11 Sep 2014

AFTT Film Alumni Aimee Lee Curran

AFTT Alumni Aimee Lee talks to us about her short film 'Jump' travelling the world.

AFTT Alumni (formerly known as IFSS) Aimee Lee X Curran has achieved some great things in her filmmaking career since graduating.

In 2014 she was the Director’s Attachment on the feature film Strangerland, directed by Kim Farrant and starring Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving and Joseph Fiennes. She has also worked for Glen Mazzara (The Walking Dead, Damien), and producers Su Armstrong and Brian Rosen (Good Will Hunting, Red Dog, Around the Block).

Her short film Jump has played at festivals across America, Australia, Canada, Nepal and the Middle East; three of them Academy Award accredited. It won Best Short Film at the 2013 Palm Springs Int'l ShortFest, the Provincetown Int'l Film Festival, Blue Mountains Film Festival, and in 2015 was programmed by Tribeca Film Festival and Flickerfest to screen on United Airlines and Virgin Australia flights. ‘Jump’ tells the tale of 12 year-old Edwin, a circus clown like his father, who defies tradition by embarking on a daring quest to become a trapeze artist, in a visually dazzling story about the importance of family when pursuing your dreams.


We caught up with Aimee to find out more about her film ‘Jump’, and how her time at AFTT helped her! 

Hey Aimee! What was your inspiration for the film ‘Jump’?’
I came out of a session of extremely depressing Australian short films that were programmed at the Sydney Film Festival one year and thought, “We live in one of the best places on earth; life is really not as hopeless and bleak as we love to pretend it is on screen.” I decided to write a short film that would make people smile at the end and it was really as simple as that. So that led me to start writing about a family of clowns, and when searching for an antagonist it seemed natural that the mortal enemy of any clown would be the trapeze artists, because they represent high art and grace, whereas clowns entertain people through base humour and are therefore the second class citizens of the circus world.

You have won some great awards from film festivals, and your film is now being shown on Virgin Australia and United Airlines, how does that feel?
It’s pretty much impossible to find an audience for short films outside of film festivals, so to imagine people watching Jump on the plane is pretty spectacular. For me the real honour was having it handpicked by Tribeca Film Festival to screen on their United Airlines inflight entertainment channel, and then Flickerfest for Virgin Australia. Particularly because it was my grad project from film school, meaning everyone who worked on it was a student at the time, and we shot the thing for $2,500, and now three years later it is still screening at festivals around the world and playing alongside films made with budgets that completely eclipse ours. I just had no idea it would travel so far and reach so many people, and I’m still very proud of the work that everyone in the cast and crew put into it, because it really was a huge team effort.

You have done some truly beautiful work, what would you say is the favourite thing you have worked on so far?
Thank you! I look back on Jump and have very fond memories of all of us just rising to the challenge of what was an enormously ambitious and logistically challenging shoot. The circus setting, the trapeze acts, the huge amount of child extras that myself and my co-Producer Mark sourced from gymnastics schools, the $500 I gave the Art Department to create an entire circus - everything was a hurdle and yet none of us ever looked at it like that. But I think my follow up film ‘The Palace That I Live In’ is probably my favourite child because it was the first time I got to work with a very professional cinematographer in Peter Beeh, and I also removed myself from the producing side for the first time and it was an enormous relief just to have the freedom to concentrate on directing and being creative, without worrying about any of the logistics.

How do you feel AFTT prepared you for the film industry?
I actually don’t believe that going to film school is a prerequisite for success in the film industry, and you only have to look at Tarantino or Christopher Nolan to prove my point. But what AFTT did grant me was the opportunity to write and direct six short films over two years (which I don’t think any other school in Australia does), with the complete freedom to take as many risks as I wanted to in my filmmaking. And I’m not referring to safety risks because we were all shown the famous chopper accident from the Twilight Zone on our first day of school and struck with the fear of God. I’m talking about the risks you take to discover who you are as an artist and what you’re trying to say through the stories you tell.

What were your favourite things about AFTT?
Definitely the teachers, meaning the permanent staff and the industry professionals who come in to take classes or consults. It’s like having your own production company for two years in some kind of fantasy reality where everyone is there to support you as a filmmaker and push you to do your best work. And also just having the other students around you all the time, sharing your pain at 3am when you’re all still glued to the computers in the editing lab and you’ve lost all perspective on your work and are suddenly seized by a total sense of sheer failure as an artist and as a human being. It’s nice to be able to turn to the equally haggard person next to you, eat some chocolate, reassure each other, and get back to it.

What would you recommend to current students?
Be bold, take risks, and collaborate!

Take a look at Aimee's full website here...   

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