A Showcase of Amateur Auteurs: Flopfest Film Festival

In a time when consumer-authored media is largely a product of digital communities, Flopfest Film Festival is something truly different. It’s a do-it-yourself film festival, featuring content created by local amateurs that spans the range of absurdist comedy, animation, and documentary.

We will be there, debuting a seminal Gutter Culture art piece filmed at Mindarie marina, and we had a chat with Ben and Michael from Flopfest ahead of the festival’s open and close on 2 March.

Gutter Culture: Tell us about the origins of the festival.

Ben Yaxley: Flopfest started as a shambly sharehouse backyard event, sort of like Yardstock or those house gallery shows people put on with their art friends. We'd probably seen the idea on the Simpsons episode where Barney's sensitive art film is played alongside 'Man Getting Hit by Football', but we hadn't encountered a similar community-made film festival in Perth before. It felt like a positive and inclusive thing to have everyone together, watching the dumb things their friends-of-friends had made.

Image courtesy of Flopfest

Image courtesy of Flopfest

It was stormy on the night of the first event in 2017, so rather than having it outside as planned, we had nearly a hundred people crammed into the lounge room. I think, though, it went as perfectly as I could have imagined. I felt good about everything in life afterwards.

Some guy none of us knew came with a gift: a dozen jars of home-brined gherkins, all in a big crate. We cracked one open and were eating them on the porch. Something about them tasted wrong, and the next day most of the jars had fizzed up and become cloudy. We ended up burying the remaining jars in a sandy abandoned lot, which I think is now a three storey development. Its cool that a three storey development now rests on their burial ground.

GC: How has the festival evolved since those early, pickle-entombing days?

BY: This year is the first time we’ve had Flopfest semi-official and open to the public. I think keeping the wholesome-ish scrappy feeling of the event is important to us. There’s always a conception that having funding and shire regulations, and whatever, can take away from the original spirit, but having more support and attention has allowed us to make it more inclusive to the wider public outside of alternative Perth cliques, which can only be a good thing.

GC: You picked up a community grant from Creative Maylands’ Neighbourhood SOUP. How has it helped to develop the festival?

BY: Neighbourhood SOUP was such a cool event. People pitch community ideas and the winner, as voted by the audience, wins the door money. It was a huge help to get a bit of funding for finding a new venue, as we’d moved from the old sharehouse.

Creative Maylands and the Bayswater Council have been hugely supportive and helpful, as well as the small businesses around Maylands that offered their venues. We found this beautiful bowls club function room down at the end of the peninsula which is perfect. It has a lot of old world charm and it feels like you're at a school ball in the wheatbelt.

GC: Where do you see the festival going into the future?

BY: In the future I would like to encourage more submissions from people outside of the 20 to 40 age range; movies from school kids and grandparents and stuff would be dope.

Michael Trown: I'm not too sure what the future of the festival is, but I'm excited to see what it becomes and I really hope it continues to be a thing. I would definitely like to see more submissions from wider parts of the community, as I think it's really important to have a wide variety of short films to show.

It would be really cool to host an event in an open space, like by the river or in a park, and give it more of an outdoor cinema feel. Definitely something to consider in the future, although it does make things a whole lot more complicated. We would also like to continue keeping the costs low, so that we can keep the door entry low (currently $5.00), so we aren't cutting out low income people from our community events - another way that the funding from the council has definitely helped!

Image courtesy of Flopfest

Image courtesy of Flopfest

GC: What have been some of your highlights from past festivals?

BY: At last year’s Flopfest, there ended up being a 12 person jam band improvising in our chicken coop until late at night. It was a mixture of bar rock, rap, and bluegrass country. Mal Measles, a character from a video about the band Ped Egg did a live performance, freestyle rapping about the films shown, while the Uga Chaka dancing baby played in the background.

There was some cool, surreal shit and I don't know if people thought it was cool or alienating. It'll be interesting to see how this year goes.

MT: I think one of the biggest highlights is how it brought in so many people to have one big home movie night, there was a sort of coziness about it that you can't really get from just going to the cinema. We ended up having quite a few strangers in our house/backyard, but everyone was just so friendly. We all gathered together as a community to watch hilarious, average quality homemade movies and it was really special.

Even though our original plan was for the event to be just screening silly movies, half of our submissions ended up being documentaries, creative music videos, and artistic videos, which are definitely a welcome addition. It ends up being a very interesting mix, being screened alongside crappy live-action Simpsons satire and mockumentaries. An unintended but positive benefit of this film festival is that it gives a platform for local Perth creatives to show off their work, which otherwise might have just been lost to YouTube.

Flopfest is at Maylands Sport and Recreation Club, Saturday 2 March at 7:00pm.

Tickets available from Eventbrite.