Budding filmmakers from the Illawarra will get a chance to showcase their skills and even kick-start their career with the Creative Wollongong Short Film Competition returning to the region.
Seventeen-year-old Beau Ritchie became interested in film at a very young age when his mum made home movies with himself and his cousins to help keep them entertained.
“We had this camcorder and she would just film us wearing masks and costumes, like Superman and Ironman, and just running around the house being silly,” Beau said.
“We’d edit it together in iMovie and she’d show me the whole process of it.”
While his interest in filmmaking never faded, Beau found himself pursuing other creative avenues such as musical theatre and performance. Until COVID lockdowns in 2020 brought it to the forefront.
“We were locked inside the house and didn’t have much to do and my grandfather, my pop, suggested the Wollongong Film Competition,” Beau said.
“He knew that I had a passion for film but hadn’t done anything in a while.”
At just 13, Beau created a short film parody of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining called The Diet, and despite being up against other filmmakers much older, he topped the 13-19 age category.
“I was very shocked and surprised because it was my first time after not doing anything for a while and it really just gave me the rocket fuel to keep going and keep pushing it further,” Beau said.
The film went on to find further success in competitions such as Flickerfest, which spurred Beau on further.
“It just made me think that I’ve got something here and I’ve got to keep working at it and I kept making films from then on,” Beau said.
He’s continued to create films and develop his craft, taking on at least one new project a year while also balancing school.
His portfolio now includes an award-winning adaptation of King Lear which won at the Shakespeare Festival in Sydney, another film on gun control and one on World War II.
“The big one in 2022 was a 14-minute World War II film I did called Stringed Bullets and it won a number of prizes, including the Stafford Film Festival in Queensland,” Beau said.
The most recent film he completed is called Sonder, which was inspired by his experiences catching the train to and from school.
These projects have not only helped him develop his skills but are also steppingstones towards a career in the field.
“My goal after school is going to AFTRS, Australian Film Television and Radio School, and we found out that they don’t really need an ATAR, just a portfolio and that’s why I’m trying to show that I’ve continually had this passion,” Beau said.
“Having a film a year makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something that year and it’s always good to look back on.”
Now Wollongong City Council is looking for the next up-and-coming filmmaker as the Creative Wollongong Short Film Competition returns.
The competition is free to enter and will be split into two categories: filmmakers aged 12 to 24, and those who are older, with the films to be no longer than 15 minutes.
They also must be filmed in a location with a natural water source within the Wollongong or Shellharbour local government areas or include some footage of such a location.
And although water doesn’t have to be central to the story, it must appear in each film at some stage.
Beau said stimuli, guidelines and deadlines set by film competitions like this could help to inspire and keep creators on track, but he urged filmmakers not to try and overload it with content.
“Don’t try to cram a tonne of information or cover a lot of story in a short film,” he said. “It’s not a fraction of a large film, it’s supposed to be a short film itself so try to cover a small topic and stretch it over a larger margin rather than having a large film and trying to condense it.”
And he advised young filmmakers to learn and grow from mistakes, rather than focus on perfection.
“My best advice is to constantly keep pushing yourself, whether that’s in production, design or storytelling techniques,” Beau said.
“When I look back at my old films, I can’t help but pick out all the imperfections, but what that does for me as an artist is it gives me a goal to accomplish on my next film and constantly keep improving my films.
“The worst thing you can do as an artist is to think your films are perfect as they are; there’s always room for improvement.”
Registration for the Creative Wollongong Short Film Festival is open, with entries closing on 16 June. For more information, visit the Wollongong City Council website.
To watch some of Beau’s short films visit his YouTube page.