“West is best!”
That was the message from Tropfest founder John Polson to an enthusiastic crowd of 40,000 at the film festival’s new home in Parramatta Park on Saturday night.
Earlier in the day, Event Cinemas at Westfield Parramatta was packed to capacity for Trop Junior.
Not even record temperatures could keep the biggest names from the Australian film industry away, including George Miller, Sam Neill and head judge Rose Byrne.
Polson stands by his brave decision to move Tropfest from the city.
“The weather was a challenge,” Polson told the Sun.
“We’ve had rain in the past but never a heatwave, so it was nerve-racking. But by 7.30pm, there was a great atmosphere. I was pleasantly relieved with the number of people that showed up who had been coming for years. It gives us something to build on. Since Saturday night, I’ve had nothing but glowing calls and emails. Overall, I was very happy with it.”
Now back in New York, Polson revealed his grand plans to turn Tropfest into Parramatta’s jewel in the crown as a week-long event in the next 2-3 years.
Plans include seminars, film markets and live music.
“If you build it, the people will come,” Polson said.
“Tropfest is a brand in its own right but it’s a one night brand. We want it to be an event people worldwide have on their calendars and come to Australia for a week.”
Polson wants to expand his brainchild to stand alongside the Cannes and Sundance film festivals.
“We want Tropfest to take over the city and streets of Parramatta. We want to make it worthwhile for people to come to Parramatta and book out hotels. I don’t think this could work in the CBD. A lot of festivals have tried to work in cities like Sydney but have failed to make a noise. We can build it to become one of the most vibrant festival experiences not just in Australia but worldwide.”
Polson already has ideas to make 2018 bigger and better.
“Saturday night was just a seed of what’s to come. We will use Parramatta Park in a different and more significant way next year. We have a big vision for this but we need the Parramatta community to continue to support us. This is a gift to the city.”
Tropfest winner Matt Day embraced the new venue.
He spent Saturday starring in a play before he got a cab to Parramatta in time to see the last few films of the night, including his own.
“Tropfest should be something for everyone, not just the city and eastern suburbs,” the well-known actor said.
“The reason why I entered was to get my film out to as many people as I could. To get that many there on a 45 degree day says a lot about the people of Sydney.”
Next year’s entries must feature a rose, in honour of this year’s head judge.