INTERVIEW: 2015 Best in the West winner VONNE PATIAG
It's time to check in with another Made in the West Film Festival winner! Today we speak with Vonne Patiag, the ever-productive force behind VIP FILMS who took home the runner-up award in 2016 for his film Yang, after already having walked away with the Best in the West award in 2015 for his detective thriller, The Dead Man’s Face Was My Own. We've heard he's had another amazing year this year so we wanted to ask him what he's been working on.
By the way, Made in the West Film Festival is coming up very soon and we’re eagerly counting down the days! Submissions are still open for this year’s festival. Have you made a short film you want to see on the big screen? SUBMIT YOUR FILM before 3 November for your chance to win!
Made In The West Film Festival: Hi Vonne, thanks for joining us! What have you been up to since we saw you last year at Made in the West?
Vonne Patiag: My latest short film, Window, toured around Australia, screening at Dungog, Noosa, Launceston, Perth and Sydney. I've also been developing a web series set in the West called Boy (Space) Friends that was a recipient of Screen Australia funding. Plus I'm in pre-production on another short film which will also be shot in Western Sydney, celebrating Filipino culture. I recently completed a course with Information + Cultural Exchange and I'm also currently in the early-development stage of writing my first full-length play called The Life Cycle of Blanco. I have become very passionate about developing the infrastructure for Western Sydney filmmakers to create content, cultivating the filmmaking community within the West, and celebrating the diversity and stories from our side of Sydney, as well as fighting against geographical prejudice against the area.
MITWFF: Let's talk about the application process for grants and funding. How long does the process take? What’s the hardest part about accessing funding? Do you have any advice to share?
VP: The grant application process can take a long time. It basically involves developing an idea to the point where it's a no-brainer to the Screen Gods, with the right mix of talented and experienced people, a genuine story with something to say and a clear mapping of a lot of hard work. Any application process demands a lot of time and effort (I can't stress that enough! You really need to leave enough time to develop all the necessary creative and story documents). There's a huge and very genuine interest in Western Sydney stories right now so tell an authentic story that speaks to yourself first. My projects are always things I want to watch, and I think having that level of passion really excites the funding bodies.
MITWFF: Tell us more about finding 'the right mix' of people to work with. How hard (or easy) is it to find people who are willing to help you?
VP: I’m pretty lucky because I work mainly with the same team of people I met at university and we've always stayed in touch. We have all grown together and seem to be at the same level of experience so we naturally fit with each other. For me, finding people that fit my filmmaking endeavours is key. Same with my stories; I tend to try and live in between each film to make sure each project is an extension of my life. Once you have natural trust with people it's easier to find others that you'll need as your network grows with each film you do.
MITWFF: How much of yourself do you put into your projects?
VP: I'm currently drawn to the drama genre, which reflects a new approach for me of infusing my creative projects with my authentic self. In that way, every film I craft feels like it's a part of me. You instantly create the most powerful story you can when you’re able to articulate your own experience because you're creating something that allows people to empathise with you. Authenticity is powerful in this over-saturated media market and being yourself is the most radical act of rebellion. Hence my mantra to always live first: I'm alive, I breathe, I experience, I feel. That becomes before filmmaking everyday.
MITWFF: How does it feel to see not only your own projects, but other Western Sydney based films on the big screen at Made In The West?
VP: It's really inspiring. Especially because for so long it didn't seem there were many options for a filmmaker in Western Sydney. So it's really great to see filmmakers unashamed of their Western Sydney roots and telling stories that matter to them. Having a community is vital to survival as an artist as we all form our own ecosystem. Hence why, despite my success, I'm very keen to help other filmmakers as much as possible.
MITWFF: What Western Sydney based filmmakers would you be keen to work with next?
VP: I'm currently producing a film for my friend Nilendra Fonseka and I've recently attached to an online series written by Danielle Stamoulos, both are absolutely fantastic up and coming Western Sydney filmmakers. I really love working with passionate creatives who are telling stories they believe in.
MITWFF: What is the best piece of advice you would pass on to other filmmakers?
VP: Live first: keeping filmmaking 'human' is a big one for me. Your body is how you perceive and experience the world, so using your body in your filmmaking will automatically make your work human. Write screenplays by hand. Work out how to shoot things without CGI and you'll learn so much more. Filmmaking seems like such an impossible task at the beginning, but it gets easier the more films you make and the more experience you get.
MITWFF: Do you have a favourite memory from a past Made In The West Film Festival?
VP: In 2015 the lead actor from The Dead Man’s Face Was My Own surprised me on the night (he is based in London and I had no idea he was coming). We swept up Best In The West, Best Actress, Best Cinematographer and Best Editor that year too – all of which were an incredible bonus for me!
MITWFF: What are you looking forward to most at this year's event?
VP: Assuming Window is selected to screen at this year’s festival and having not yet had the chance to screen it to a home-grown crowd, I am most excited about bringing the film home to Western Sydney where it was shot!
MITWFF: What's the best way to connect with you?
Cheers! Thanks so much for chatting with us, Vonne. We're looking forward to seeing some home-grown films on the big screen too. This year's event is on Saturday 25th November - we'll see you there!
Entries are closing soon for Made in the West Film Festival 2017. If you've made a short film featuring cast, crew or locations from Western Sydney, you might be in the running to WIN this year's Best in the West award! Check out the ENTRY CRITERIA and SUBMIT YOUR FILM now!
Made in the West Film Festival returns to the Paddo RSL (upstairs) on 25 November 2017.