Studies of really young love won top honors at two LA film events last month. At the LA Comedy Shorts Festival (LACSF) the Audience Award went to Harry Grows Up by Writer /Director Mark Nickelsburg, and Writer Cindy Chupack. At the second annual Collaboration Filmmakers Challenge, both the judge’s and the audience awards went to A Simple Test, earning Jonathan Smith and his collaborator Mike Carrier the $5,000 top prize.
The theme for Harry Grows Up is “New York is a tough place to find love, especially for an eighteen-month-old living on his own.” The film is shot in black and white and evokes Woody Allen and Erich Segal as Harry loses his 20-something baby-sitter in a classic park bench break-up scene. He then connects with an 18-month old girl friend. But will he stay with her, or leave her for a new baby-sitter?
The photography is amazing. How often do you see an 18-month old walking down an empty New York street. In a Q&A after the film, Nickelsburg related that actually Harry was holding his mother’s hand, but she was digitally removed. The dialogue, mostly narration by Harry, is funny because it satires the kind of all-too-serious steam-of-consciousness we’ve heard in many romances and rom-coms.
The humor in many of the films at LA Comedy Shorts this year was similar in that it poked fun at filmmaking conceits: cliches, shots and situations that make up the language of film. If you had grown up on a desert island and not seen the product of Hollywood before, you probably would still laugh at a man slipping on a banana peel. The humor in many of this years films, however, would go past you like a joke in an unknown language. This festival was a funny tour-de-force for film nerds. If you like film and laughter, put LACSF on your calendar for next year.
The Collaboration Filmmakers Challenge is an event where filmmakers get ten days to write, produce and complete their film. This year, filmmakers had to use a theme based on a quotation from Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, “It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees!”
For most of the filmmakers involved, this translated to films about courage. A Simple Test tells the story of two teens facing a potential unplanned pregnancy. The test involves not only the obvious physical one, but moral, economic and romantic aspects and turns out to be anything but simple.
Tarquinio, only 13, gave a performance way beyond her years. I thought she was 16 or 17 until I spoke with Kottkamp at the reception after the awards ceremony. Conversely, Kottkamp plays younger, looking way less than his actual age of 18. Kottkamp projects a boyish, nerdiness (in person as well as on screen) and is probably headed for roles like those currently played by actors like Jay Baruchel or Jesse Eisenberg.
So, young love triumphed at both the LA Comedy Shorts Festival and the Collaboration Filmmakers Challenge, and unlike Romeo and Juliet, no one had to die in the end. But if they had, I’m sure it would have been really funny.