*Still from the animated short “GNT” (Image: Supplied, Original Spin)
JUNE 19: UTS alumni Sara Hirner and Rosemary Vasquez-Brown have won the Yoram Gross Animation Award at the Sydney Film Festival.
The $5000 award means their animated short “GNT” is now eligible for an Academy Award nomination.
In a joint statement, the women said: “GNT winning the animation prize is such an honour. We are from Sydney and watch the festival every year, so it’s really a moment to cherish. Thank you so much for all the positive feedback, we hope it gives everyone a little giggle at this time.”
The festival jury, comprising director George Miller, actor/producer Bryan Brown and director/producer Sophie Hyde, described “GNT” as “a disarming and fearless film that showcases the talent of its makers who control the anarchic tone with strength and humour.”
The Festival’s short-film competition awards have run for the past 51 years and have kick-started the careers of many prominent filmmakers, including Warwick Thornton, Jane Campion and Ivan Sen.
June 16: Just before the awards were announced, Central News’ Anna Dvorak spoke to Sara Hirner and Rosemary Vasquez-Brown about GNT.
“I called her so many times and was like ‘answer your phone, it is an emergency’, and she called me [back] and thought something bad had happened.”
So says Sara Hirner of her call to Rosemary Vasquez-Brown, after learning they’d been included in the Sydney Film Festival, which is now online until June 21.
GNT stands for “Glenn, Nikki, Tammy” and is an outrageous, highly-styled and intentionally vulgar animated short that follows one woman’s mission to conquer social media and develop thrush to upstage her friends.
It was the product of the directing duo’s capstone project at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and is among 10 films in the running for the Dendy Australian Short Film Awards. Announced this Thursday (June 18), the winner becomes eligible for an Academy Award nomination.
“I was very excited to go to a premiere,” Vasquez-Brown said, “but [it] is fine doing it virtually. It is cool because we are getting followed by other people that make films.”
The directing duo say winning a prize could see GNT – initially intended as a proof of concept – developed further, while allowing them to fulfil their goal of continuing to work together.
GNT has been picked up by other international film festivals whose programs are yet to be announced. For most filmmakers whose work is premiering in virtual festivals though, the impact of COVID-19 has meant they cannot see the live audience reaction to their work.
“Usually you sit in an audience and when people are laughing it also adds to your laughter and what your reaction will be,” Hirner said.
“You feel everyone around you, and now that it is one-on-one, which feels weird.”
The whole [film] community is a lot more accessible in many ways and also less in some ways. We are in a pandemic so we can’t complain too much.”
Before the pandemic however, they were able to screen the short at their UTS graduation show. “Everyone else’s [work] was quite appropriate, so they had to put a sign outside the room about some adult themes, and we just knew that poster was there for us,” Vasquez-Brown recalls.
“The only other screening I had [besides the grad show], was with my family as I put it on the TV at home.”
She was especially worried about showing GNT to her uncle, but received a better than expected reaction. Hirner adds: “Rosemary’s uncle said he liked it but that he will find us a good priest.”
The women laugh as they recall the origins of GNT. Not only did real conversations with young women inspire the story but also strange home remedies found online.
“We are pretty gross and have conversations with all of our friends, validating really abnormal things. Rosemary and I had been writing those kinds of conversations for a while, and the thrush one is just one that stuck.
“One lady was like you put clove garlic up your vagina and after four minutes of it being up there you’ll taste garlic.”
Illustrative comics, indie animations and past films they watched as attendees of the Sydney Film Festival in previous years also inspired the style of the film.
“You don’t have many opportunities to make something just in the style you want to make… so we made it exactly how we want,” Hirner said. “I do not think there are many animations that have really gross weird female characters, so we would love to develop more.”
The women have collaborated since their second year of university and worked on the majority of their assessments together. They said they tried to branch out in their collaborations by working with other people but found their working relationship the best.
“We would go home after hours of working together, Sara would call me and then we would talk to each other on the train all the way home . . . that is the space we had.”
They continue to work on more animations together, to de-stress while waiting to see if GNT will get into any other festivals.
Their advice to fellow artists and especially students is to cherish practising the craft and developing all of the things that are meaningful.
“As heart-wrenching as it is to listen to someone say ‘no it is not working’, listen to that and trust yourself. Know what bits you love about your work and what bits you are willing to change, ’cause it does really make it better.”
— Anna Dvorak @anna_dvorak99