Why do filmmakers create short films? Sometimes they are truly motivated to tell a story which only fits in a short format. Other times, it is to show off their skills in order to establish their credentials. Once in a while, they may make a short version of a film that they ultimately want to turn into a feature length production. At this year’s Dances With Films (DWF) festival, held in Hollywood in June, the selection of short films was impressive and contained examples which both fit into and transcended the above reasons. And, there are probably a few more reasons that I haven’t figured out yet.
Three films I found impressive all dealt with our perception of what is real: Funny Love, Waste Paper, and Waiting for You.
Funny Love – Showing Off in a Good Way
In Funny Love, directed by world famous magician Stuart MacLeod, we see what some might have considered an impossible challenge turned in to a short masterpiece.
What would you think if someone came to you and proposed this: “Let’s make a love story about a clown and a faerie. We won’t set it in a fantasy world. We’ll just tell it in the modern world and none of the other characters will find the clown or the faerie out of the ordinary. The film will be a comedy involving suicide, and, oh, did I mention it will be a silent film?”
If you were feeling compassionate you would probably get the person to sit down and try to find them some warm milk. If not you might be looking for the nearest exit. In the case of Funny Love, either choice would have been a mistake.
MacLeod, with co-writers Adrian Elizondo (who plays the clown) and Jenni Melear (the faerie) took the impossible task and created a film that is charming, funny, and touching. It is a tribute to the filmmaker’s art that in less than half an hour you find yourself connected to and caring about what happens to these two unlikely characters living in an impossible world. And oh, did I mention the film was silent? Not in a Charlie Chaplin way, however. The film is in bright, cheerful color and, instead of title cards, the written dialogue is integrated into the film. For instance, we see “Hi” written on Clown’s hand, or information is written on a sign or other unlikely place. Totally unreal, but it gets to you anyway. It also has an original score composed by totally unreal London cabaret artist Mister Joe Black.
Speaking of unreal, I discovered this film in the men’s room of the Chinese 6 Theatres. Producer Wes Kemp admitted to me that he was the one who placed the film’s promotional material above the urinals. Ah, the glamourous life of a film producer.
Waste Paper –It could be a feature
The world premiere of Waste Paper at DWF, written and directed by Derrick D. Pete, takes us into another unreal world – a waste basket.
The film uses a combination of live action and innovative animation to tell the story of a cartoon illustration that has been thrown into a waste basket by the animator.
Once there, the illustration discovers that he is not alone. He leads the other forgotten characters in a struggle to avoid the fate that many of us fear. They do not want to be forgotten by their creator.
The actors, Mykee Selkin (The Gallery), Doris Morgado (2 Guns), and Miguel Sagaz (A Mother’s Rage), personify the inner voice of the artist, the antagonist, and his abandoned characters. Sagaz does double duty as the animator and his alter-ego in the waste basket, Chancellor Mot.
The animation allows us to find the universality in this story which is at once both sad and hopeful. It’s tagline: “Drawn, But Not Forgotten.”
Waiting for You – The grey area between two worlds
In Waiting for You, writer/director Susan Matus does not take us into an unreal fantasy world as in the two films above, but brings in to question the boundaries between our perceived reality and the blurry lines that separate this life from the next.
Ralph Michiel (A Broken Code, Family Times) plays a man who is confined by old age to a chair in front of his TV. Dalit Berkowitz (Game of Scones, The Vineyard) plays his loving daughter who does her best to comfort and care for him.
If you are a baby-boomer like me, and in my case with a daughter who loves me, this film might touch you on another level. It is one thing to contemplate your mortality at age 20 and an entirely different experience at 66.
When you get a chance to watch this film, and I hope you do, watch it closely. There are subtle hints to the twist at the end. Rod Serling would have liked Waiting for You.
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