Interview: Umbrella Entertainment’s Ari Harrison on Australia’s revolutionary Feature30 filmmaking competition

  • Peter Gray
  • March 8, 2022
  • Comments Off on Interview: Umbrella Entertainment’s Ari Harrison on Australia’s revolutionary Feature30 filmmaking competition

Have you ever had an experience or an idea that would make a great movie?  A first of its kind film competition open to everybody is hoping to turn your creativity into reality.

Never been done before in Australia, Feature30 is a competition with a difference.  Not only will it reward its winner with a $30,000 prize to go towards the production of their feature, it will also provide direct contact with a panel of incredible industry leaders and sales distributors.

This is open to EVERYONE. If you’ve had a film idea and haven’t done anything about it why not just try? There is no right or wrong in terms of ideas and people have certainly broadened their taste in terms of which movies they watch“, stated Lizan Yee, the Progressive 7 Film Feature30 director.  “Our judging panel includes Steve Jaggi who makes movies for Hallmark and Netflix. We have Larry Namer, co-founder of Americas E! Entertainment and the Head of Sales and Acquisitions from Umbrella Entertainment, the largest distributor in the Southern Hemisphere. Entering Feature30 could change your life!”

The brainchild of Progressive 7 Films, a Brisbane-based film and production company, Feature30, Australia’s first ever independent International Film competition, is designed to create a roadmap to success by putting its winner in front of the right people to see their dreams materialise.

As the competition opens for its hopeful applicants – full terms, conditions and deadlines are available on the official website –  our own Peter Gray was put in contact with one of the panellists, Ari Harrison from Umbrella Entertainment, to discuss his involvement with the competition, his personal taste if he was a contestant, and his views on the cinema vs streaming debate.

How did you come to be involved with the Feature30 competition?

Umbrella and I have been in touch with Lizan (Yee, Progessive 7 Films Feature30 director) over the last few years.  We have been in touch across various projects. I’m always very happy to support the industry and provide any knowledge and education towards the rather unknown distribution side of the film industry.  Feature30 is a great opportunity for me to offer my experience and listen to what filmmakers and creatives are interested in making here in Australia.  I love the pitching process and to see what ideas come to life.

Is there anything you’re most looking forward to as a mentor?

I’m excited to see what projects are out there and I love meeting new and upcoming producers, writers and directors.  I’m keen to hear what films we, as Australian creatives, currently want to make, as it changes so often. What new films that have been released in 2021 and 2022 are creatives responding to?  I’m interested to hear how producers are looking to finance their films with the changing landscape across Screen Australia, the producers offset, and the state funding bodies.  We are very focused on theatrical distribution and Australian audiences – more so than ever before at Umbrella Entertainment – do you still want to see your film released in cinemas?

If you personally were entering the competition, is there an idea or genre you would submit?

Anything on the comedy side. We used to have the greatest feel good Australian comedies that audiences loved and were hugely successful – Crackerjack, The Dish, The Castle, Kenny. What happened? More of them please?!

Umbrella Entertainment have always barracked for original cinema and the notion of physical media. Even through such a period as the last two years where the cinema model has been threatened and streaming/digital has become so prominent, I truly love and respect Umbrella for staying to a true course. What’s your personal view on this landscape of cinema vs streaming?

Firstly, thank you very much for your love and support Peter – we really appreciate it.

With so many films and streaming options available at the click of a button, it’s more important than ever to make a film that resonates with its target audience.  If you want to release your film in cinemas, there needs to be a strong enough reason for you to get off your couch.  While we focus on theatrical distribution, we understand that some films are better suited for streaming and have a stronger opportunity to find its audience there.  We have to be flexible and quick to adapt to the changes within the industry coming from exhibitors, streamers, platforms, tv and most importantly the audience.  We just want to support great Australian filmmakers and distribute great Australian films.  Its been 20 years of Umbrella Entertainment and we’re here to stay!

Peter Gray

Film critic with a penchant for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror movies, harbouring the desire to be a face of entertainment news.