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World Wide Shorts Film Festival (part 2)

The WWSFF 2010 is in full swing. Over 400 shorts are being screened for film lovers’ pleasure. I stopped by a few of the workshops that the festival offers its delegates and budding talents. The first workshop was focused on directing, almost a mini-101 class. Except, unlike other seminars, etc., this one focused on, and forgive me for a lack of a better word, but pretty much the “business” side of a creative career. At first one might gulp – some of the information might have been hard to hear, but needed to be. Ingrid Veninger (Only, Modra) discussed how as an independent Canadian director, she herself, will spend the next few months, reconnecting with every programmer she’s met at various festivals, to ask them if they’d be interested in viewing her latest feature. She said she isn’t going to be paid for this. It’s just what you do to get your film out there. Interesting to contrast such discipline from her with a few of the short filmmakers I met, who loathed the distribution hurdle and pretty much summed it up with “once the film is done, I move on…” BUT WHAT ABOUT GETTING IT OUT THERE? Crucial. There was also special mention on “branding” – KNOW who you are as a filmmaker, and be able to express it in a concise and focused manner, communicate your value. If  you have a hold on that, then you are ample  “prepared” before any networking event, if you know why you are attending, and what your goal is, you find yourself having a lot more fun networking with other professionals versus the dreaded fear of having to speak to someone knew and “pitch” yourself. This is not a career path for the loner, so you must get out there…

I can’t say much for the writing workshop…the information was pertinent enough for aspiring Canadian film and television writers, but everything was loosely discussed and I feel sometimes a nugget or two of valuable information is lost in general overviews of gaining admittance into your industry.

The afternoon commenced with the Official Selection titled, Best Laid Plans. I was much happier with this selection of males and females overcoming personal roadblocks and setbacks in preparation for a party, date, or grief. I was actually very impressed with some of the programming choices here. The selection began with a film entitled Les Poissons almost a visual poem following three girlfriends one night as they drift apart. The cinematography and tone reminded me of Sophia Coppola’s work, that eerie beauty that is fragile as it is self-aware. Then came Hey, George, a tale of a couple unraveling at a New Year’s Party. The director and actors were in attendance and discussed their process as improvising and rehearsing from a one-page outline. The chemistry between the two actors is palpable and I felt the film reached its objective of transcending audiences into the character’s shoes. A very cute musical piece by Dutch filmmaker Eelko Ferwerda, Born and Raised, about creating a “sound painting” for your newborn (hilarity!!!)

Then there was the Official Selection program, Celebrity Shorts, which were shorts made by or with high profile actors. Most notable was the 2010 Academy Award winning, The New Tenants, and if it comes you way dedicate 20 minutes of your life to this short. It is superb, from its fact-paced, spunky diction to unforeseeable plot twists in these ensemble rendering of two new tenants meeting their new neighbors. WATCH IT! There were also two Drunk History tellngs, which I’m sure some of you have seen on YouTube. I commend Will Ferrell (a rarity in my life) and Don Cheadle in their telling of Douglass & Lincoln. If you are a fan of Maurice Sendak, then you should get your hands on a copy of the Spike Jonze produced short, Higglety Pigglety Pop! Or There Must Be More To Life an animated stunner featuring the voices of Meryl Streep and Forest Whitaker. And lastly, a mini mention (although it deserved much more) to One Night Only a melancholy, indie-infused, folk-rock short detailing two couples and their uneasy night in a music club that sheds some light on the inner workings of the modern relationship. SNL comedienne Kristen Wig stars in this New York short, and her performance is sweetly perfected as an unappreciated girlfriend.

On to the rest of the fest!