folder in my email so I didn't see any of them. It was only last week I got a message on the Facebook page we made about the film that I received a message asking if we were still interested in entering in the festival and that the submissions had closed but they would allow us to send a DCP across with some photos for the press release by the morning and they would accept us into the festival. My internet at home is pretty bad so I called up the DOP of the film and he managed to get us in to his work after hours to upload all the files we needed and we got it done with a few hours to spare. So we were really lucky in the end.

Studying Film to working in Film

I always had a great connection with my lecturers and also the staff members in the facilities area. From those relationships, I have managed to get a ton of advice for starting up my own little production company and also been lucky enough to be given work off some of these staff members. They really helped set up my business and career so far and I don't think I would be where I am today without their help inside and outside the JMC curriculum. I also enjoyed the opportunities available from JMC; I was lucky enough to go on a trip to LA through the uni which was great fun and also put my hand up for a number of shoots available to us outside of the course and that really helped improve my skills. If I ever had a shoot coming up or a job which I wasn't sure about, I would go straight to facilities or my lecturers and talk through it with them. I always took on-board what they said and it led me to being able to make a living from doing what I love. 

Jess’s advice for students

I would say yes to everything in the beginning. Do any kind of role inside or outside of uni and continue to shoot or edit as much as you can. The more experience you gain from uni the better chance you have to gain work when you finish. As much as the curriculum was great and taught us a lot you need to be doing more than just your assignments.

Don't be scared to enter your film into a festival, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I guess you should also make a Facebook page for your film so if you are hopeless with your emails like me you will get a second chance!

Lastly make sure you have fun, uni is so much fun being forced to create content and when you get out its very tough to be making those passion projects like short films and doco's because the real world takes over. 

Find out more about studying Film and TV Production or apply now.

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