Unreal Engine film comp blurs line between movies and games

2021's Unreal Engine Short Film Challenge Australia attracted over 1800 participants – and now it's back.

Epic Games, the company responsible for Fortnite, has announced the return of the Unreal Engine Short Film Challenge in Australia and New Zealand. The competition will provide the opportunity for rising animators to have their work seen by some of the industry’s top experts, with free training also offered to those who have never animated before.

The Unreal Engine (UE) is a game engine developed by Epic Games, and was first used in the 1998 first-person shooter game Unreal. It has since been used in a variety of genres of three-dimensional (3D) games and has seen been adopted by the film and television industry.

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Following the success of the inaugural Short Film Challenge in 2020, which gathered over 1,800 registrants, this year’s challenge has expanded to include applicants from New Zealand, while offering more free resources. 

‘The interest in the inaugural Unreal Engine Short Film Challenge far exceeded our expectations, so we’re thrilled to bring it back this year on an even more “epic” scale so that more people can get involved and further develop their real-time skills,’ said Karen Dufilho, Executive Producer at Epic Games. ‘Animation is a wonderful medium for telling stories and we are so excited to see the work of this year’s participants’.

Last year’s finalists. Check out the full films from the 2020 Short Film Challenge

If you register now, Epic Games is offering three weeks of free Unreal Engine online training for real-time animation until 29 April. The free courses are suitable for all skill levels, and are open to anyone, whether or not they participate in the challenge.

Epic will also support the region’s top public universities by providing student access to three weeks of Unreal Engine, in order to encourage real-time skills in arts curricula and to grow the local talent pool. 

The application deadline for eligible creatives is May 9, 2022. A shortlist of top pitches will be selected by participating screen agencies including VicScreen, Screen NSW, Screen Tasmania, Screen Queensland, Screen Canberra, Screenwest, and the South Australian Film Corporation. 

In addition to these locals, Epic is also partnering with Te Tumu Whakaata Taonga New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) to broaden access to this year’s challenge. 

For Victorians, Epic and VicScreen will select up to two projects that will receive $50,000 AUD in production funding and have eight weeks to bring their ideas to life using Unreal Engine 5. These projects will then be reviewed by industry experts and showcased internationally.

Victorians can enter the Unreal Engine Short Film Challenge through VicScreen on the Skills Development page here.

Silvi Vann-Wall is a journalist, podcaster, and filmmaker. They joined ScreenHub as Film Content Lead in 2022. Twitter: @SilviReports