Earthquakes, war in Iraq, tsunamis, unemployment, war in Afghanistan, housing prices in the dumps, nuclear reactor meltdowns, riots in the streets, and Moammar Qaddafi in really cute sweaters: isn’t there anything in the news that can bring a smile to my face?
Well, if, besides smiles, you don’t mind having to text your friends “LMAO” all day, then you’ll want to check out the Los Angeles Comedy Shorts Film Festival, happening April 7 – 10 at the Downtown Independent Theater (251 S. Main St.) and the Movie Magic Screenwriter Competition run in conjunction with the festival.
LACSFF (don’t try to pronounce that it will just make you cough) begins its 3rd year celebrating comedic short films and the people who make them. Their press release says LACSFF (cough, cough) is “touted as the largest comedy film festival in the US, introducing the freshest comedy talent to the industry.” I looked up “touted” and it means exaggerated or boastfully, so they may be fibbing, but don’t let that bother you. I attended last year and it was the most fun I’ve had since I went with four of my college buddies to Mexico for spring break. (Note to Margaret – That was long before I met you, dear.)
Just to make sure there were no more exaggerations I cornered Festival Artistic Director Gary Anthony Williams (MADtv, The Boondocks , Boston Legal) and interrogated him about some critical issues. I wondered why I wasn’t in the Festival, so I asked: “As a beginning filmmaker, was I not in class the day you came to visit or do you find festival films some other way?”
Gary made a claim I refuse to confirm: “You were in class. You were just busy talking to that new French exchange student about the importance of snobbery. Our films come from online submissions. We do a healthy combination of online advertising, word of mouth, and good old ‘cross-fingered’ hope.”
Undeterred, I focused in on the selection process: “How many entries were screened and did you ever fall asleep watching them?” Gary explained, “We screened in the ballpark of 800 shorts and read about 800 scripts for the screenplay competition. Falling asleep was not permitted. We did get very good at jogging in place as we drank hot coffee, however.”
I decided to take a different tack: “Gary, characters are supposed to have a ‘need.’ What is the need that motivates you characters to put on this festival?”
Gary explained his plot: “Jeannie (Roshar – Festival Director) and I wrote a comedy short a few years ago. Though it played at many a festival, our film was always mixed in with dramatic pieces where someone died or a child from a war-torn country lost his puppy during a freedom march. Heart tugging stuff. We just wanted to create a festival where a comedy was guaranteed to win. And where, if someone was going to die in a film, it better damn well be a funny death.”
“What about last year?” I asked. “Did any of last year’s festival winners go on to bigger deals, and if so how will you spend your cut?”
Gary pretended to be amused: “Great question. I love two-parters. In addition to being set up with industry meetings, the previous years’ winners have signed contracts with production companies as well as networks. The only cut we get is a nice email. But honestly, that should be payment enough. Right?”
I felt that I had talked to him long enough to hit him up for a job. This is LA after all. “Gary,” I said with all the sincerity I could muster, “Can I be the old, fat guy in shorts next year?”
Gary was magnanimous: “Yes, old fat guy. You can be THE OFFICIAL old fat guy in shorts next year. As my mama says, ‘Never stop an old Fat Guy from squeezing into tiny little shiny shorts. And pick up them shoes! You think I’m a damn maid? Well I ain’t. If I was I sure as hell wouldn’t be working here with your shoes laying all around. Matter of fact, I’d get a maid job for a Polynesian family. They don’t even like wearing shoes!’ She rambles on sometimes. Mostly about shoes and old fat men.”
I thanked Gary because I remembered that at the LACSFF there are also parties every night.
This year’s parties, I mean films, kick off with an Opening Night screening of celebrity shorts, starring such talent as Michael Cera (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), Scott Thompson (Kids in the Hall), Rex Lee (Entourage), and Tim Daly (The Practice), along with some brand new shorts from FunnyorDie.com.
Filmmakers will compete for over $25,000 in cash and prizes in kooky categories, like the “Atomic Wedgie Best Comedy ‘Shortie’ Short”, the “Elevate Best Student Short” and the “State Tax Credit Exchange Audience Choice Award.”
For those of you who are serious about your laughing, industry panels will take place each day, such as the popular “Famous People Talkin’ About Stuff” and “Let’s Get Digital, Digital”
Awards will be given out at a party.
The Movie Magic Screenwriter Competition runs in conjunction with the festival. (Doesn’t conjuncting hurt?) Winning scripts are read by some of the biggest agencies in the industry.
The feature screenplay finalists include Escaping Phoenix, by Dani Lyman, Brother of the Bride, by Helen Castles, and Most Likely to Conceive, by Patrick Hasson & Aitan Spring.
In the half-hour TV pilot category, finalists are High Noon-ish, by Bob Yates, Morley and Leslie, by Thomas O’Connor, and Those Qaddam Arabs, by Ayser Salman.
The winner of the Best Short Screenplay will either be The Curse of Don Scarducci, by Chris Fondulas, Validation, by Berenice Freedome, or Short Thugs, The Musical, by Kevin Avery.
LET THE SCREENING BEGIN:
Films will be screened in the afternoons and evenings. The screening schedule lives at www.lacomedyshorts.com
You can get tickets at www.lacomedyshorts.com up to 12 hours before the start of the event. Prices are $12 for individual screenings and panels; $50 for a Day Pass, which provides access to all screenings, panels and parties for that day; and $149 for a VIP All-Access Festival Pass, which includes priority entrance to all screenings, panels, parties as well as the Filmmaker Lounge and cocktail receptions at the theater. A limited number of tickets are also available for the Opening Night “Celebrity Karaoke” Party and the Closing Night Red Carpet Awards Gala.
And, of course, for pre-event laughs, you can follow the LA Comedy Short Film Festival on Facebook and Twitter (@lacomedyshorts).
Did I mention that there will be parties?
For additional info contact Carol Marshall Public Relations.