The 13th annual Los Angeles Shorts Festival kicked off Thursday night with the directorial debuts of three prominent Hollywood women – Scarlett Johansson, Courteney Cox and writer Kirsten Smith (“Legally Blonde,” “The Ugly Truth”).
Running through Friday at Laemmle’s Sunset 5 Theater in West Hollywood, the fest is the largest in the world. In the past, 33 films have received Academy Award nominations and 11 have won the Oscars.
Thursday night’s shorts split into two groups. Johansson’s “These Vagabond Shoes” was paired with Russian filmmaker Andrei Zvyagintsev’s “Apocrypha,” both world premieres as independent shorts that previously had been as parts of the feature “New York, I Love You.”
Zvyagintsev — who won the Golden Lion at the 2003 Venice Film Festival for "The Return" and whose last film, "The Banishment." screened in competition at Cannes — captured the city near the riverfront. Johannson took her camera to the waterfront where a man (Kevin Bac, as shown by a teenager with a camera, Johansson’s takes it to the ocean, as Kevin Bacon’s character ends his quest across the city looking out at the Atlantic, eating a hot dog.
“I started to think about what in New York means most to me and that ultimately comes down to Nathan’s hot dogs,” Johansson joked in a Q & A following the shorts.
Also tying the films together was an especially lengthy credit sequence that played after each of them, drawing laughter and multiple ovations and eventually prompting Johansson to apologize and joke that she had never spoken to any of the lawyers listed.
The latter and longer two shorts, Cox’s “The Monday Before Thanksgiving” and Smith’s “The Splenectomy,” were both part of collaboration with Glamour magazine that brought real-life stories to the big screen.
“Thanksgiving” stars Laura Dern (“Rambling Rose,” “Jurassic Park”) as a successful single woman learning to be satisfied with her decisions while “Splenectomy” stars Anna Faris as a “community theater actor who has a really bad day.”
Both Cox and Smith joined Johansson on stage afterwards as part of the Q & A, during which they mostly responded to questions about the experience of directing and the medium of the short film.
“I never knew where to put all my stuff,” Smith jibed, adding that she would have a fanny pack for her next film to put her lip balm and notebooks in.
Johansson raved about her chance to direct. “I have never been so happy as I was behind the camera. It’s something I always wanted to do.”
Cox, the lone of the three to also act in her short, frequently found herself at a loss for words. “You say things so nicely first,” Cox said of Johansson.
All three said that they would be looking to direct again, something Cox already had the opportunity to do, but had to pass up due to her upcoming TV series “Cougartown.”
The Festival runs through next Friday, culminating in the awards ceremony.