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Friday, May 14, 2021
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A piece of celebrated Canberra steampunk cinema

A true testament to the dedication of Canberra’s filmmaking community, locally produced short film Della Mortika: Carousel of Shame has taken out the title of Australian animated short at the 28th annual Flickerfest International Short Film Festival.

The win comes on the back of seven years’ hard work from director Marisa Martin and the team behind the film.

In a labour of love, the crew put together not just the acclaimed 17-minute film, but an overarching universe, a full treatment for a TV series, and a book series in their spare time.

“We found ourselves shooting for two weeks, and then we’d take a break and only come together again when we could afford another two weeks off,” Martin said.

She told Canberra Weekly winning the prestigious award is a recognition of the efforts of her and the team behind the short film.

“It feels good because it’s paid off all that work. The whole team has worked on it for so long … It’s really nice to have it finished and have it screen.”

The film is set inside a pop-up book from which emerge the stories of Della Mortika, where a melting pot of characters embark on a series of exciting adventures.

Set in an alternate steampunk universe Melbourne in the year 1888, Martin said she began developing the short film and the wider universe since receiving funding from Screen Canberra and artsACT in 2010.

It then went into production, which for an animated film like this is a highly technical process Martin said her and the crew picked up as they went along.

Della Mortika: Carousel of Shame is set in an alternate steampunk universe Melbourne in the year 1888 and is a stop-motion, paper animated short film.

“We were making it up as we went, but by the end of it we did it very quickly,” she said.

The film was made as a paper animation, as Martin says “it’s entirely made out of paper”.

“We drew the characters by hand, scanned into computer, coloured them in by texture. And then we would print them and build the puppets,” she said.

The filming process was traditional stop-motion, a very time consuming process.

“We didn’t give up; animation is such a long process and that’s what makes it more rewarding.

“A lot of Canberrans worked on it, I would have had 30 work experience students come and go who did a week here or a week there. A huge amount of people.”

Made primarily for young girls aged around 10, Martin said Della Mortika: Carousel of Shame has resonated with a wide audience since it debuted at the Steampunk NZ Festival in June 2018.

Having initially shopped the TV series treatment back in 2012 to an international market at Cannes, Martin said with a completed, critically acclaimed film they’re keen to go back out with it.

“The world has changed so much in those six years that we will probably start to look at it again.

“We’ll try it again, nothing concrete. We’ve got a bible, an episode (the film), and a treatment, so we’ll start showing people now and see what we can do from here.”

A stalwart of the Canberra filmmaking industry, in the past 15 years Martin has seen the local industry transform.

“It’s hugely changed,” she said. “Short films are still getting made … People are still making things but now Screen Canberra’s got this fund which is bringing more projects here and building the skill base here.”

Martin said she was able to bolster her portfolio and gain valuable experience early on in her career by taking advantage of an on-set placement she landed through Screen Canberra.

“Those opportunities wouldn’t have happened previously, we’ve got another big TV series filming here shortly.

“There’s more professional level work going on I think and opportunities, which is great.”

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