Guest Author - Donna Ledbetter
Look out for the next upcoming DC Shorts Film Festival in late September each year at Landmark’s E Street Cinema in downtown Washington, DC.
Filmmakers across the region and from around the world compete each year. New in 2007 were the HD format and screenwriting competitions.
Unlike other film festivals, the DC Shorts Film Festival is a largely participatory event. In its opening days, a ticket to a screening gives you complimentary access to parties and events usually exclusively reserved for industry professionals.
The 2007 festival’s screenings comprised 10–12 short films, each with a running time less than 20 minutes. After each screening, viewers were invited to stay and vote for their favorite films and sit in for a question-and-answer session with featured film directors.
“At the festival…there’s a huge organization of people to support and inspire,” says first-time filmmaker Jonathan Browning. As an experienced director of stage productions in Chicago, Browning’s not entirely new to the arts scene. But as he says, “[The Job] is my first film…and I’ve never put anything on camera.”
In spite of his newness to film, Browning puts together a thought-provoking short. The Job takes an interesting look at America’s changing workforce and challenges audiences to reconsider their notions of work and immigrants in the US.
The Job has been accepted to 33 festivals. Browning entered the film in the 2007 DC Shorts Festival because he wants people in government to view the film, and to create a discussion of immigration outside of “I’m right and you’re good.”
With the help of David Jones, director of photography for The Job, Browning tackles immigration with an entertaining bit of levity. “I had a very specific idea in mind for the film,” Browning says, “and I went to [David] with it and he put it all together. We work really well together.” And the film they’ve created definitely pleases.
David Jones also entered another festival favorite Pop Foul in the 2007 DC Shorts Festival.
As many artists will tell you, the importance of film festivals lies in the exposure it gives to the craft filmmaking, but not all festivals are alike. More popular film festivals like the Sundance or the Cannes focus mostly on feature-length works. In the US especially, it’s difficult for short-film creators to find venues for their work.
Browning describes it this way: “Short films are not widely rewarded in the US. The Internet gives short films access, but, as I heard someone put it once, “on the Internet, my films are competing with films of a cat on a trampoline.” The DC Shorts Film Festival gives serious filmmaking artists a widely respected venue to showcase their talents.
Though the Internet may be largely filled with less serious work, sites like Ourstage.com are working to change that. Part of the site’s mission is to “sort quality content from the sea of mediocrity online.” Eleven of their films—-all viewed, critiqued, and awarded by online audiences—-screened at the 2007 DC Shorts Film Festival.
With more than 80 independent films featured in the festival from artists all over the world and from varying facets of life, you’re sure to find at least a handful of shorts that meet your own criteria for quality films. Be sure to look out for the festival again next year!