Shorts, in a bunch
Local short-film fest debuts with a packed schedule
Chico, CA 95926
When the organizers of the Show Us Your Shorts! Film Festival sent out a call for submissions in March, they’d initially set their expectations on the low side.
“We were hoping for six,” said Renee Boyd, one of seven local film aficionados and filmmakers who’ve combined resources to organize the fest. “We were shocked and thrilled when we started getting a lot more than that.”
By the June 30 submission deadline, they had received nearly two dozen entries, some from Chico and Northern California but many from across the United States. Although the event was originally planned as a one-night showcase, the amount of material justified—and necessitated—a bona-fide three-day festival at the Chico Cabaret.
The festival kicks off tonight (Aug. 11) with a showcase of local films made by the SUYS! organizers and those who are otherwise not eligible for the competition (prizes include $300 for best film and $50 for best “brief,” or film shorter than two minutes, with winners chosen by the audience).
Among the first night’s films is Fray, a psychological thriller by Shawn Dyer. Fray boasts an excellent score by local musicians and a nonlinear narrative, and packs more twists in 20 minutes than most 90-minute blockbusters. Dyer and his business partner James Smith are festival organizers and also own Not Quite Hollywood, a local film- and video-production company.
Friday night focuses on the festival entries, with more than three hours of films topping off at the 25-minute range (entries had to be less than 40 minutes). These include Buster Jones: The Movie, a five-minute trailer for a badass Blaxploitation-Fu flick viewers will wish creators Dylan Hober and Robert Parham of Suisun City would actually make.
Tea Ball is a hilarious six-minute romp from North Hollywood writer/director Kevin Gregg about one man’s peculiar obsession, and Why We Climb is a six-minute rock-climbing documentary beautifully shot on location in Joshua Tree by Chico musician/filmmaker Dash Weidhofer.
Saturday will be a marathon showing of all 32 films.
On Friday and Saturday night attendees are urged to literally do as the festival’s title suggests, with prizes given for the most creative or outrageous shorts (as in clothing). And before show time Thursday, a filmmaker dinner with food by Round Table Pizza will give the audience the opportunity to meet and greet the filmmakers.
Organizers said they were not only surprised at the quantity of films they received, but the quality as well: “People put a lot of effort into these, and it shows,” said Bill Donnelly, an organizer and founder of Ciao, the Consortium of Indies, Artists and Others, a Chico-based group of film-minded individuals. “It’s incredible what people can do with little or no budget. I would describe the overall quality as ‘surprisingly good.’”
“These are all short, low-budget films, not major Hollywood productions, but there’s quality in there, and things you won’t see in a Hollywood movie,” said Brent Boyd, who is Renee’s husband and, in addition to helping organize the festival, sits on the board of directors at the Chico Cabaret. “Of course you won’t see big explosions and stuff like that, but you’ll see some great work and a lot of things more tangible to the everyday person.”
The people behind SUYS! said their focus is on the fun, as well as the art, of film: “We just wanted to make it very filmmaker-centric,” said organizer Jasmine Ingersoll, a filmmaker and photographer. We wanted an open place where the film and the community could mingle and get to know each other.”
“It’s going to be largely a very informal, chill kind of atmosphere,” Smith added. “Some film festivals can be very … organized. Maybe micromanaged is a better term. Ours will be just come in, laugh, joke, have some beers, and have a good time.”
“It’s a really great networking event as well, a chance for all kinds of filmmakers to get together and talk about their last project and their next project, share ideas and maybe help each other out,” Brent Boyd said.
The organizers are already looking to next year, hoping that SUYSFF will return in 2012 and become an annual event.