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06 Jun 2017

Summer Is the Time for Shorts: The Palm Springs International ShortFest Returns to the Camelot

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A scene from The Good Mother, one of the five films competing for the Palm Springs International Shortfest’s Online Film Festival Award. Members of the public can watch the five films and vote for their favorite at the film festival’s website through 5 p.m. on Friday, June 23. A scene from The Good Mother, one of the five films competing for the Palm Springs International Shortfest’s Online Film Festival Award. Members of the public can watch the five films and vote for their favorite at the film festival’s website through 5 p.m. on Friday, June 23.

The month of June brings the Palm Springs International ShortFest—the largest short-film festival on the continent.

This leads to a common question: “What makes a film a short?” The answer: No, it has nothing to do with the height of the director. Instead, a “short film” is any motion picture not long enough to be considered a “feature film.” The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences defines a short film as “an original motion picture that has a running time of 40 minutes or less, including all credits.” Sometimes, the synopsis may seem longer than the actual movie.

Lili Rodriguez is the festival director of the Palm Springs International ShortFest. Festival organizers receive more than 4,200 submissions for about 325 slots, organized into 90-minute themed screenings—and the nature of the films submitted often reflects the social and political issues of our time.

“This year, we’ve seen a lot of films about race relations in the United States, as well as about migration,” said Rodriguez.

So, how does a film make it into the festival?

“Films go through a selection process that includes a screening committee of around 20 people and four programmers,” Rodriguez explained via email. “Programmers select the final films that will play, and our goal is to have a balanced program that includes talent from all over the world and films with different perspectives and across many genres.”

Short films, like feature films, come in a variety of genres, including documentaries, fiction films and animated films. Many directors have honed their skills using the short format; Wes Anderson, Sam Raimi and Neill Blomkamp are just a few who did. The films are sometimes shown at the theater before a feature—usually the case with Pixar films, for example—or via avenues like AdultSwim.

I asked Rodriguez what she felt the festival’s goal is. “ShortFest is a platform meant to discover and nurture talent,” she said. “Our goal is to provide emerging and established filmmakers a space where they can learn and network—a space where short form is king.”

The festival also includes the ShortFest Film Market. It’s is the only short film market in the U.S., and includes more than 3,500 titles. Unfortunately, the market is not open to the public, but just to industry insiders and professionals. This is one reason why many sales people, distributors, filmmakers and others come specifically to the Palm Springs International Shortfest.

Originally, shorts were included as part of the Palm Springs International Film Festival—until organizers realized the shorts deserved a festival of their own.

“Shorts used to get programmed with feature-length films in the January festival, the Palm Springs International Film Festival, but in 1995, it broke off to be its own thing,” she explained. This is a good thing: I volunteered at the Palm Springs International Film Festival this year, and I can’t imagine where they could even try to fit in short films.

The Palm Springs International ShortFest will take place Tuesday, June 20, through Monday, June 26, at the Camelot Theatres, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets for individual screenings are $13, and six-packs of tickets are $69. For tickets or more information, call www.psfilmfest.org/2017-shortfest.

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