SHORT FILMS | West is best for Tropfest

"Pretty excited": Tropfest founder John Polson expects "a big warm welcome" out west. "We want to create a sense of being part of the community."
"Pretty excited": Tropfest founder John Polson expects "a big warm welcome" out west. "We want to create a sense of being part of the community."

It began with a film screening in a Kings Cross cafe.

In 1993 John Polson had no idea Tropfest would become so big.

The world’s biggest short-film festival will premiere at its new home of Parramatta Park on Saturday.

“I’m beside myself with excitement,” he told us.

“We’d been in the eastern suburbs for 24 years and had a lot of filmmakers come from the west. Times have changed. Parramatta is now the geographical centre of Sydney and we want Tropfest to be more accessible.

“We couldn’t rest on our laurels, so we re-invested the wheel. It was always held on a Sunday but it’s now on a Saturday night so people can travel from the city and eastern suburbs.”

Parramatta Park and its accessibility ticked all the boxes.

“It’s incredibly beautiful,” Mr Polson said. “We wanted to focus on the future of Tropfest rather than the past. Parramatta kept coming up, so when I was back in Sydney eight months ago, I jumped on a train and was blown away at how easy it was to get there. We knew it was a bold move but one we thought was right.”

Mr Polson believes city fans will venture west. “To be honest, there’s been less controversy than I expected.

“Time will tell whether long-time fans will come. To the critics, I understand it’s a big change but give it a go, you may be surprised. To those who don’t, we’ll miss you but the show will go on.”

Parramatta Park premiere: Tropfest will screen this year's 16 finalists. Trop Junior includes a screening of Babe.

Parramatta Park premiere: Tropfest will screen this year's 16 finalists. Trop Junior includes a screening of Babe.

Polson was 27 when he founded Tropfest.

“I didn’t know it would go for one year, let along 25. It never crossed my mind it would become the juggernaut it is today. It’s given a leg-up to many talented stars and filmmakers.

“Within two or three years, it’d become much bigger than me. Time has flown but it’s been a long ride. There have been amazing times . . . and one or two tough times.”

In late 2015, Tropfest was postponed due to financial difficulties. A month later, the event was revived thanks to new sponsors.

“I thought it was the end. But then my phone started ringing off the hook from people calling out of the blue wanting to help, who made good on their offers.”

Parramatta Park will be home to Tropfest until 2019.

“It’s hard to say how many we’ll get but we really want the west to come and support us.

“We’re not overly focused on crowd numbers this year. My advice is to come early for a great afternoon of food and entertainment. Tropfest is, and always has been, a free event for the community.”

  • Festivities start in the Cattle Paddocks at 2pm with screenings of the last 24 Tropfest winners and entertainment from Hey Geronimo, Lime Cordiale and L-Fresh the Lion. Tropfest is from 7.30pm. Details: tropfest.org.au.

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