Friday, 12 June 2009

Worldwide Short Film Festival 2009

I was chatting with my friend James the other night and we got on to the topic of short films. We bounced around some of the pros and cons of not only watching them, but also looking at them from the filmmaker's perspective as well.

We agreed that in general it seemed that it was a difficult form to use for straight narrative pieces and how it can lead to shortcuts in establishing character - that can certainly lead to cliches, but it can also be an opportunity to explore interesting ways of accomplishing the creation of a fully fleshed out character in a short time frame. It was also noted that many shorts (comedy and sci-fi ones to a large extent) tended towards finishing with a "punchline" or a reveal. Nothing wrong with that of course...This can lead to incredibly entertaining surprises.

It seems that most modern day filmmakers begin their careers in the short film arena - of course, those coming out of film school would likely have done several shorts during their courses. We speculated as to whether this occurred with the same frequency back in the 60-70s (does Scorsese have a library of his own shorts?), but expect it is much more the case today especially with the pervasiveness of new technology and the relatively low cost entry point. Considering that, can short filmmakers make a career of not straying past a 20-25 minute length for their creations (obviously commercial and music video directors can to a certain extent)? Would they like to if they could? Or do most of them really truly desire being full length directors and use their shorts as "calling cards"?

All this discussion was driven by the almost-upon-us opening night of the 2009 Worldwide Short Film Festival. I've been the last 2 years and always find examples of innovative ideas, techniques and simply pure creativity - which means that I love going to this festival.

As always, the programmers have broken their selections into vaguely themed screenings, with each one containing 6-10 films. The Sc-Fi themes usually work best whereas the less obvious themes (food?) can be a total roll of the dice. Having just said that, two of my favourite films from last year, "Le Grand Content" and "Procrastination", were found in the "You Are What You Eat" and "Human Resources" categories respectively (give them both a look - each is about 4 minutes long, animated and masterful in transitioning from one thing to another).

The full schedule is here, but these are some of the screenings I'm most excited to see (the italicized sections are direct from the web site):

What You See Is Not What You Get - "Don't believe what you see or trust what you hear. From pawnshop owners with ulterior motives to shady smiley-faced pencils and beheaded bears, nothing is as it seems in these sly and surprising shorts." I love the idea of a whole set of twists and turns - that can be a tough act to keep alive throughout a feature length film, but could fit perfectly within the typical length of a short.

Sci-Fi: Out There - "There's a whole lot of nothing in space, and if the Earth's gravity won't keep you in your seat, your stabilizers will definitely kick in for our collection of out-of-this-world adventures, including strange scientific cures, a robot invasion, crash landings on hostile planets, and a Canadian space captain with a lot on his mind." Usually the most fun collection - maybe it's due to the plethora of sci-fi short stories available or just the kick start to the imagination the genre supplies.

Tech-Neurological - "In a world saturated with gizmos and gadgets, shouldn't life be easier? Technology can be crazymaking, leaving wires crossed and exacerbating the human condition. Leave your cell-pod-face-twitter machine at home and surf these tech-shorts instead." Who doesn't like to see technology get taken down a few notches?

Scene Not Herd - "Scene Not Herd is back for its sixth year! Our annual cavalcade of music video madness is sure to delight and amaze fans of cutting edge visuals and amazing new music alike. As a special bonus, we're including a collection of N.A.S.A. videos, curated and in many cases co-directed by legendary Los Angeles animator Syd Garon." Wide set of videos that will never likely get air time on any music station - R.E.M. is the only big name here, but bands like My Morning Jacket, Royksopp and Fleet Foxes are represented so I'm very curious...

Midnight Mania: Creepy - "Zombies, ghosts, cannibal serial killers, and a breast implant run amuck! Welcome to CREEPY: a six-nation tour of things that go bump in the night. A collection of the most unsettling, eerie, and flat out frightening shorts that the world has to offer, laced with the occasional dose of comic relief." I can't really add anything further to that description...Apparently Todd Brown of Twitch was involved in the selection (along with the other Midnight set of Freaky films).

Picture Is Up! - "From the First Assistant Director's call for "Quiet on the set!" to the Director's final cut, the process of filmmaking blends a variety of crafts. In this tribute to filmmaking, each short celebrates a specific cinematic element: picture, sound, writing, acting, and editing. "And action!"" Includes a 40 minute look back at John Cazale's career...

Midnight Mania: Freaky - "Ominous teddy bears, giant bunnies, a day in the life of a white collar fish, vampire hitchhikers, and an assortment of cinematic oddities which defy description. Want to leave the theatre thinking "I've never seen that before!"? Then you've come to the right place! Welcome to FREAKY." Description of "The Eel" --> "He's in love. She's mostly a fish. This can't end well." And yes, that's a fish driving a car in the image above. I don't think I have to further explain why I want to see this screening, do I?


Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

Great write up Bob! It looks like another fantastic year for the festival.

I'm sure I'll see you there!

Bob Turnbull said...

Unfortunately, you won't see me there Shannon...Got some family things to deal with this week and it'll keep me occupied the whole fest. I'll have to experience it vicariously through you. B-)

I'll see ya Tuesday though!

Shannon said...

Awww, I'm sorry to hear that Bob! I thought I might see you there tonight and throughout.

I hope you have fun with the fam & we'll see ya next week.