Sundance ShortLab workshop brings out big-time directors
Published: Monday, May 16, 2011
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
If you have any slight interest in independent filmmaking, then there's a good chance you're familiar with the Sundance Film Festival held in Utah every January. What might have slipped under your radar was the Sundance Institute's new program that highlights aspects on short filmmaking called ShortsLab.
Originally started in Los Angeles in 2010, ShortsLab has expanded it's short film workshop to Chicago and New York this year to give a small slice of the rest of the country a taste of what this program has to offer. ShortsLab featured four different panels that covered various aspects in the short film making process, each populated by diverse figures in the industry that gave their own insights on how one can make their short film successful in such a saturated market.
ShortsLab found their home at Columbia College May 7 and was greeted by a more or less full house when the program started. After a brief introduction of what the program would cover, we were introduced to Jared Hess, director of "Napoleon Dynamite," and Aaron Schneider, director of "Get Low," for the first panel covering the story aspect of a short film. ShortsLab could not have picked a better pair to discuss their distinct and extremely contrasting success stories that spawned from their original short films.
Before "Napoleon Dynamite," Jared Hess created a short film during college that briefly sketched out a day in Napoleon Dynamite's life (back then his name was Seth) for less than $500 and a weekend to film. This goofy black and white comedy was admittedly put together last minute with very little resources (they used a gas station clerk to be an actor on the spot) but caught the attention of many, launching Jared Hess to the production of the full length "Napoleon Dynamite" the next year.
Aaron Schneider, on the other hand, was already in the movie industry as a cinematographer and decided to put his life savings into a short film entitled "Two Soldiers." "Two Soldiers" is based on a William Faulkner short story that tells the tale of a young man who leaves his brother back on their farm to fight in World War II.
The two shared their experiences in what is possible when making a short film and were met with a Q&A with the audiences. The differences in these two success stories should give short filmmakers the idea that if your film is a touching drama or a comedy starring a dingus with a fanny pack, you'll only make it to their level if you're original.
The next panel touched on the production side of the film making process. The most notable speaker was Yancey Strickler, the co-founder of up-and-coming yet already wildly popular community funding website, Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a community-funding platform that allows artists to raise money toward a certain goal for a project that they're working on. Internet dwellers have the option to pledge a certain amount towards the project. The catch is that the artist will only receive the donations if the funding goal is reached. This all-or-nothing funding program can deliver some serious payout if your presentation is attention grabbing, and is a serious option for short film makers, as well as any type of artist, that is held back from achieving their dream project due to lack of funds.
The rest of the event covered the different distribution and funding methods for one's short film and local film festivals in Chicago that could help your short film gain some notable attention throughout the industry. Those who attended this event got a firsthand look at how they can push their film to be the masterpiece that they've been hoping for. While the advice that this even gave was invaluable to those who attended Sundance ShortLabs first hand, do not feel left out of the loop if you passed on this program. What it boils down to is one's intuition and originality while crafting their short film. If you don't have either of those attributes, then all the advice in the world is pretty much moot.