News Column

Shorts becoming TC Film Festival's unsung heroes

August 1, 2013


Aug. 01--TRAVERSE CITY -- The name says it all. Short films are exactly that, short.

But despite their brevity, mini-movies have begun to make a splash in the world of film festivals. In fact, the favorite short from this year's Film Festival will be eligible for the Oscars.

The extra honor injected even more interest into a competition for audience interest, said Ian Hollander, the festival's film department manager.

This year, Hollander reviewed more than 500 short films and, along with festival director Deb Lake, selected 52 shorts from 20 countries to show audiences during seven screenings. The often-obscure films rarely are seen outside of the film festival circuit and give patrons a chance to view some of the best work from aspiring and veteran filmmakers alike.

"You get to go to one screening and see diverse films from around the world," Hollander said.

Films that range in length from six minutes to 37 minutes are the pinnacle of importance to aspiring filmmakers, said Joe Russo, producer for the short film "Who Shot Rock & Roll: The Film." Most of them will not be seen at your local theater, although some are released via the Internet as filmmakers attempt to garner support.

And the possibility of becoming an Oscar nominee as a result of a film festival screening adds an extra incentive to filmmakers. The shorts often are a requirement of graduation from film school and cost significantly less to produce today since the advent of cheaper, more sophisticated digital cameras.

"It used to be you had to get Oscar-qualified by yourself, and that was expensive," Russo said. "Now, you can shoot one on your iPhone."

The competition at the Film Festival this year will be the last of the year in which a film can qualify for the Oscars. There was a time not long ago when aspiring filmmakers would have needed a large bankroll to produce even a few minutes of film.

"I think it's a revolution," Russo said. "It's all about talent now. It's about the best filmmakers having their stuff seen."

Russo has worked in the film industry for two decades and says it's easier now for talented filmmakers to climb to the top of the ladder. What might have been an arduous push during several years to get noticed now can happen with a single screening, he said.

Russo's film, directed by Stephen Kochones, is the longest short at 37 minutes and was screened Wednesday at 3 p.m.

For 52 filmmakers, some of them still students, this weekend will be their last shot until next year to become an Oscar nominee.


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