2015 PALM SPRINGS INT’L SHORTFEST has started today and continues until Monday June 22. The following is an interview with Darryl Macdonald director of the Palm Springs Film Society and film festivals about 2015 SHORTFEST.
Bijan Tehrani: It’s time again for another exciting Palm Springs ShortFest International Film Festival. Cinema Without Borders is proud of having a part in this amazing festival since 2007. How things have grown for ShortFest during this nine years?
Darryl Macdonald: Well, for one thing we’ve doubled the number of filmmakers attending ShortFest from all over the world. At the 2005 event we hosted roughly 250 filmmakers, and this year we’ve had well over 500 filmmakers register to attend. We’ve also been named a nominating festival for the BAFTA awards (the British Academy of Film and Television Arts) and the BIFA’s (British Independent Film Awards), in addition to our ongoing status as a qualifying Festival for the Academy Awards. We’ve now had 101 films showcased at the Festival go on to be nominated for Oscars in the short film categories. We’ve also added a number of programs to our ShortFest Forums, which now run four days instead of the three days we previously covered. Those Forums have included such well known filmmakers as Oscar nominees Gus Van Sant, James Franco, cinematographer Robert Elswit and this year’s keynote speaker, Jason Reitman. The Festival itself remains largely the same: the largest event devoted to the short film art form in North America, this year featuring 330 new shorts from more than 50 countries literally spanning the globe.
BT: Please tell us about ShortFest2015 and what is awaiting us.
DM: I’m particularly pleased about the lineup this year, which features 330 new shorts from more than 50 countries and comprises what I think is the most diverse and accomplished lineup of films we’ve ever had the privilege of presenting. And again, I’m tremendously excited about the young filmmakers who will be here, participating in all of the events and appearing onstage after each program’s screenings to discuss their work with audiences. Any one of them could go on to be among the major filmmakers of tomorrow, just as Ava DuVernay (Selma), Jean-Marc Valee (Dallas Buyer’s Club, Wild), Lynn Ramsay (We Need To Talk About Kevin), Henry Sellick (Coraline, The Nightmare Before Christmas), Jason Reitman and a host of others – all ShortFest alumni – have in the past. But I think that the most exciting aspect of ShortFest for filmgoers each year is the sense of discovery – of happening upon films that capture our hearts, our minds and our imaginations in ways we could never have anticipated, and provoking us to explore different realities and different ways of looking at our world. Bottom line: it’s dynamic and provocative lineup of great new films spanning a huge range of filmmaking genres, styles and stories – everything to sate a true film lover’s hunger for more.
BT: Is there a certain trend in 2015 short films of the festival?
DM: Creatively, the films are more polished and accomplished, due in no small part to the increasing availability of access to technological tools that have been out of reach for low budget filmmakers in the past. In terms of subject matter, because emerging filmmakers tend to be younger and more ahead of the curve in terms of the zeitgeist, we’re seeing a surge in films that deal in cinematic ways with very contemporary issues, like social change, climate change, globalization, emigration and so on. An example is our program of films called “Trans-Formation”, which focuses on a topic that’s currently in the spotlight:
Transgender and ‘gender-fluid’ people; those that are defining new roles for themselves within a society that has always been fairly rigid when it came to gender roles and definitions. Or ‘Tech-No-Logic’, a package whose films reflect the ways in which new technologies are changing our ways of dealing with the world around us, and not only for the better. Or ‘Future Shock’, with films that reflect concerns with which way we’re headed with regard to the future. All of these short film programs include a mix of films that are thematically similar, even though their approach to the subject matter may vary widely – sometimes utilizing humor and at other times horror, pathos or irony. But first and foremost, they are entertaining, provoking an emotional, visceral and/or intellectual response – which is what all good movies truly need to do to be successful with d
BT: After decades that short films has lost their place in film industry, new media has cast the spotlight on short films again. Does this mean that short film format will find its own place without being a bridge to take the filmmaker to the world of feature films?
DM: While short films are gaining huge numbers of new followers through new media outlets on the web and elsewhere, I don’t think that they will ever not have a role in creating a bridge for filmmakers into the world of feature filmmaking or for that matter, television (which is becoming more adventuresome because of competition) or advertising. In a sense, for many emerging artists, short films serve as an apprenticeship and a bridge to other media and forms of expression. And I believe that in recent year, the viability of the short film art form has grown immensely because of those new audiences and outlets. But I also believe that the mere fact that short filmmakers don’t have to cater to an audience of millions or reaching the lowest common denominator in order to make themselves financially viable is part of what contributes to the vitality of the art form, and inspires creativity and freedom of expression.
BT: We have our own reasons to love Palm Springs ShortFest, but with so many short film festivals around the world what makes Palm Springs ShortFest International Short Film Festival and Market stand out among them?
DM: Three things: the quality of the curating and programming, the talent of the filmmakers it attracts and the size and sophistication of its audience. I guess I should also add the diversity of its programming. With 330 films from over 50 different countries and the wide range of types of programs encompassed by the event, ShortFest truly provides something for every kind of film lover – and for that matter, every kind of filmmaker.
BT: Please tell us about participation of international cinema at ShortFest 2015.
DM: Fully two-thirds of the films in the ShortFest lineup are from countries outside of the US, with a corresponding ratio of the filmmakers who attend being non-US-based. So it presents a wonderful opportunity to immerse oneself in the voices and visions of a huge assortment of storytellers from different cultures and countries around the world. As anyone who has attended the event can testify, those huge numbers of young, emerging talents who come to Palm Springs to share their films with us bring an enormous storehouse of energy and sense of adventure with them, which is incredibly infectious, and ends up fueling the Festival and all those who partake in it. It’s an energizing force that for a week turns ShortFest into a world with no borders – only bridges. It’s incredibly inspiring.
BT: Please tell us about festival events and seminars.
DM: We’re taking somewhat of a new approach to the ShortFest Forums this year, focusing more on the creative aspects of filmmaking and less on the nuts and bolts technical and financial aspects of the art form. There’ll be a number of established filmmakers sharing their experiences and techniques in the world of filmmaking with the nascent filmmakers and audience members who attend those sessions, as well as programs focusing on cinematography, creating soundtracks and other aspects of the pre- and post-production process that can make all the difference to the strength of the storytelling involved. And as always, there will be the themed nightly parties that all of the filmmakers attending the Festival are invited to, and which inevitably provide some of the highlights (and most vivid memories) of the event. Those events are open to the public as well.
BT: What are the 2015 Awards and Prizes of the festival?
DM: ShortFest presents Juried awards in 21 different categories at our closing night Awards Show, with prizes totaling over $120,000 in cash and in-kind services as well as the Festival’s crystal ‘Spirit of Short Film’ awards. In addition, the Festival’s Audience Awards are announced in the Live Action, Documentary and Animated categories. Interspersed among the award presentations are screenings of some of the award-winning short films in competition. The winners in four key categories are eligible for submission to the Academy Awards, so it makes for a very exciting night for the scores of filmmakers attending as well as the audience. The presentations are followed by our annual Wrap Party, hosted poolside at one of the Festival’s favorite venues.
BT: In the past we have noticed that all the screenings of ShortFest are quickly sold out, how film fans could get their tickets and passes on time to be able to attend the festival?
DM: The simplest way to ensure availability is to go to our online site – www.psfilmfest.org – where ‘Insider Passes’, along with tickets and discounted ticket packages for all screenings and events can be purchased online, and picked up at the Festival box office anytime between purchasing them and the day or evening of the event. The website also provides details about virtually anything you’d like to know about the Festival, from film and package descriptions to party info to historical archives of past winners and events