BOFA’s ‘Crowd Judge’ – A New Way for Festival Programming?

By giving the international film community the chance to be part of the selection committee, Tasmanian Breath of Fresh Air Film Festival‘s Director Owen Tilbury and his team are going a new way with their film selection process this year. The idea behind ‘You be the short film judge’ is that anybody can be a part of the programming team and decide upon the short films that will be screened at the festival. In the inaugural year of the ‘Crowd Judge’, only Australian short films are in competition. We had a chat with Tilburg, finding out why this is a festival every independent filmmaker should have on their radar, if there is a typical Australian film and what filmmakers can expect if they attend the festival.

Owen Tilbury Festival Director BOFA

‘You be the judge’ idea

Filmmakers can apply in two ways to our festival. If they‘re Australians they can submit a short film. Whereas people outside Australia can get involved with our ‘you be the short film judge’ idea. It‘s just like crowdfunding, people use crowdfunding to finance their project to ‘crowd source’, they call it the wisdom of crowds. We thought that we might try that as a way of judging the short films this year and we’ve had a lot of submissions so far. By the time we finished there should be sixty to maybe a hundred short films from Australia. The idea is to be a judge from around the world by using FilmFestivalLife as a digital screening room.
We‘re charging for this for two reasons – if we wouldn‘t ask for money to be a judge, filmmakers would ask a hundred friends to log in and become judges. So we charge for that but the idea especially for Australian judges is that they can get free tickets and the chance to win 200,000 dollars…

Independent Filmmaker Ethos

Up in the mountains, Sundance Film Festival in Utah acts as a good example of the benefits of going to a film festival far away from the big city. Of course we’ll never be as big as Sundance – we also don‘t want to be! – but we have the same independent filmmaker ethos of giving away from the traffic in the noise and the rush and coming to a festival for four days, where it’s absolutely about that festival. So, if you can come, do it! If you can‘t, please submit a film or become a judge and become part of what we think is a special film festival. In fact when I was at the Sydney Film Festival the Head of the Documentary Australia Foundation said to me: ‘You aren’t the biggest film festival within Australia but I would describe you as a small but perfectly formed one.’ That‘s a wonderful compliment. It teaches you – you don‘t have to be big to make an impact!

Avoiding the Shit factor

At BOFA, we‘re looking at other festivals for our features and documentary program. We‘re not a huge festival, we screen only a few documentaries and features, but we make sure that everyone is an absolutely winner. I‘ve heard about film festivals where 30% percent of the films are fantastic, 30% are ok, but 30% are shit. Let‘s say we try to avoid the shit factor.

Typical Australian Film

The indigenous people here in Australia has a very specific strong indigenous threat of films. The documentary BLACK PANTHER WOMAN which is about the the Black Panther Party in Australia is such a film. It‘s about protesting against the white establishment. Last year we screened a wonderful Australian movie called MYSTERY ROAD which was just amazing. The audience loved it. But is there a typical Australian movie? Probably not, it is like in other countries like Germany; there are love stories, there are comedies, there are dramas and so on. Australians are great travellers so they love to make movies about their travels and the rest of the world. But I think the indigenous type of film is very much growing and strengthening.

Short films

For us short films are a wonderful way to tell a story. In a very short time a short film opens up a window to a different way of looking at things. We show short films before every feature and every documentary. That‘s a little bit unusual for a film festival, at the Sydney Film Festival for example I think I saw only two shorts this year.
Shorts are very powerful craft and we had wonderful shorts in the past. You don‘t think 3 minutes is enough time to create a story, but like Oscar Wilde once said: ‘I apologise for writing a long letter, I didn‘t had time to write a short one.’ And I think short films are a little bit like that, in that you refine and bring down everything to the absolute essence. So every frame tells a primary story. I love short films for these reasons.

Attending BOFA

Filmmakers should come to our festival because it‘s a small one – meaning next to no barriers between the A-list, B-list and C-list! An ordinary filmmaker will have the chance to talk to a leading director or producer. We‘ve had a lot of parties, masterclasses, panels, a lot of opportunities for people to get involved with. So filmmakers will have a lot of fun and actually get a chance to enjoy the good things of life. Sometimes filmmaking can be lonely, when you‘re working hard to make something or to get funding for something. We make filmmakers feel welcome at our festival; we pick them up at the airport, we make sure to introduce them to people and we have an award dinner event on the Saturday night full of industry people…and free drinks!

FFL combination

FilmFestivalLife is the only way to submit to BOFA this year. We used to use Withoutabox, and how did we find it? Let‘s say the opposite of user-friendly. What I like about FilmFestivalLife is that it‘s a relatively new organisation, blessed with a young team passionate about film. Our judging idea is obviously a little bit unusual, because that is not the usual way people think, but you make it happen! The people behind FilmFestivalLife are passionate experts in film and I love people who are passionate about what they do. The technology is user-friendly too. It simply works. Passion, enthusiasm and user-friendly – that‘s the FFL combination!


Owen Tilbury, Festival Director, Tasmanian Breath of Fresh Air Film Festival
Nov 06 – 09, 2014
Launceston, Australia

Submit to BOFA on FilmFestivalLife:

Submit to BOFA on FFL

Late Deadline: 01 August 2014

‘You be the short film judge‘ is open till end of August.


Read more FOCUS features from FilmFestivalLife:
:: FOCUS • 6 Facts About Short Films With ROMA CREATIVE CONTEST
:: FOCUS • 5 Facts For Filmmakers About NEW ORLEANS FILM FESTIVAL

Read more of Jana’s articles



Jana Dietze

Jana Dietze is the Head of Communications at FFL. Her editorial background includes positions as Editor of N24 News channel and Editor of Fulmidas Media Agency. Her film experience is grounded in studying Film Science, Georg-August University, Göttingen. Reach her at jana(at)

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