Understory Film Festival

The Understory Film Festival encourages local independent, student, emerging and professional filmmakers in the North Queensland region to create short films to enter a competition for screening opportunities, awards and prizes.

The objectives of the film festival are to showcase local talent, build local industry capacity, award achievement and develop the short film culture appetite and audience.

Film submissions now closed

Film submissions closed on Tuesday 6 October 2020 and the films are currently being assessed by our esteemed panel of independent judges. The screening shortlist will be announced via the Understory Film Festival facebook page on 27 October 2020.

The Judging Process

Each year the films submitted to Understory are judged by an independent panel of industry professionals. This year the judges engaged by Council are as follows:

  • Dr Jan Cattoni - Filmmaker / Academic / University Lecturer / Paediatric intensive care nurse
  • Jas Shennan - Director / Producer / Cameraman / Editor / Teacher
  • Molly Reynolds - Producer / Writer / Director
  • Rolf de Heer - Director / Screenwriter / Producer

Filmmaker Talk. From Script to Screen.  | 2pm-4pm | 7 Nov 2020

This free Filmmaker Talk presented by Understory Film Festival invites film enthusiasts to engage in candid conversation with screen industry professionals Molly Reynolds, Dena Curtis, Caden Pearson, Jessica Kneipp, Steve Jaggi and Douglas Watkin (Screen QLD).

Facilitated by Kier Shorey (Screenwriter and Radio Presenter), discussions will cover production pathways and practical advice on the various ways our esteemed panel members have successfully transferred their ideas from script to screen.

Hear about their career highlights and what inspires them as a filmmaker, together with the challenges that making films can present. Be there to experience this invaluable opportunity to learn and be motivated by some of the screen industry’s best creatives and professionals.

Registrations are essential. Please email Understory Film Festival Coordinator, Jan Aird, to secure your place: j.aird@cairns.qld.gov.au

Due to Covid-19, you will be required to provide your full name, mobile number and residential address, upon booking. Your personal information will never be shared with any third party other than the relevant health authority on request.

WhenSaturday, 7 November 2020, 2pm - 4pm
VenueCairns Performing Arts Centre, Studio

The Understory Film Festival Symposium is part of Cairns Regional Council’s Flame.Arts Program. The Flame.Arts Program has received financial assistance from the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland’s RASN (Regional Arts Services Network) and RADF.

Understory Film Festival Screening and Awards Night | From 5pm | 7 Nov 2020

The competition culminates in a red carpet event; the Understory Film Festival Screening and Awards Night.

This year the event will be held under the tropical night sky at Munro Martin Parklands on Saturday, 7 November 2020.

Tickets are on sale now via Ticketlink.

WhenSaturday, 7 November 2020, gates open 5pm, event starts at 7pm
VenueMunro Martin Parklands
Cost$15.75 (one price)
Remember, you must buy together to be together; if you want to sit together, you will need to book your tickets in one transaction.

This program is supported by Screen Queensland.


P (07) 4032 6656 | E cp@cairns.qld.gov.au

Understory Film Festival is part of the Flame.Arts program; a capacity building program delivered by Cairns Regional Council with a focus on creating pathways for emerging creatives, providing mentorships, skills and career development opportunities.



We are pleased to announce the 6th annual Understory Film Festival will be held at Cairns' leading performing arts venue, Cairns Performing Arts Centre, on Saturday 23 November 2019.

Film submissions are now open and will close at 4pm Friday 11 October 2019.

Please note: If you are entering the High School Student Category your film must be submitted via a Teacher Liaison or Head of Department, at your school by Tuesday 8 October 2019.

Download the Application Form here. ( DOC, 0.14 MB )

Open to short films of any genre, last year's Festival attracted 47 entries across various disciplines from documentaries and narratives, to experimental film, music videos and animations.

Mayor Bob Manning said the calibre of films being produced for the competition showed the film industry is alive and well in the Far North.

“If the last 5 years are anything to go by, the judges are going to have a really tough time coming to a decision,” Cr Manning said.

“We always celebrate when a big-name star or production house announces they will film in the far north, but it’s pretty clear that we have plenty of exceptional talent right here.”

Councillor Linda Cooper said the awards provided a springboard for existing and emerging film makers to share their stories with a broader audience.

“I’m certain that there are hundreds of residents out there who have a movie idea but haven’t had the chance, or the conviction, to commit it to film,” Cr Cooper said.

“The short-film format, just 8 minutes, is a perfect starting point for those who have a story to tell.”

The duration of films can be a maximum of 8 minutes or less, including credits.

Shortlisted entries will be shown and the winners announced, with the final category, the People’s Choice Award, to be determined by the audience on the night.

Tickets for the awards night will go on sale in late September via Ticketlink.


WHEN: Applications are open now and will close on 11 October 2019 and 8 October 2019 for filmmakers entering the High School Student Category.

THE EVENT: Saturday 23 November 2019, Cairns Performing Arts Centre, 7pm.

Tickets on sale now via www.ticketlink.com.au



Patrick Mau & Sio Tusa'Arrived'
Lexi Dietrich'Tablet Time'
Dylan Megaw'Radiance + Requeim'
Josephine Zass, Mimi Tran, Hannah Dunlea'Moments'
Thaine Wood'Found'
May Matsuda, Florian Rachmann, Rose Milledge'Away From Home'
Jack Fealy, Toby Fealy, Lottie Macquire, Francesca Mackinnon, Matilda Hancock'Gotcha'
Shawn Drieberg'Locked'
Travis Bain'Zombies V the C.W.A'
Thain Wood'Me - A Film About Self'
Renee Ngandawarrkirr Wilson'Seasons'
Vasco Gonsalves'Greed'
Kiann Kantai'Polar Equivalent'
Minkie Sheriff'Tick Tock Goes the Clock'
Adrian Rayner'Sanctuary'
Chelsey Johnston'Bumped'
Last updated: 16 October 2020