The most welcome aspect of this year's WA Screen Academy short films is that there are no zombies - no armies of super-charged undead that seem to haunt the dreams of our young filmmakers. (What are their mothers feeding them?)
Rather, the short movies shown at the Luna cinemas on Thursday night, collected under the title Love and Mischief, were pleasingly diverse, a mix of comedies and dramas across a range of genres that suggests Australian cinema won't be limited to bloody fantasies that haunt not my dreams but my day-to-day reality as a film critic.
The 10 works that competed for awards presented by Channel 9 co-head of drama Andy Ryan - the network is a new sponsor of the ECU academy's shorts program - are as polished as we've seen in the past, a vindication of the academy's aim to produce not just genius auteurs but professionals who can segue into real careers.
However, it's not all good news from the end-of-year showcase. The films are as strongly acted as ever, with the WAAPA drama students seguing sweetly from stage to screen, and some of the direction is lively and inventive but the writing generally lacks the purpose and precision needed to make short movies work.
For example, Broken, an otherwise beautifully photographed, richly cinematic coming-of-age drama about the sexual awakening of a teenage girl, shifts its point of view so drastically from the carnal adventures of the youngster to the uneasy acceptance of the father we're left befuddled to its meaning.
Fundamental writing craft also deprives the nakedly named Post Break Up of sense. It's about a young man (nicely underplayed by James Sweeny) who goes on a self-destructive path after a split from his girlfriend, including throwing a roof-raising party.
But it's never established that the girl dumped him because he was trapped in his adolescent partying ways (as she implies) or that he goes on a bender after getting the brush-off. Again, a lack of precision and clarity drains it of sense and impact.
The writing prize went to Donovan Renn for Juliet, a black comedy about an actress (played with winning mania by Madeleine Vizard) who goes on a killing spree to get a part alongside a drama-school dreamboat.
A great idea and full of laugh-out-loud moments but a little more subtlety in the plot development - it gets repetitive even in 12 minutes - would have taken it from wickedly clever to something truly memorable.
Ironically, the least promising entry, writer Brett Dowson and director Justine Smith's Rite to Write, a loopy fantasy about an author forced to return to school to get his "pen licence", turned out to be the strongest of the night because of its tight classical structure that allowed character and theme to emerge.Indeed, instituting a pen licence should be on the top of the agenda for incoming WA Screen Academy director Franco Di Chiera.