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Mudfest goes global

The Orana Arts region can proudly boast its own homegrown international film festival. Now in its ninth year, Mudfest is known around the globe for presenting some of the best short films from Australia, Europe and the US. As tickets are being eagerly snapped up for the 2013 event at Bunnamagoo Estate, Mudgee, next month, Orana Arts asked festival Co-director Steve Garland (SG) to take us back to the beginning of the Mudfest story.

SG: Like all great film festivals Mudfest started in a café. In 2004 five friends tossed around the idea of having a film festival in Mudgee – one, because it sounded like fun, and two, why should we have to travel to larger places to enjoy such a festival?
The festival organisers are Peter Scott, Mike O’Malley, Sean Wolfson, Philip Van Gent and me. None of us are film-makers – we are more ‘enthusiast consumers’ of film and cinema. We all love seeking out the perfect short film or the great brave idea that works in a film.

Orana Arts (OA): How has the festival evolved?
The 2005 Mudgee Short Film Festival was run in the Butcher Shop Café to a capacity audience, a great vibe and some excellent films, even screening a BAFTA award winning film with a connection to Mudgee. The success inspired us to take it further and with a wine industry sponsor on board, Mudfest 2006 – 08 ran on the lawns of Elliot Rocke Estate. We embraced the ‘film, wine, food’ theme and because we received entries from over 36 countries we became Mudgee’s International Short Film Festival. In 2009 we partnered with Bunnamagoo Estate, which offered a tremendous venue. The festival has grown from an audience of fifty people in the beginning to around a thousand.

OA: Has the success of Mudfest been driven by film enthusiasts or film makers?
It’s both. The audience responds to the content, which is only as good as what’s entered and we do a lot of work ensuring we get great films submitted. Typically we receive more than 700 films per year from more than 30 countries. Of all the entries received, only about 14 films are screened.
Watching movies under the stars with a drink and a picnic seems to strike a chord with a lot of people. We’ve deliberately made the event inexpensive and fun. We avoided ‘glitzy’ elements or imitating other festivals. The films are organised in a ‘rollercoaster’ of emotions, with the next one just minutes away. As a result it’s grown organically, mostly by word of mouth.

OA: Can regional film makers get involved with Mudfest?
After the screening, prizes are awarded by a judging panel and an audience vote including an award for best local film and best Australian film. Over the years we’ve had some excellent local films screened and awarded at the festival and we would like to showcase more.

OA: Tell us about Mudfest in Hollywood?
In January 2012, Mudfest screened at the Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, the venue for the first Academy Awards. With assistance from Qantas and Destination NSW, Mudfest took part in the large promotion of Australia in the US – G’Day USA. It was a great thrill and a fun experience for our small festival to make it to Hollywood and promote our local film industry and NSW as a destination.

OA: What can visitors expect from Mudfest this year?
This year will see the largest screen we’ve ever had and a great line-up of films. There will be live music from 5pm to create a background to your picnic before screening commences at sunset.

- As told to Alicia Leggett, compiled by Kerry Ellen