Aussie film festival a winning platform

Sourced from theaustralian.com.au – By Simon Canning

The tiny town of Dungog has become the home of the little film festival that, with its annual showing of Australian films, is now being mentioned in the same breath as the famed Sundance and has major sponsors flocking to its doors.

The festival is the only dedicated expo of Australian film in the world and has moved from a cult following among aficionados to become a platform attracting backers that include Apple, Sony, Country Link, Mambo and DVD rental firm Oovie.

During the four-day festival, the population of the town doubles to more than 15,000, with people flocking to the Hunter Valley generating revenues of more than $2 million.

Allanah Zitserman, director of the Dungog Film Festival, has taken it from a concept to a fully fledged event that Australian film makers are keen to use as their debut springboard.

“In Australia, there are not many film festivals set outside the major cities and I think it is the first film festival anywhere that showcases only Australian content,” Ms Zitserman said, adding that despite the remote location of the festival, which runs from May 26-29, it had proven surprisingly popular with sponsors while state and federal government departments had also seen it as a fertile vehicle.

The festival is centred around the oldest continuously running cinema in the country, The James.

Sponsors get involved in a variety of ways, including Country Link, which lays on a special party train from Sydney direct to Dungog.

“I think that sponsorship for an arts organisation is always a challenge, but for 2011 we already have between 15 and 20 sponsors and usually end up with about 30,” she said.

“We are very specific about meeting their needs and we have sponsors telling us they are walking away with a 300 per cent return on their investment.”

This year, the festival is also holding a warm-up event in Sydney, where actresses Georgie Parker and and Susie Porter will join others as part of a public reading of the script for John Lonie’s movie The Savage Garden.