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A Slam Dunk at Slamdance for Tunnel Ball

In January, AFTRS graduate Davis Jensen’s (Bachelor of Screen Arts, 2017) short film Tunnel Ball premiered at Slamdance Film Festival.

Tunnel Ball uses Davis’ own observations of toxic behaviours in sports like rugby union and water polo at school, two sports where he felt “like being masculine, homophobic and misogynistic was a prerequisite” (Film Ink). Set in a private boys’ school, Tunnel Ball uses humour in a sports setting to open up a conversation surrounding this toxic culture. Davis knows such problematic traditions stretch far beyond boys’ schools but used this setting as he believes it showcases these issues in a raw and pervasive form.

Slamdance Festival, which celebrates emerging artists and low-budget independent films, takes place in Utah every year. It aims to give emerging filmmakers a chance to have their work seen and recognised by big names in the entertainment industry. Davis says being a part of Slamdance, his first film festival, was “really a dream come true” and that he had the festival in mind when shooting his short film.

Davis created the film with a budget of only $250 from AFTRS, a limitation he says made him draw on the “no frills” style of Australian TV and film favourites, such as Round the Twist and Muriel’s Wedding. This led him to be more creative, relying on camera tricks over complicated VFX to create the cloning effect that is prevalent in the film. Ultimately, Davis doesn’t think Tunnel Ball could have worked any other way; “what we lacked in camera movement, we made up for in zingers.”

“Slamdance was an amazing experience,” Davis says. “It challenges the elitist and inaccessible nature of other large film festivals, appreciating authentic and integral stories from around the world. It was an honour to be a part of it and screen to alongside incredible films and filmmakers. I’m so thankful to AFTRS for their support, and hope more and more students (and Australian filmmakers in general) submit to this festival that provides a platform and support network for independent film and authentic voices.”

Of his AFTRS experience, Davis told Film Ink, “I walked away with a broad skill set and knowledge of areas of film I never thought I’d work in. At the same time, I was able to focus on my preferred disciplines like writing and directing.”

Looking ahead, Davis is working on another comedy script set in a school, as well as working on new projects through his company Fat Salmon, which he founded with two other AFTRS graduates from his year, China White and Lucca Barone-Peters.

Watch the trailer for Tunnel Ball:

Watch an interview with Davis Jensen at Slamdance: