An ambitious short film that was the major project for a UTS master's degree has repaid a tricky "mission impossible" production period with great reviews and a series of international festival screenings.
Alfred J Hemlock is the latest creative endeavour by graduate of the UTS Master of Media Arts and Production course Edward Lyons.
It received its world premiere at the Bermuda International Film Festival in May and will next have an opening night screening at the Long Island International Film Expo on 14 July.
Described by its creators as comedy/fantasy/horror, Alfred J Hemlock is based around the encounter of protagonist Emily (Renaye Loryman) and the "mysterious entity" Alfred J Hemlock (Tristan McKinnon) in a dark alleyway one night.
Director Edward Lyons, who funded the project himself, is thrilled with the film's success so far.
"The Bermuda International Film Festival is an Academy Award qualifying film festival, so we were thrown over backwards when we found out."
The film has had reviews featured by Decay Mag, Global Fashion Wire, Fairfax, and 52 Weeks of Horror, and was a finalist in this year’s iHorror award for short films.
Lyons is currently in the US with co-writer and wife Melissa Lyons, where Alfred J Hemlock screened last week at the Dances With Films festival for its North American premiere.
Taking on a larger-scale project like this, though, was never going to be an easy task.
"It was probably the most difficult, problematic, and mission-impossible film I’ve ever made, ever. Everything that could have possibly gone wrong did go wrong. We had everything thrown at us," Lyons said.
Disastrous weather, planes re-routed overhead and mechanical camera errors meant the shoot took three weekends instead of one.
But the hours of dedication are paying off. Lyons’ last film, Man on the Edge, was a big hit among film festivals worldwide, winning 10 awards and attracting another 16 nominations. Alfred J Hemlock is beginning a similar world tour and is likely to garner even more prizes.
Lyons looks to his time at UTS, where the film began, as vital inspiration.
"It really helped broaden my horizons and make me aware of work that was really inspiring," he said.
"Also, the teaching that I got and the classes I took were all pretty amazing. I’m really thankful for my time there and I really enjoyed the course."
Valuing the opportunities for collaboration he received himself, Lyons organised for UTS Media Arts and Production students to help out during filming.
He said it was a "great opportunity for students from UTS to be able to work with professionals from the industry, because they’re getting that professional on-set experience plus also making connections."
Olivia Costa, a Media Arts and Production and Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation student, worked as a data wrangler and runner on the set.
"It was a great learning experience and the film has done so well. It is invaluable to have been alongside such talented and passionate filmmakers," she said.
She urges all her peers at UTS to get involved too.
"All undergraduate students should one hundred per cent go and work on films! You’ll meet people that you can work with later, and it’s always good experience," she said.
For information on the Master of Media Arts and Production, visit the course page. Future students considering an undergraduate degree at UTS can attend the UTS Open Day on Saturday 26 August (9am-4pm). For postgraduates, visit the next Media Arts and Production Postgraduate Information Evening in September. To speak with someone sooner about the postgraduate course – make contact.