The finalists of this year’s ShortList Film Festival joined TheWrap founder and editor-in-chief Sharon Waxman Wednesday at the IMAX Headquarters to discuss their short films, which were wildly varied in both their artistic styles and the challenges that came with making them.
Among them was Uttara Singh, who won ShortList’s first Student Award for “Fanny Pack,” a comedy starring her as an aspiring photographer trying to get on a flight to New York while being pursued by her disapproving father (Brian George; “The Big Bang Theory”). Singh talked about shooting the film at Bob Hope Airport as a MFA student at USC and how she had to quickly film scenes before boarding call announcements on the PA system drowned out the dialogue.
“We would be saying, ‘Please! Please! Just two minutes, we don’t want any announcements!’ And they just looked at me…” she said. “So we had to time the announcements and we were shooting right when the announcements stopped. We did it, but there were a few dialogues we had to dub later.”
Joining Singh on the winners’ podium was Joe Talbot, who won the Audience Award for “American Paradise,” a dark comedy based on the true story of a white bank robber who wore a hyperrealistic mask that made him look like a black man, sending police looking in the wrong direction. Along with honors at ShortList, “American Paradise” was selected to screen at Sundance and won the Gamechanger Award at SXSW, with critics calling it a timely social commentary in the age of Trump.
“We used the [same type of] mask that this guy used in real life, which is this thousand-dollar, Hollywood silicone mask,” Talbot said. “We shot this before Trump was elected, so it’s been strange watching it travel the festival circuit since, because I think it’s changed in some ways.”
Some of the finalists were fortunate enough to have immediate help to make their projects a reality. Talbot credited his producers, including Khaliah Neal, for helping him assemble the film’s production team and finding its lead star, Sky Elobar (“The Greasy Strangler”). Others, like Singh and some of the other student filmmakers, were able to find support from their film schools.
But Loyola Marymount MFA student Quran Squire said he needed to really put the work in to find the funds for “Curiosities of the Quiet Boy,” his supernatural short about a deaf boy who finds some strange encounters while mourning the death of his mother.
“You just make it happen,” he said. “You call up everybody who believes in you. […] A lot of the money came from what I saved up but also a huge portion of it came from people who said ‘We see what you’re doing and we support you and as an artist of color, we need more of you.’”
Check out more of the ShortList finalists’ remarks in the clip above.