has already posted how it was that we ended up at the Science Fiction Short Film Festival
, hosted by the organizers of the Seattle International Film Festival
and the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame
and held at Seattle's Cinerama
. Over 700 people showed up, surprising both other attendees and the organizers themselves.
There were two screenings and we stayed for both. The first ten shorts were, in retrospect, probably selected for the first showing because they were not quite as strong as the second batch of shorts. Even so, some of my personal favorites of the festival were among the first batch.
Director John Harden's entry La Vie d'un Chien
was an audience favorite, judging by audience applause. I suspect he and many of the other first screening directors were harmed by the fact that the organizers didn't have enough ballots to go around for the first screening. I didn't have a ballot, neither did Pramas. It may have been my favorite of the shorts, but even if Harden was denied recognition at this festival, he's received plenty of other kudos for this film: It won Official Selection, Rotterdam International Film Festival 2005; Special Jury Recognition, Aspen Short Film Festival 2005; Best Short, Sonoma Valley International Film Festival 2005; Best Short Film, Sci-Fi-London Film Festival 2005. For $20 you can "Buy the Dog Movie"
. Way to market yourself John Harden: you go!Dan Przygoda
brought us Killswitch
, a kind of Running Man/Reality TV morality short. Przygoda's a young guy. While Killswitch wasn't entirely satisfying as a story, it was well done as a film and I'd go look out for something else of his in the future. Keep away from the poetry on his MySpace site, though. Very college-angst.Scribble
, by Faisal Qureshi
, was possibly my second favorite of the shorts. Billed as "A stenographer tries to cope with the failure of modern technology," it was a quick little visual bit with no dialog and I really liked it. Possibly because of my own struggles with technology?
Rachel Wang's film about an elderly couple in a British rest home who build a time machine from a wheelchair in order to go back in time and meet each other when they were younger and at the top of their form. This one felt like a full movie with a location and great actors. The time machine makes Heyday
sci-fi, I guess. Wang has a production company
Pramas really enjoyed The Grandfather Paradox
from Jean-Francois DaSylva. It was pretty cute, though also more typical of these shorts, with the entire story taking place in one room. Circus of Infinity
was probably the least "sci fi" movie in the sci fi film festival. The director has tended toward horror films or fantasy films, and this was more metaphysical than science fiction, imho. Still, it was a good short film and the jury recognized it with an honorable mention during the awards.
Ray Bradbury's short story, A Piece of Wood
, was turned into a short film for Tony Baez Milan through Urban Archipelago Films
. This particular film really made me think of a film of a play, as the whole thing took place in a single 'room' as the set. Very Bradbury.
Miska Draskoczy's short, Perfect Heat
, was one of those completely weird, surreal films. It was confusing and mostly I just thought "What the hell was that about?" but it was interestingly shot and hey, when the star of the film is co-writer and Dr. & Mrs. His Last Name are given special thanks, I guess you make the movie be about whatever they want it to be about... Draskoczy's company Snow 23
"was created to explore the fusion of graphic design, film, and art" and that's pretty much what we get with Perfect Heat.Skewed
is the product of another NYU film school grad, Jeremy Wechter. Saw the ending coming from a mile away. Wechter has a feature length screenplay of the same title... which I could be lured into checking out as a full-length movie only if the ending isn't as obvious as in the short. Perhaps a different ending altogether, even.
One of the animated shorts was Red Planet Blues
, from David H. Brooks, who apparently also made a video called Doh Doh Island for Hasbro. A movie about Playdoh? Not sure. He's also the guy behind "Christmastime for the Jews" which we saw on SNL in December. I thought the film was cute, but didn't like it as much as Pramas and Michelle seemed to. I guess I can only spare so much affection for cute little claymation Martians.
After the intermission (where all 700+ attendees were forced outside into the cold to stand in line for re-entry) we got some better seats and although I was hungry I was more comfortable by far. The Second Screening started off with a bang:Super-Anon
was a delightfully funny 10-minute short, originally created as part of the Reelfast 48-hour Film Festival.
The topic: a support group for the not-so-super siblings of superheroes. Again, this film's inclusion in the "sci-fi" film festival stretches my personal definition of science fiction, but I was willing to go with it. Apparently, the director is devoutly Christian and part of a Christian fellowship organization that provides support for Canadian Christians in the Vancouver, BC film industry. CandianChristianity.com
gives the film a nice write-up despite the complete lack of "overt Christian content."
Hot on the heels of Super-Anon, we watched the festival's eventual First Place winner, Stephen O'Regan's take on Terry Bisson's
Nebula nominated short story They're Made Out of Meat
. Terry Bisson was one of the people on hand for the festival and he assisted in moderating the Q&A sessions with the directors as well. They're Made Out of Meat was a solid story, the cast as set were great, it was a very solid entry. During the Q&A some wild X-File geek wanted to know how O'Regan got Tom Noonan
to be in his movie, and O'Regan's answer was, essentially, "I asked him." And paid him, of course.
Israel's Omri Bar-Levy had a fun, wordless short that he insists cost only about $50 to make. It really reminded me much more of a music video than a short film, but maybe I'm just getting technical in my definitions. Heartbeat
was still pretty cool, definitely solidly "sci fi" in flavor. When Bar-Levy was asked if he had the middle east peace process in mind when he made the film, he responded only with "No." How often does the poor guy get asked that, I wonder... I can't imagine how irritating it would be if every New York artist was asked if he had the World Trade Center bombings in mind whenever he made a film. Bar-Levy and his father were in the audience, and Heartbeat also received Honorable Mention.Into the Maelstrom
was a very X-Files/CSI/anywhere people roam around in the dark with flashlights kind of film, from writer/director Peter Sullivan. Sullivan's done a lot of film work in the past and is supposedly currently working on a remake of the "1973 cult classic" Invasion of the Bee Girls. Michelle and I wondered why anyone would want to remake Invasion of the Bee Girls, but hey, more power to him. The film had a great, believable set, but the plot was (like Skewed) so obvious that I could see it coming a mile away and the surprise was anything but. Looked good but there wasn't enough to it for my taste. On the other hand, it was apparently made for the 48 Hour Film Project
, a different but similar project to the ReelFast 48-hour Film Festival, so I don't judge it too harshly.
I had the same reaction to LT Gil's short, The Hard Ages - Trial Run
. Gil is apparently working up The Hard Ages as a series, and the next installment has the great title Abject Justice, but I really felt like I was walking into the middle of something, didn't really understand what the short was supposed to be about, and it ended with a "to be continued" which left me confused and unsatisfied. Lots of CGI in this one.
Jonathan Joffe's Cost of Living
was probably my favorite of the shorts. It combined science fiction and social commentary with two wonderful performances from William B. Davis and Andrew Krivaneck. Really nice. This one has apparently won some other awards and recognition as well, including Best Sci-Fi Short 2005 at Dragon*Con of all things.
Coming from farthest away (Oslo or Sydney, depending on where Frode Klevstul
calls home at the moment), neoplasia
was a short with a very European sensibility, in that Soren Kierkegaard kind of way. The film literature asks "In a world ruled by technocrats, what if technology fails? In a place where only the best ones survive, what if the wrong person is selected?". neoplasia was Klevstul's graduate project for the Victorian College of the Arts School of Film and Television.
Thankfully, Erin Condy's funny animated short, Welcome to Eden
came along after the depressing neoplasia to lift my spirits. Condy is a former astronomy student at Vassar College, who did an about face and went off to the USC School of Cinema-Television's Division of Animation and Digital Arts. Welcome to Eden was very cute. I personally liked it better than Red Planet Blues, but I think I was in the minority.
Local favorite and The Stranger's film critic, Andy Spletzer
barely finished his short film, Wireless
, before it had to be shown at the festival. I was going to say it had a very noir tone, but then Spletzer said he'd personally never seen it that dark himself, so perhaps the noir-feel was by accident. The story was cute, the actors mostly alright, though the hot chick they got to play the hot chick had that flat porn-actress-style delivery that I didn't care for. Oh well, who cares, it was fun and gets points for being local.
The show ended with Microgravity
, which placed (second or third, I can't remember) but also won a special surprise technical award from Douglas Trumbull
. The story itself was meandering and confusing (was it just a dream, a dream within a dream, a psychotic break, the dream of someone who has had a psychotic break?) but it was well acted, and well-shot. The set was great and the "space walk" stuff in particular was very good. Very 2001: A Space Odyssey. The set was apparently all Boeing salvage materials.
Whew. There you go. Now you have some things to keep an eye out for should a short film festival roll into your town. This has gotten me in the mood for doing the SIFF this year and I'll certainly go to the Science Fiction Short Film Festival next year. In April, it's Ray Harryhausen appearing at the Science Fiction Museum.