HUNTER School of the Performing Arts alumni Jake Nielsen and Matthew Predny say they are “cautiously hopeful” their $16,000 film-musical will be shortlisted for a prestigious Oscar.
The friends, who have been writing songs together since year eight, said they expected to find out by mid-December if On Hold has made the shortlist for the best live action short film at the 91st Academy Awards, to be held on February 24, 2019.
Five films from the shortlist of about 20 will be chosen as final nominees for the award.
“We’re cautiously hopeful, which is the best way to be in this industry all the time,” said Mr Nielsen, 26, who along with Mr Predny, 25, is based in Sydney.
“It would be wonderful and would provide a much bigger platform for people to see the film.
Warning: coarse language
“We had 65 people working on it, all for free, and it cost $16,000 so to get this far is amazing.
“I feel really good, because I never expected this film to go anywhere and it’s always done better than we thought it would.”
To be considered for the shortlist, entries must have been shown in a picture theatre in Los Angeles; won an award in the 2018 Student Academy Awards competition or won a qualifying award at one of around 110 Academy Award accredited festivals.
On Hold won the Academy Award qualifying Flickerfest International Short Film Festival’s Best Australian Short Film in January this year and was shown at Tower Cinemas in February.
“We don’t have a massive budget or production company behind us so we are doing our best to do a bit of guerilla marketing and get it in front of as many judges’ eyes as we can,” he said.
“Our chance of winning is better than our chance of getting into Flickerfest and winning, and making the Sydney Film Festival and being one of the 10 finalists for the Dendy award.”
On Hold follows a woman working at a call centre and choosing between following her dreams to be a composer and making next week’s rent.
Director Mr Nielsen said inspiration struck while he was working at a call centre and after a privately-commissioned rewrite of his and Mr Predny’s Sydney Fringe Festival piece fell through.
He wrote the screenplay and lyrics and collaborated with musical director Mr Predny to write the music.
“It was an incredibly depressing [job] and I wrote On Hold over five months as a therapeutic exercise,” he said in February.
“I wrote any chance I got – in lunch breaks and after the nine to five – just for fun, then started thinking ‘This is turning out pretty good!’”
He said Australian film had a tendency to explore “depressing, negative, dark themes”.
“People are ready for blind optimism again. People have said to me ‘I hate musicals, but I loved this film’.