Just As I Thought

Sorry I missed it

City Paper’s write up of last night’s DC Shorts Kickoff Party.

City Paper’s write up of last night’s DC Shorts Kickoff Party:

Ain’t No Party Like a Film Fest Party ‘Cause a Film Fest Party Don’t Stop
Posted by Tricia Olszewski

Well, at least it hadn’t by the time I left. After the successful, sold-out opening night screening of DC Shorts, ticketholders – all ticketholders, from the entire weekend – were invited to mingle with filmmakers at an afterparty at Drinx in the Verizon Center complex. Free Stella Artois, one of the sponsors of the fest, high-class hors d’oeuvres, and live music from Washington’s own Omega Band ensured the revelers kept on reveling.

Best of all, you could sign up to win all sorts of City Paper stuff! Or just use our setup as an extra-large bar table, which is eventually what happened. (Flipping through the newest issue, by the way, seems to be a great conversation starter, if you know what I mean.)

But back to the event we all came here for. One viewer commented that he thought Thursday’s shorts were much better than they used to be. Overwhelming favorites of the night were Douglas Horn’s romantic comedy, Full Disclosure (I laughed the whole time, said Valerie Ianello, director of Saturday night’s IV Courses), and Zachary Brewster-Geisz’s animated film, The Cell-Phone. (See Q&A with Brewster-Geisz below.) 

So don’t wait to buy tickets – the selections may seem unlimited, but the seats ain’t.

Be Like…Proust
Posted by Tricia Olszewski

Twenty-four Washington-area filmmakers will be upping the ante at the DC Shorts fest, so I thought a little Q&A was in order for those locals gracious enough to lend me some time. I was mulling over the Vanity Fair route until I realized, the Proust Questionnaire is so ’90s.

So let’s call this…the Olszewski Probe. First up, Greenbelt’s Zachary Brewster-Geisz, whose animated, three-minutes-and-change comedy, The Cell-Phone, is making its premiere at the festival’s opening-night screening Thursday.

Q: Do you own a cell phone?
A: To my eternal shame, yes; but I rarely turn it on or even carry it with me, and no one knows the number except my wife. People are more likely to be annoyed by my digital watch.

Q: Are you going to take calls during the screening, and hold up the phone so your friends can hear the audience’s reaction?
A: Hey, that’s an idea! Maybe I should try that during the award ceremony, too. “No, that bastard from Sundance got it! Yeah, I will rough him up after.”

Q: If you were a telephone, what kind of telephone would you be?
A: One of those old black Bell Telephone rotary phones. I loves me some vintage equipment.

Q: Do you have formal training in animation/filmmaking?
A: Not really. I started with stop-motion back in eighth grade, filming my shoes and underwear walking across the floor of their own accord. My sense of humor has only grown less sophisticated since.

Q: What’s the most difficult part of making an animated movie?
A: Seeing the forest for the trees. So much emphasis is placed on the visual style (at least in computer graphics), but for me, everything is about the story. So if I’ve created an absolutely stunning bit of animation, but it runs too long or doesn’t pertain to the rest of the film, it’s gone. (Fortunately, for me the stunning bits of animation are rare. Or was I not supposed to admit that?)

Q: What is one film you wish you’d made, and why?
A: Everyone says Casablanca, right? Actually, I kinda wish I had thought of The Incredibles before Brad Bird did. Superhero movies are a guilty pleasure, and I love anything that explodes genre conventions. Same goes for Galaxy Quest and Star Trek.

Q: Have any of your other movies screened before?
A: I was lucky enough to have two films screen at DC Shorts last year, and both of those ( and Soap Opera) have had some minor successes on the festival circuit. has probably been seen by the most people, since it’s screened on Nicktoons and G4.

More of a command than a Q: Predict your state of mind Thursday evening.
A: As I enter the theater, I’ll be cool and collected. When the lights go down, I’ll start holding my wife’s arm for support. By the time The Cell-Phone starts, I’ll be a gibbering, weeping mess. After the film, I’ll be anxious that the audience didn’t laugh enough.

Q: What will you do if someone else’s phone rings?
A: Point at them and laugh like Nelson from The Simpsons.

Thanks, Zach! Stay tuned for more… 

Lots more press coverage after the jump…

  From the Washington Blade

Keeping it short and sweet  
D.C.’s short film festival finds plenty of room for gay content in movies under 20 minutes long

By GREG MARZULLO 
Friday, September 08, 2006

Sitting through overly long movies can be enervating, especially when they’re bad. One of the treats of short films, however, is the brevity that leaves you wanting more or happy they’re over so quickly.

Beginning on Friday, Sept. 14, and running through Thursday, Sept. 21, the third annual D.C. Shorts Film Festival will be premiering new works at Landmark’s E Street Cinema, 555 11th St., NW, and at the Canadian Embassy, 501 Pennsylvania Ave., NW.

With 94 films being presented, the festival director, Joe Gann, hopes to double the attendance of last year.

“We sold out all our shows last year,” says Gann, 40 and gay. “We had 2,500 people.” 

 THE MOVIES RUN the gamut in subject, including a handful of gay-related material, and two of the gay shorts were created by filmmakers living in the D.C. area.

“It Ain’t Natural,” directed by Dean Hamer, is a reflection on the effects of hateful rhetoric espoused by religious leaders in the black community. Hamer uses a headline-making homophobic sermon delivered by D.C.’s Rev. Willie Wilson on July 3, 2005 as the film’s lightning rod.

“When the whole Willie Wilson story came out, it really caught my attention,” says Hamer, a 55 year-old scientist who works at the National Institute of Health on HIV/AIDS research. “Not just because of the remarkable, almost pornographic character of his sermon but also because it speaks to the broader question of discrimination and tolerance and public health in the District.”  Audio clips of Wilson’s speech are interspersed with reactions from local gay residents, thereby providing gay Washingtonians a rebuttal platform.

The film plays at the festival on Saturday, Sept. 16, at 7 p.m. at E Street Cinema. Each screening time reflects the start of a series of short films shown collectively.  

ON THE OTHER end of the spectrum is what promises to be a campy comedy called “The Lost Item,” directed by Robert Blumenthal. In the film, a woman wakes up after a one-night stand to find the man gone and the requisite condom missing in action.

“She does what any single woman would do?” asks Blumenthal, who is straight. “She calls her gay best friend to help.”

Blumenthal filmed the short in three days at his sister’s condominium in New Jersey, across the Hudson River from New York City. The gay best friend is played by local gay actor Rick Hammerly, winner of the 2003 Helen Hayes award for his portrayal of the transsexual rock star Hedwig in Signature Theater’s production of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.”

“The Lost Item” is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 16 at 10 p.m.

Other films of gay interest are “Attack of the Bride Monster,” showing on Saturday, Sept. 16, at 1 p.m.; “Dammi il La,” Friday, Sept. 15, at 7 p.m.; “Available Men,” Saturday, Sept. 16, at 7 p.m. and “Dirty Mary,” Saturday, Sept. 16, at 10 p.m.

With the exception of “Scattering Eden,” which shows at the Canadian Embassy on Saturday, Sept. 16, at 11 a.m., all shows occur at E Street Cinema.

Tickets for individual shows, most of which are presented at E Street Cinema, are $12. The All-Access Pass costs $100 and includes entrance to all screenings, a ticket to the opening night party at Drinx restaurant, 601 F St., NW, entrance to the screenings at the Canadian embassy on Sept. 16 and a ticket to the filmmaker’s brunch on Sunday, Sept. 17, at Clyde’s, 707 7th St., NW.

The $150 Priority All-Access Pass includes all the benefits listed above plus reserved seating at all of the screenings, entrance into the LunaFest benefit screening on Thursday, Sept. 21, a special evening of women’s short films sponsored by Luna health bars, and entrance to the “Best of” screenings, a series of the festival’s top flicks.  

The Connection:

Saluting Their Shorts
Film festival allows local directors a chance to shine in limited time.
By Greg Wyshynski
September 7, 2006

The premise begs for an explanation from Mr. Movie Voice, in his omnipotent and booming tone: “In a world where coffee has been classified as a narcotic…where women overdose in their offices on café mocha…two hardened detectives must chase down the caffeinated crime boss…before it’s too late.”
An edge-of-your-seat thriller? An indictment of American consumer culture? 
“It’s kind of an absurd comedy,” said “Venti Vice” director Gabe Uhr, who also co-wrote the film. “When you only have a weekend to make a movie, you can’t make it too serious.”
Like several other entries in the upcoming DC Shorts Film Festival, “Vice” was created in the pressure-cooker environment of the 48-Hour Film Project, which toured through the D.C. area earlier this year. Uhr, who lives in Arlington and works as a video producer for the United Way of America in Alexandria, took part in that project — which challenged film makers to write, produce and film a short movie over the course of a single weekend. He wrote “Venti Vice” with his friend Tom King and directed the 7-minute short. Although his team ran out of time to fully complete their film, they submitted the finished product anyway; “Vice” took home two awards, including an audience award in its competition group. 
On Saturday, Sept. 16, Uhr’s film will be presented at 4 p.m. at Landmark’s E Street Cinema (555 11th Street NW), as part of a screening for the 2006 DC Shorts Festival, billed as the region’s only film festival dedicated to showcasing and discussing short films from around the world. Tickets are available for each screening of the festival, which runs from Sept. 14-21 at the Landmark, and there is an “all-access pass” available for $100. 
Kim Roberts, a representative for the festival, said one-third of all the films in this year’s competition are by local film makers. 
Full details and show times can be found by visiting http://www.dcshorts.com.

UHR, 29, BEGAN VIDEO work as a hobby about five years ago, cutting his teeth on public access shoots for Arlington Independent Media and for a sketch comedy program that aired in D.C. and Northern Virginia called The Higgins Show. Soon, he found himself doing commissioned work for Current TV, a cable news network that features viewer-created content. “A lot of my peers at Current are all film school; I was more of a do-it-yourself,” said Uhr, who graduated from Robinson Secondary in Fairfax in 1995. 
“Venti Vice” is a departure from his usual documentary work, but Uhr said there are similarities. 
“Storytelling is the root of it. It was interesting that I did documentary stuff [previously], because I never really studied it. I studied English, and was always more of a storyteller. When I do the documentary stuff, I have the story in my mind; it’s what you get on tape, and if it’s usable, that really determines what the story is. In retrospect, [you think] this is the story I should have been going after,” he said. 
“Venti Vice” is an example of the sort of fictional work Uhr intends to continue to explore as a film maker. More to the point, he’d like to focus on creating scripted television programs and episodic comedies. 
For now, he’s pleased with how “Vice” turned out — for the most part. “There’s always stuff, in the days after, they I was anxious about. But I think that’s with any kind of work of art.”

LIKE UHR, EMILY SKELTON gained valuable experience with Arlington Independent Media’s public access program, worked with a sketch comedy troupe and submitted a film for the 48-Hour Project. 
Unlike Uhr, Skelton approached the creation of “Peddlers in Peril” with less film direction experience and more from a writer’s perspective. 
“It’s more of an experiment, a challenge for myself. It’s one thing to work at a corporate production company. It’s much more structured; it’s very different. I wanted to see if I could write something that would translate and be funny,” said Skelton, 24, who is an associate producer with Video Solutions. 
The College of William & Mary graduate, who lives in Arlington, wrote, directed and produced a 6-minute short that chronicles the battle between an underground bike courier service and Empire Courier, a big corporate giant that wants to monopolize the market. 
“It ends with a twist that makes you ponder if competition is worth the fight,” she said. “Always have to have a moral…”
Part of The 48-Hour Project was being handed a genre to work in; Skelton’s group received action/adventure. “I really didn’t have the James Bond guy, and didn’t have explosions in the budget,” she said. “So we chose bicycles.”
Skelton, who finished her film in 50 hours rather than mandatory 48, took part in the project to test her comedic writing skills. She writes, directs and acts for a sketch group called The Couch Potatoes, who are based in the DC area and were featured players at the Comedy Spot. 
“Peddlers in Peril” — which is scheduled to screen on Friday, Sept. 15 at the 4 p.m. session at Landmark’s E Street Cinema — was almost all scripted; the bits that weren’t had Skelton blurt out an outline and have her actors fill in the blanks. 
The short was filmed in and around Skelton’s apartment building, which provided nearly every locale she would need: a business office, a restaurant/bar, an outside area and her own apartment. 
She said filming the short built her confidence for future endeavors, as Skelton had to manage crew members with more experience than she had — like the veteran director of photography on the shoot. “It was a very intimidating situation,” she said. “I knew what he was doing, but did I know what I was doing?”
So is the finished product funny? 
“I think so. Although a lot of things are a lot funnier when you haven’t slept for 48 hours,” she said. 
Without James Bond or large explosions, is there enough action?
“There was a bike fight.”
And what, exactly, is a bike fight?
“Well, you’ll have to see the film.”

ROB RAFFETY WAS ANOTHER film maker who learned the ropes with Arlington Independent Media and public access programming. 
His 9-minute short “Hill Rats” was filmed as a prospective sitcom for a national contest. After it didn’t make the cut, Raffety said his friend Jeff Noble — a former co-worker at a George Mason University-Arlington campus think tank and an actor in the film — urged him to tweak it for the DC Shorts Festival. 
The title “Hill Rats” may recall director Kevin Smith’s comedy “Mallrats,” but Raffety said the comparison is coincidental. “The whole idea of a ‘rat’ is people who spend an excessive amount of time in an environment,” said Raffety , 30, who lives in Arlington. 
In this case, the “rats” are staffers in their late 20s/early 30s on Capitol Hill. Rob, played by Raffety, is a straight-laced hard worker on a Republican’s staff; Don is a free-wheeling staffer for a Democrat. “The idea is that they grew up together, but had different beliefs — they’re like the Odd Couple. A classic sitcom paradigm,” Raffety said. 
The director himself worked for a moderate Republican congresswoman on the Hill, but said the material in the film is bipartisan. “I’m not attempting to achieve any sort of political agenda. I take shots at both sides. It’s more about the funny little situations people can get in when they’re working in politics. It’s a lighthearted movie; not something to skewer liberal or conservative,” he said. 
Like, for example, when the staffers are charged with creating a fundraiser that will make things interesting for some high-rolling donors. They come up with a Dukes of Hazzard-themed event, complete with skeet shooting. 
“Hill Rats” is scheduled to screen on Friday, Sept. 15, at 4 p.m. at Landmark’s E Street Cinema.
Raffety, an adjunct professor at George Mason, is enrolled in a screenwriting class and hopes to continue to flesh out “Hill Rats” as a sitcom or a feature film. Although he doesn’t have the film-making experience of some of the other directors featured at the DC Shorts Festival, he doesn’t feel that will hinder his progress. 
“This technology has gotten to the point where it’s in the hands of amateurs,” he said, “which can be good or bad depending on how you look at it.”

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