16 October 2023

New WTF (What The Film) Festival to showcase the 'underdogs of the film world'

| Travis Radford
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Ophelia Hyde.

Ophelia Hyde (back centre) co-founded the new WTF (What The Film) Festival. Photo: Supplied.

Frustrated by the lack of support for Canberra filmmakers, Ophelia Hyde rallied the “underdogs of the film world” and created her own local film festival.

The WTF (What The Film) Festival co-founder and local filmmaker says it all began when she was trying to get her new independent feature film, Dedication, off the ground.

“You have to already have a foot and a leg in the door to be taken seriously,” Ophelia explains.

“We did apply for two or three different grants and we were knocked back for all of them, so we were all joking around saying, ‘Well, why don’t we just make a film festival and we can showcase it?’ and then it sort of snowballed into this massive festival that it’s become now.”

WTF has received 150 submissions, with more than 80 local, national and international films of various lengths, genres and levels of experience selected to be screened on Saturday, 7 October.

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Ophelia says the one thing that many of these diverse films have in common is that they “wouldn’t even get a second look at a normal film festival” – and not because they aren’t any good.

“We had a high school in Queensland that gave us about 30 films, all from students interested in film and wanting to put something into a festival,” she explains.

“A lot of those films are actually incredibly good. They blew Steve Cooke [the other festival director] and I out of the water with how much natural talent there was.”

Ophelia believes the real reason “underdogs of the film world” like these students don’t get a look in is that their films aren’t seen as money-makers.

“We’re passed over for other people that might have already returned a profit because, at the end of the day, it is still about profit and not the art,” she says.

“Film is an art form, and I think people forget there are people in Canberra who just want to make films for fun and to create something.

“The heart of the festival is to encourage and nurture any filmmaker that wants to get out there and try making films to just give it a go.”

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WTF Festival is a non-profit, with all money raised being put straight back into the festival, which Ophelia plans to make an annual affair.

While some film festivals require winners to pay for their trophies, WTF has also committed to send winners their trophies free of charge, even if they are international entrants. There are also dedicated categories to encourage young people, women, and people with films older than 18 months (who are usually ineligible for festivals), and Canberrans to submit their work.

Ophelia says she has witnessed the vibrancy of Canberra’s film industry first-hand and it is a lack of a platform like the WTF Festival rather than a drought of talent that is the problem.

“A lot of people I’ve spoken to in the industry, they do want to move to chase the industry, but there’s no reason that industry can’t exist here,” she says.

“Canberra is a really good place to film, there’s community support and there’s a community to support.”

What The Film Festival will be held on Saturday, 7 October, at the National Film and Sound Archive. To find out more or buy tickets, visit the WTF Festival website.

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