Short Film Is Making News in Cannes

According to this Guardian story, short film is having a good showing at Cannes. Most encouraging, I think, are two examples of how short film might widen its audience in the future and maybe pull off theatrical releases.
First, there is the “feature” PARIS, JE T’AIME, a collection of 18 five-min. films about Paris directed by people like Olivier Assayas, the Coen’s, Alfonso Cuarón, and Alexander Payne.
Next, two entries in the shorts category are installments of an 8-part “feature” (called “8”) co-produced by the United Nations. These films, shot by “eight world-class filmmakers,” are about the eight Millennium Development Goals (the U.N.’s goals of halving poverty indices by 2015, but you knew that already). Even if short films about things like “achieving primary education” and “improving maternal health” don’t excite you (you heartless bastard), the project can perhaps become a model for thematic collections of short films that can be screened as “features.”
By now you might have considered that this great new opportunity for short film is not exactly a new opportunity for independent filmmakers. All of the filmmakers mentioned in these two projects don’t exactly need the help.
Anyway, it’ll be nice to see how these collections work. “The Animation Show” (by Judge/Hertzfeldt) was successful, and they’re planning on another tour of films this year. Perhaps it is just a lack of organization that is keeping short film from being distributed. That was certainly the premise for the JSF.

The Oscar Shorts Category

The other day I got a press release from The Academy about the Oscar shorts category and the issue of eligibility. I then asked some of the filmmakers what they thought about that category, and they didn’t have too much to say. Marcy Freedman (JSF, v.2) said she’s never given much thought to it, but that it’d be nice if The Academy created an avant-garde or experimental category and tried to put the Arts into the AMPA(!)&S. More than one other person thinks the Oscars are overly commercial, political, and ergo ignorable.

The JSF is not taking a position just yet, but did retch a bit when reading the quote below.

Film festival qualification is the most common way short filmmakers qualify their films. However, filmmakers may become victims of their own success if their films win the “wrong” award or are given a television or Internet premiere as a part of the festival’s prizing.

“I want to make sure that filmmakers don’t shoot themselves in the foot regarding Oscar in their zeal to get their film seen,” he says. “I want to be sure they don’t jump into a screening opportunity before they check to see if it will affect their qualifying for Oscar competition.”

In addition to festival complications, short films were disqualified from last year’s Academy Awards for:
§ Submitting the film in the wrong format;
§ Submitting the film in the wrong category;
§ Submitting alternate versions of the same film; and
§ Airing “too much” of the film on television or the Internet (including advertising).

If you would like additional information about short film qualification or would like to talk to Jon, please contact me.
Sincerely,
Tarrah Lee Curtis
9310) 247-3090
tcurtis@oscars.org

The Coolest, If Unsexiest, News of the Day

The Journal of Short Film has long had an ISSN (like an ISBN, but for serials), issued by the Library of Congress. But now the JSF has a Dewey Decimal Number. 791.430. All you other 791’s, step off. What Congressman does the publisher have to take golfing to get 791 for ourselves? Where’s Tom Delay when we need him most?

Anyway, while seeing where 791 lies within the Dewey Decimal Classification system (“Arts & recreation,” duh), I learned a lot. E.g., we’re up to DDC22. This 2003 edition is available in a printed 4-volume set. If you want to learn more, check out the DDC blog, 025.431: The Dewey blog . I can only guess that the 025.431 is a hilarious DDC inside joke. The blog is written by a DDC staffer at the Library of Congress, who, when he’s not blogging, we can assume is classifying his ass off.

Alternatives to Silence, Poverty, and Maybe Film School

The 48-Hour Film Festival’s title of Funnest Film Event has been threatened by the Pilot Television project in Chicago. Okay, so the Pilot project happened over a year ago, but there’s no reason it can’t happen again.
The current issue of The Journal of Aesthetics & Protest has an article on Pilot Television. The project is self-described as an “artist-built temporary autonomous video production studio.” Here’s how it worked: over 150 participants came together in Chicago over a weekend and turned two 3-story warehouses into a production compound. It was free, open to the public, and made up of borrowed equipment.

Sounds like a loose definition of filmmaking? Maybe. Sure, it was video, and, yes, they weren’t aiming for Sundance or the IFC, but the organizers created a model for filmmaking that might be useful elsewhere.

Pilot worked especially well because it was organized around a purpose—participants were feminist activists producing political works. These works came in the form of talk shows, historical reenactments, and some wack etc. Their work would be edited and redistributed back to the participants to be broadcast on local cable, in schools, at microcinemas, wherever. But the experiment went beyond the final product: it was also a way for activists to interact in a collective and educational way. The event was a means, not just an end.

So who cares? Activists should care because it is a new model for media reform and getting across one’s message (esp. on single issues). The collectivism in production can lead to videos which are truly local. This work can then become local tv, viral videos, etc. Meanwhile, the event serves as a free production workshop. Filmmakers should care because this is a great way to share resources and knowledge. Even if you’re not a commie, collaboration in film is nearly unavoidable. A few weekends like this one might take the place of quite a few film school classes. Does the collective have to have an agenda? You just want your stuff shot, right?

Point, Counterpoint: Using Short Film for Counter Recruitment

POINT: Counter Recruitment
JSF friend Sven recently drew my attention to the ”SIR, NO SIR” website, which is by far the slickest attempt I’ve seen to educate and persuade young people on the subject of the war and saying #&% You to the Army. When you “click here to start” on the website, a trailer plays. I know it’s not technically a short film, but I thought it was when it started. Note the Flash stuff around the frame. Pretty slick.

If you’re looking for a proper short film on the subject, I’ll point you to Gabriel Cheifetz’s (JSF, v.2) “No Child Left Behind.” You can watch it <a href="http://www.current.tv/studio/media/1647989
“>HERE or below. Shakademic joins Cheifetz again to ask the hard questions like “Do recruiters lie to kids?” and “If I go platinum, can I quit the Army?”

COUNTERPOINT : Counter- Counter Recruitment
Dude, the Army rocks and who are these people? Forget these hippies, our biggest problem is Reality in Iraq. But you should be happy, we’re spending billions in media production and broadcasting every year. You camera geeks want jobs, right?

And our TV ads rock. Who doesn’t like snowboarding and fighting dragons?! Pussies, that’s who. And hey, we have other visual stimuli for the young’ins, too. E.g. “America’s Army,” the official video game of the U.S. Army. To eff’in wit, from GoArmy.com, “America’s Army provides civilians with an inside perspective and a virtual role in today’s premier land force: the U.S. Army. The game is designed to provide an accurate portrayal of Soldier experiences.” See eff’in also, “Download America’s Army computer game now or see your local U.S. Army Recruiter for a copy on CD.” But don’t worry, parents, “America’s Army is rated ‘T’ for Teen.”

And don’t forget the Army 01 Team NASCAR NEXTEL CUP race car and the NHRA Top Fuel dragster, driven by crowd favorite Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher.

A 50-plus-Year-Old Film Festival; Submission Deadline July 1

We have always held the position that films are made everywhere, not just NY and LA. And that the more far flung filmmakers need support, both in production and distribution. And we claim that the Internets have helped bring us all together somewhat and have made the JSF possible.
But in reality some far flung places have been home to lively film scenes for years. Over time we’ll explore some of these communities and what they mean for their members, but today I wanted to post a notice of a long-standing event in Columbus, Ohio. While the film “scene” in Columbus is a bit nebulous, not many cities can boast a film festival that is 50+ years old. Anyway, check this out:

Call for Entries Columbus International Film and Video Festival
54th Annual Columbus International Film & Video Festival
Call for Entry regulations and Entry Forms are available on our web site:
www.chrisawards.org
JULY 1 Entry Deadline
The Columbus International Film & Video Festival, a.k.a. “The Chris Awards,”
one of the most prestigious documentary, educational, business and
informational competitions in the U.S., the oldest of its kind in North
America and celebrating its 54th year.

Using SAG in Short Films

Over time, we’ll use this space to discuss production issues surrounding short films. One issue we’ll tackle is union labor. While this may seem irrelevant for many or even most short film -makers, the questions are still valid—can filmmakers afford to use, say, SAG actors?, can they afford NOT to?, can they maintain guerrilla cred by using unions?, can they have liberal cred without them?, what is the anarcho-syndicalist to do?

Some JSF filmmakers have never needed to use SAG. Gabriel Cheifetz (JSF, v.2) didn’t need them for his documentary “Battleground Minnesota.” Chris “Shakademic” Johnson is a fixture in Gabriel’s films, and Walter Mondale was in it for the public service. But J.J. Adler (JSF, v.2) said that she has had no trouble using SAG actors. “They generally sign the student film or no-budget film contracts and waive any payments without incident,” she reports.

The JSF has had at least one filmmaker excluded because of his deal with SAG, but we’re reserving judgment. Maybe someone at SAG can email us their take on the issue?

Send Your Short Films to Stephen Gaghan

I stumbled across the Charlie Rose show on Fri. night, and thankfully there was a guest host. Brian Grazer interviewed Malcolm Gladwell. While it was kinda smart, the pairing was mostly a strange hair -off.

It made me wonder if Malcolm’s book “Blink” was still going to be made into a movie. Guess so. Dir. by Stephen Gaghan, no less. Apparently, Leonardo DiCaprio will lank around making snap judgments about stuff.
But, Q: shouldn’t “Blink” be a SHORT film??

Budgets and Media of Student Films

So far, we’ve published one or two filmmakers in every volume of the JSF who are or recently were students. The publisher recently asked some of them about their budgets and some of their choice of media.

Budgets range from almost nothing to the $10-20K range. Working in video or digital art is less expensive, of course. Luke Lamborn (JSF, v.1) fell in this category with “Tascam 224.” On $, he says “limited funding was available for video projects, but had to be applied for in the form of grants.” J.J. Adler (JSF, v.2) says that most of her peers relied on grants or scholarships. I’d hope so, if one needed $20K for a short film in school. It’s nice to know there is some $ out there, but I’m sure it’s still a hassle getting it. J.J. does not recommend self-financing.

Warren Johnston (JSF, v.2) says his budgets are usually determined by “the actual base material cost” and/or, as he puts it, “what medium do I have?” While he says “the budget will greatly affect the length and possibilities of the project,” he still credits divine guidance in bringing it all together.

J.J. says most of her peers are shooting on digital for budget reasons. (“…but if you’ve got a crafty producer, you can shoot on 16mm for really cheap.”) Someday I’ll ask them about how shooting in digital affects their cinema-, dvd-, and/or web- aspirations.