Watch cinema under the stars at its best in Winton
Drive-in cinemas may be making a comeback, but you haven't watched your favourite stars under the stars until you've been to Winton.
The historic town in central west Queensland, known as the "Hollywood of the Outback”, will more than triple in size next week as filmmakers, actors and movie buffs arrive for the sixth annual Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival.
Winton's Royal Open Theatre, the oldest open-air cinema still operating in Australia, is one of two venues which will host more than 30 screenings over nine days.
"It is truly a unique experience to sit there and watch a high-quality film in an open-air theatre and look up at this sky full of stars,” says festival director Mark Melrose.
"The beautiful thing is we don't really change the town, the town changes everybody else. Winton is what it is. The people are so friendly and welcoming, it's just a happy place to be.”
Taking its name from a line in Banjo Paterson's iconic bush ballad Clancy of the Overflow, Vision Splendid is a celebration of the finest outback-inspired Australian films.
Modelled on Robert Redford's Sundance Film Festival, it is a non-profit organisation.
"Structurally, we take a lot from Sundance. We have a festival, an institute and we're in the process of setting up the foundation,” Mr Melrose said.
"We're working our way through our first strategy plan, which is to cement the festival, get it known and look at the educational pathways. We have a two-week bootcamp with 46 students coming out this year.”
As part of the publicity trail, actors will often answer fan questions at Q&A-style events. But at Vision Splendid, they chat casually over coffee.
"We do a Q&A over brekky,” Mr Melrose says. "It's not the traditional way it's done in the film festival world; it's the Winton way.”
Last year, nearly 3500 people attended the festival, which has delivered an estimated $10million into the local economy since its inception. But staging an event of this scale in such a remote location comes with its challenges.
"Logistically, it certainly is a challenge. We effectively have to ship everything in - including a digital projection set-up and a full sound system - to ensure we put on the quality of the performances that we want with respect to customer exp in the cinema,” Mr Melrose says.
"You can't run up the road to Bunnings to get what you need like when you're on the coast. You have to be prepared for anything or just make do.”
Highlights of this year's festival program include both the original and modern adaptations of Storm Boy, the new Aussie rom com Top End Wedding, Damon Gameau's documentary 2040, the period drama Ladies in Black and the Jimmy Barnes documentary Working Class Boy.
It's Mr Melrose's hope that as the festival continues to grow, so does the local film industry.
"You can't replicate these landscapes in the studio,” he says. "We have a few people coming to the festival who will be scouting locations. Last month Rachel Griffiths and Deb Mailman were out here with Blackfella Films, so there's a lot of stuff going on but we always want more. To get four to five features a year would be awesome.”
The Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival runs from June 28 to July 6 in Winton. For more information go to visionsplendidfilmfest.com.