The Next Gen Short Film Festival was one of the events to have recently graced the Fringe World Festival. Taking place at The Backlot it allowed an environment for young Western Australian film-makers to showcase their work. DAVID O’CONNELL had a talk with one of the winners of the festival, director Hayden Fortescue, about his award-winning short science fiction film Council.

The distinctive coat of arms for the titular council, symbolises a lot about Fortescue’s philosophy in film making. With such a short time to convey a message, he packs a lot of symbolism into every aspect of the work.

“A lot of people think it looks like a dinosaur, but a lot of thought went into it,” explained Fortescue. “It’s based around a medical alert bracelet symbol (the Caduceus) with the two snakes, but this is two lizards dropping its tail. The point is society is dropping its tail, the same way a lizard does to survive a desperate situation. The Latin motto translates to ‘ earn your place’. It has a couple levels of meaning. We put an immense amount of thought into it, considering you can only see it for a couple of seconds in the film. In ten minutes I tried to pack in an insane amount of symbolism into the film.”

Set in an indeterminate point in the future, Council tells the story of one man undergoing a life or death struggle in a world that has undergone a harsh change. Written and directed by Fortescue, it’s inspiration comes from an unusual place. “I listen to a lot of self help books. So it kind of comes from that world – making the most of each day, and overcoming failure (there’s no such thing as failure, only winning and learning). So its not your traditional inspiration, but I’m trying to fuse self-development principles into a narrative story-line. I want to give those questions an ideas from those worlds, then find ways to meld it together.”

From that starting point, Fortescue threaded in a number of science fiction films to use as touchstones for his work. Gattaca, would be the obvious comparison, with it’s retro-future aesthetics and comparable message. Although it also shares some common elements with Logan’s Run (sans the jumpsuits, and the cheesey seventies effects). For a ten minute short, the result is an impressive piece of story telling.

Council earned Fortescue Best Director at The Next Gen Short Film Festival (which itself won the 2017 Fringe World Multi Media Award). “A good, home-grown festival,” commented Fortescue. “You make something, you put all this effort in, and you don’t achieve all you want to achieve. Not much opportunity to get your investment back, people do short films for the love, not the money. Having a local festival, with local judges that you know and respect, and being able to take a few awards home…it’s validating…after a year and a half of work.”

When he says a few, he’s being modest. Of the nine awards Council was nominated for it took home five on the night (including Best Picture). That validation has given Fortescue confidence to look at other projects melding film making with self-development through Hayden Fortescue Presents. Whatever the future might hold, it’s bound to be brighter than the dystopia he presents in Council.