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Josh Leake Wins the MPA Top Prize for “Emptys” At TROPFEST Short Film Festival

After nearly eight hours of programming and in front of a capacity crowd of more than 10,000 people, Tropfest – the world’s largest short film festival - concluded in New York with Josh Leake of Portland, Oregon claiming the top prize for a film called “Emptys,” made for merely $1,300 dollars. The aspiring filmmaker beat out seven other hopefuls in the first ever U.S. Tropfest competition, and earned $20,000 from the Motion Picture Association (MPA).  Alexander Poe came in second and Matt Hulse rounded out the top three for their films “The Break-Up Tour” and ”Elvis: The Lonely Hunter of Circle-Beach,” while Ian Unterman and Eliza D’Souza earned best actor and best actress honors for their starring turns in “The Break-Up Tour” and “Elevator” respectively.  An all-star panel of judges including Rose Byrne, Jennifer Westfeldt, Judah Friedlander, producer Ted Hope and Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Scott Foundas deliberated for 15 minutes before rendering their verdict, which event host Hugh Jackman announced shortly before 11:00 p.m.
 
Leake and his film “Emptys” captivated the audience and jury with its story of can collectors in the greater Portland area. The poignant film profiles several can collectors who use revenue from recycling to subsist and is a timely look at a cross section of society living below the poverty line.  In a spirited acceptance speech which saw Leake call his mother on speakerphone with Jackman to tell her he won in front of thousands, and ending with him serenading the crowd in a chorus of “New York, New York” with Jackman, Leake, fighting back tears, emphasized the need to recycle.
 
“I still can't believe I was given this opportunity. With all these great films to compete with it's hard to accept I won, I feel like I'm dreaming,” said Leake. “I was excited to tell the story of these people and I thought it was genuine. Good stories will conquer all no matter what it's filmed on and what it looks like. If people take anything from the film I just hope they start recycling.”
 
In addition, the evening showcased eight “Best of Tropfest” films, culled from 20 years of entries from the festival’s past in its native Australia. There it began with a single short film, shown in front of 200 people. Over the years, Tropfest has grown to an annual gathering, showcased in front of more than 150,000 people, and millions more watching via a live, national broadcast. In the U.S., Starz will be showing highlights from both the New York event and a special 20th birthday celebration that was held earlier this month in Las Vegas. In addition to the United States, Tropfest has also expanded to New Zealand and Abu Dhabi, with events in China and Southeast Asia to follow. 
 
“Tropfest is a terrific platform for aspiring filmmakers to gain exposure and further their career in a unique setting in which to celebrate short film content,” said festival founder John Polson. “Over the years, we’ve been thrilled to have explosive audience growth and an increase in the caliber of talent we’ve been able to attract which has resulted in so many success stories we’re truly proud of.  New York was no different and welcomed us with open arms and a capacity crowd. We can’t wait to return next Summer.”
 
The event, held at New York’s famed Bryant Park, also featured amazing musical performances by Alexi Murdoch, Doveman and Milagres, as well as DJ sets by DJ Concerned and Yah Supreme who kicked off the evening.   
 
To view the winning film, “Emptys”, please click here:

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