Quit Victoria film competition sees Canberra public servant quit job to follow dream

It really is the dream; packing in the nine-to-five and following your true calling. Having the opportunity present itself after winning a competition would just be the cherry on top.

Seem too good to be true? Well it's not for Canberra's Millie Hayes.

Millie Hayes won a short film competition and has now quit her job in the public service to follow a career in film and advertising. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Millie Hayes won a short film competition and has now quit her job in the public service to follow a career in film and advertising. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

The O'Connor resident recently quit her job in the public service to take on a career in film and advertising.

It comes after she was crowned a winner of Quit Victoria's Keep the Vibe Alive film competition, an achievement which Hayes is still finding hard to believe considering it was the first time she had filmed anything.

"I have been thinking about advertising a little bit and thinking about making funny little short films for a while but nothing was really happening because it is hard to sit down and hit go on your own motivation," the 29-year-old said.

"I was on the Melbourne Queer Film Festival list and I got an email from them advertising the competition and it just felt like a ridiculously perfect opportunity. It was open to amateurs, it was one minute long, so it was like an ad format and I had a deadline.

"So it was like I either do this or I stop pretending that I want to be more creative."

Entering the competition proved to be a great decision, as Hayes' pitch for the one-minute short earned her a grant to create it.

"I really wanted something that was relatable, and I was also really trying to avoid the shame game that can go with cigarettes and smoking," she said.

"So I focused on the social functions and why people do smoke. Cigarettes are a support mechanism for a lot of people and it's kind of like you're in a relationship, and so I started thinking of it being a break-up."

From there, the concept of The Third Wheel was born. It gives insight into a couple's relationship that is plagued with one girlfriend's ever-present cigarette addiction.

However, coming up with the concept was one thing; finding a cinematographer, production assistant and actors in Canberra - without any experience in the film industry - was another. But like any other Millennial would, Hayes turned to the one thing that was bound to help: the internet.

Still from The Third Wheel which was written and directed by Canberra's Millie Hayes. Photo: supplied.

Still from The Third Wheel which was written and directed by Canberra's Millie Hayes. Photo: supplied.

"I wanted it to look good so I knew I wanted to hire a cinematographer who actually knew how to press all the buttons on the camera. And this was a few weeks before Christmas in Canberra, where there's always a mass exodus, so I got on Facebook and did a call-out," she said.

"I started emailing random cinematographers to help me out, I posted on actors' Facebook group pages and went on wikiHow to find out how to run auditions and cobbled it all together."

With the help of cinematographer Bremer Sharp, and after just one day of shooting around Canberra's inner north, the competition-winning film went off without a hitch.

Hayes found she was not completely out of her comfort zone during the filming process. The former senior policy officer put her public-service skills to work in the form of the many spreadsheets required to ensure The Third Wheel stayed on budget. And they're skills which may come in handy in the future, as Hayes has been accepted into an advertising school in Sydney in the hopes of continuing her new creative streak.

The Third Wheel will also be shown before every screening of the 2019 Melbourne Queer Film Festival.