Tropfest finalist Leela Varghese was determined to make her film after an Adelaide store cancelled the shoot upon discovering it was a queer love story.
"We had a location lined up and they were keen but when they found out it was about a girl who had a crush on another girl they said they couldn't do it and basically shooed me out of the shop," Varghese told AAP.
The South Australian filmmaker was tired of seeing stories which used diversity only as a subject, rather than a narrative subtext.
"I do have a diverse background but I'm just a normal person and do normal things like have a crush on someone and not know how to ask them out," Varghese said.
"That's got nothing to do with the fact that I'm diverse at all."
The 27-year-old's short film Crush was chosen out of thousands of entries featuring a candle which was this year's signature item.
On Thursday the sixteen finalists in the open division were announced along with another sixteen selected in the junior category.
For brother and sister duo Leah Annetta and Reuben Street the biggest challenge making a film together was not the family dynamics, but keeping shots consistent over a long period of time.
"No-one could cut their hair for a year," Reuben told AAP.
Their entry Fringe Dweller also features first-time filmmaker Leah's daughter Allegra, whose personal hair-anxiety inspired her mother's script.
In the junior division eleven-year-old Ivan Farkas is a second-time Tropfest finalist with his stop-motion film Hook, Line And Sinker.
Getting up early in the morning to "beat the heat", the Quakers Hill student spent months piecing together one-second frames made up of 24 photographs each.
"My last film was a serious one and this is a comedy, so I was really surprised to be a finalist again," Ivan told AAP.
After completing all the filming himself in two-hour blocks, he then used software to edit his voice, adding audio over the top.
The largest short film festival in the world had its beginnings in an inner-city Sydney cafe in 1993, but will be held for the third time this year in Parramatta Park.
And for Tropfest veteran Simon Fowler, having his third film Dad To The Bone make it into the finals is almost as good as it gets.
"I already feel like a winner," Simon told AAP.
"But I obviously also want to win."
The top prize of $10,000 will be awarded by an expert panel on February 9.
Australian Associated Press