At the recent San Diego Comic-Con, the whirl of attractions almost lured Chris Kellett away from the event’s film awards.
It was fortunate he did turn up: his film walked away with first prize in the Best Action/Adventure category.
Mr Kellett, a Flinders Screen and Media graduate, was delighted when his film Aurora, completed two years ago, was invited to Comic-Con International, the world’s foremost celebration of comics and popular art. An international independent film festival is part of the program, and attracts hundreds of entries.
Mr Kellett, who co-wrote and co-directed the 35-minute film, said the limitations of a shoe-string budget were circumvented by enlisting friends as cast and crew as well as in post-production, making good use of his Flinders University networks.
“The best thing about uni is that it surrounds you with like-minded people,” he said.
The film’s special effects were put together by Mr Kellett and collaborator Jeremy Kelly-Bakker over six months.
“The whole thing cost $1800 dollars to make – one of the major costs was a wig we had to buy for continuity when one of the actors had his hair cut off over the course of the shooting,” Mr Kellett said.
To tell its ‘steampunk’ tale of an airborne slave trade, the film used locations that included the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, the Masonic Hall on North Terrace and the HMS Buffalo at Glenelg.
To set an “epic tone”, the filmmakers concentrated their special effects of airships and scenes with more extravagant sets in the film’s opening minutes.
The strategy paid off, with Aurora beating a US film with a $1.2 million budget and Hollywood actors among its cast.
Mr Kellett said that while most of their competitors had far superior special effects, in the end the Adelaide production won because of the strength of its story-line.
Winning at Comic-Con was “an amazing buzz,” Mr Kellett said, and had given Aurora international exposure: the four-day event attracts more than 130,000 visitors.
Mr Kellett, whose previous film was the cult Bollywood tribute Pria, is currently working for Adelaide-based production company Live Wire.