Sep 7, 2012


By Chris Stefanic

Is short a good label for an event? Are the best film festivals shorter ones? The briefer they are, the easier they are to access, and how much more imaginable at that? In truth, time is of no essence when the products being offered are of value, and that’s exactly what “The Wrap Shortlist Film Festival” had to offer.

On the backlot of Sony Pictures Entertainment, where flowers on black linens literally set the stage for appropriated stardom to all in attendance, it was a Starlit Beautimus of a soiree. Fittingly set between movie posters on sound stage walls, and the Company screening room, the set-up beheld a certain luster in the air – the kind to form the ultimate “Love-In” in the filmic sense, and that’s exactly how the scene played out.

All who attended seemed to know each other; there was a sense of camaraderie, that connected within the semi-celebs and their guests, to the filmmakers, to the major players (which included actor/producer Zachary Quinto, and the lovely Mary Elizabeth Winstead of Scott Pilgrim fame.) Yes, the feel of the evening was one of sharing the energy, and no one seemed out of place. It’s important to note, that an event like this takes a wallop of time and energy to realize, and the ‘cast & crew’ of “The Wrap” – those responsible for putting it on, are to be greatly applauded.

With a perfectly picked panel of jurors, The Wrap founder Sharon Waxman maintains, “The turn-out has been great” adding, “There’s been a huge response from our online audience that has really pulled this thing together.” It appeared so. Everybody who walked into the screening room was a star in their own right. And according to Waxman, out of 2,000 shorts that were submitted, and countless votes given by online viewers, it’s the audience that has really made an even like this possible. What’s important too, is that no matter what the style or aesthetic of the films being presented be, the audience still plays yang, to the filmmakers yin. This is where the panelists came in.

It’s enough to spotlight a panel of six jurors, including the above mentioned Quinto, Roadside Attractions President Howard Cohen, and Sundance Programer Michelle Satter, but their words were more enchanting than their celebrity. Producer Lynette Howell (Blue Valentine) stated during the Q & A, that “People generally go toward short film festivals. The shorter the films, the less people are inclined to pay attention, and the more they will enjoy themselves. The short films themselves can also determine potency in directors.” Whether this statement holds credence, or fares better as a refined and experienced opinion, has yet to be seen, though one thing is for sure: Most filmmakers who use short film as their medium tend to be seen more.

The insight didn’t stop on that subject though, as Zachary Quinto hinted, “Specificity, clarity, and preparation all help get a good short film seen.” It wouldn’t be just a matter of an ineffable story, or luscious production values; the technical matters have to be met. In many short films, this has been a problem not yet mastered, and it’s this shortcoming that tends to convey the dole personality stapled to short films. With glimmering presentations like “The Wrap’s” attempts, that could all change soon.

Given it’s the festival’s first year, this was a hot ticket to kick it off, but more than the sheer thrill of the panelists involved, was the growing sense that events like this might really become something of popularity among up-and-coming filmmakers. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, an alumni of web series and short films herself contends, “I hope this leads to bigger, events for short films.” Indubitably, the sense of sophistication gives way to a foreseeable future of straight theatrical exhibition for these short movies. Based on how gingerly and affectionately the event was treated, the suspicious thought of other establishments following cue seemed a very real possibility. “It’s definitely something I’m proud to be a part of, as it speaks to all types of artists working seriously.” Quinto suavely attests, “When I was asked here as a panelist, I said yes without hesitation.” We can only hope, for the sake of the many unseen, unheard filmmakers out there, that other recent celebrities feel the same way, holding the art of film in such high regard.

The Wrap is an online report, started about ten years ago by Waxman (herself having worked for The Washington Post) that covers music, movies, and other cultural definitions of the times. Being the first Festival The Wrap has hosted, makes it a landmark event. There aren’t many Short Film Festivals about, where recognition can be spotlighted, and given for merits that don’t translate to feature films. With festivals like this, audiences can surface the minority of the film industry, like treasure from the sea. And that’s exactly what Sharon Waxman and her staff hope for.

It could be viewed as another Hollywood gala to see and be seen, but when it all comes down, ceremonies such as the Shortlist Film Festival prove the determined nature of the art that is filmmaking, and Sharon Waxman and co. have their eyes on it. Brimming with wonder, and as unpredictable as the films themselves, the SFF serves as an indicator to artists everywhere, appointing integrity and poise into the mix of style and vision, that as long as their voice speaks out in the sea of distributions, they will be heard.

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