Close competition … Kate Wall and Rhys Wakefield have films in this year's Tropfest. Photo: Peter Rae
HE IS a Tropfest finalist who made his film ''for a case of beer in a couple of days'', yet when he walks the black carpet in the Domain on Sunday, it will be one of the few times he is not feeling any nerves about one of his movies. For Sam Worthington, that Tropfest fear is a thing of the past - a decade ago when he won best male actor at Tropfest 2001 in A Matter of Life, then in 2004 when he directed Enzo.
''We wanted to showcase my mate's talent,'' Worthington recalls of Enzo. ''Not realising how far it would go down the road for him to be receiving an award [for best actor] from Salma Hayek!''
Tens of thousands of people are going to see this little thing that you might find funny and your fear is no one else laughs.
A judge at this year's event, Worthington's overwhelming memory of Tropfest isn't his brush with the Mexican star, but the fear and adrenalin rush. ''You get overwhelmed, because you know tens of thousands of people are going to see this little thing that you might find funny and your fear is no one else laughs,'' he says, ''but as soon as it shows, you feel this pride.''
Voice of experience ... Sam Worthington on his Tropfest debut in 2004 for short film Enzo.
For Rhys Wakefield, a co-director of one of this year's finalists A Man Walks into a Bar … the scale of the audience has come as something of a shock. ''I was always under the impression that Tropfest had like, I assumed, 10,000 people in the park. I only learnt more recently that there's like 150,000 people in the Domain which is absurd to me and really, really quite scary.''
Katie Wall is another actor turned Tropfest director (and writer) with her film Scene 16. She admits it is a ''big relief'' that her film will be seen. ''I definitely went 'if it doesn't get into Tropfest or any other festivals, oh my god, we've spent so much time and money'," she said. "There was definitely a fear that there would be no audience, for sure.''
Though Worthington, the star of Avatar and The Debt, has come a long way as an actor since accepting his award in the Domain 12 years ago, he still has that fear.
''An actor always fears his work is never going to get seen,'' he admits, though the multimillion-dollar marketing budgets must help? ''Slightly, but you still think they're going to get dropped in a DVD can somewhere.
''This industry can be built on fear, on trepidation. The people who I've met who throw that caution to the wind are the ones that are successful.'' To that end, he feels the Tropfest can-do ''bullet proof'' philosophy encapsulates what it takes to make it in Hollywood.
His advice for the finalists is simple. ''Enjoy the view and enjoy the night. Those moments are very rare.''
Watch all the Tropfest finalists from midnight Sunday at smh.tv/tropfest