For those who like their movies like their lunch breaks — high quality, independent and less than 45 minutes — Shortsfest is the Atlanta festival to attend. For 10 years, Shortsfest has screened cinematic selections for Atlanta film lovers in a multiple-day event.
This past weekend, Shortsfest screened about 80 short films ranging from political to nostalgic to absurdist, with central themes including police violence, childhood crushes and poop jokes. Screened in blocks by genre with filmmaker Q&A sessions afterward, the films entertained audiences of cinema enthusiasts, the curious and industry workers looking to build connections.
“Every year, the film selections get better, and judging gets more difficult,” said Atlanta Film Series founder Eric Panter. “After 10 years, we’re now screening films by award-winning filmmakers from across the world.”
“Attention spans today are much shorter. People really gravitate toward shorter formats,” said Shortsfest director Cameron Munson. “Here, you can come to see 20 films in an hour and a half.”
Shortsfest, part of the 15-year-old Atlanta Film Series, grew out of the series’ Atlanta Underground Film Festival after audiences showed an overwhelming interest in the program’s shorts portion. The Atlanta Film Series, which is hosted at Midtown’s 140-seat Synchronicity Theatre, includes events for horror and documentary films as well.
This year, Shortsfest organizers narrowed their selections from about 1,000 submissions. The process involved a group of screeners who each viewed every submission and took part in the decision-making.
“It takes a team to do that,” Munson said. “It’s a lot of hours.”
In a state with a multibillion-dollar film industry that’s home to big-name studios like Turner, Tyler Perry and Pinewood, Shortsfest provides a space for newer, independent, experimental and budget-minded filmmakers to showcase their work.
“I think there’s more creativity when something is low-budget,” Munson said. “It makes you work harder and think harder, and the heart of a project will really show through.”
Filmmaker John VonMutius attended Shortsfest with wife Laura, who’s also his creative partner. They showcased their first film, a sci-fi thriller titled Time Was.
“We relied heavily on friends to make this film,” said VonMutius, whose budget was less than $1,000. “We called in some favors. Everybody was really excited to work on the film.”
Brittney Rae’s film Proximity — her second short — had a budget 10 times that size. Though she started in the film industry as an actor, she wrote, directed and starred in her dramatic short. “As an actress, so often you get typecast,” said Rae, who’s based in Los Angeles after a move from New York City. “I wanted to play certain roles that were not offered to me. So I wrote them.”
“Most filmmakers get their feet wet with short films,” said Munson. “A lot of people end up finding their niche by trying out different genres of short films.”
Thy Vo, a recent SCAD graduate, codirected, animated and served as project manager for Tutorial Skip?, a video-game-inspired short. It was her senior film project. “I wanted to make something that was fun for people to work on and fun to watch,” she said. “It was a passion project.”
Many of the films had extensive “special thanks” sections in their credits, spots to recognize the small donors.
Time was set aside each day of the fest for filmmakers — from Atlantans to international directors — to talk and network. “You never know,” said Munson. “Someone may know somebody who can help you get financing for your next film. It’s a hard business. These filmmakers need to be applauded. I’ll take a low-budget indie film over a big-budget blockbuster any day.”
The winning films are listed on Shortsfest’s website.
The Atlanta Film Series’ other events take place later this year, also at Synchronicity Theatre. The Atlanta Underground Film Festival is August 15–18, the Atlanta Horror Film Festival is September 12–15 and the Atlanta Docufest is November 7–10.