Filmmaker Cullen second woman in 20 years to take out BUFTAs

After two decades launching the careers of some of Australia’s best young filmmakers, the Bond University Film and Television Awards (BUFTAs) have unearthed yet another star in 18 year old Elizabeth Cullen, who was crowned Best Filmmaker for two short films at this year’s red carpet event. She also won Best Directing.

Elizabeth is one of only two women to win the top award in the event’s 20 year history and has won a full scholarship to Bond University to study a Bachelor of Film and Television.

Blank GC spoke to Lizzy from her home in Cairns, where she’d just wrapped up her year 12 exams.

“I studied film over the last two years of high school and that’s where I made both my films for BUFTA,” Lizzy said.

“I’ve sort of been making films since I was very young with my brothers. We used to make reproductions of our favourite films – make all the costumes and everything. They were terrible, but that’s how I started off.”

Lizzy said her school Cairns High is known for its arts program and is slowly building a reputation for film. “It’s a great program,” she said. “The teachers are so passionate and they just inspire the kids ALL THE TIME, even out of class.”

“I used to sit in the film rooms at lunch and we’d just talk about movies and techniques in filming and that kind of thing.”

And even though Elizabeth has scored a full scholarship to Bond, she’s not going to rush into such a big commitment.

“I’m definitely going to take it, I just don’t know if I’m quite ready to go yet,” she said, explaining that if she took a year off, she’d probably travel.

“I want to do some acting as well and I’d quite like to get an agent and get some auditions.”

Elizabeth’s Best Filmmaker award recognised her work on two films: The Artist and Alone.

She filmed Alone last year and said it was fun to film and showcases the Cairns landscape.

“It’s basically about this girl who wakes up covered in these strange markings all over her body. She’s completely alone – she doesn’t remember who she is or what happened. She left isolated in the world – just the normal world but no people and the markings disappear from her arms one by one – it’s like a countdown on her body.”

The Artist – that was filmed this year,” she said, explaining it’s about an artist struggling to make ends meet. “She’s experiencing creative block and she can’t produce anything – it’s a very abstract film about overcoming where you want to be creative but can’t produce anything. It also kind of talks about the limitations – you have an idea but you can’t quite achieve it – that internal struggle.”

Elizabeth’s mum travelled with her to the Gold Coast for the Awards ceremony and says they were both shocked at the win.

“We saw all the films in the morning. The standard was so high, it was quite amazing the films we saw. So I went to the night not expecting to win anything – I was just happy to be there. When they called my name, I didn’t even get up straight away. I was just shocked.”

“I plan to make another film early next year if I have a gap year. And I have a couple of other experimental films I’ve made over the last couple of years as part of school but nothing substantial,” Lizzy said.

“I just hope to get better and better as the years go on and just keep making films as much as I can,” she said.

For the full list of BUFTA winners visit bufta.com.au.

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