There are no small films, only shorter running times. That was the sentiment at Thursday’s Third Annual ShortList Film Fest hosted at YouTube Space LA. And while of course it’s an honor to be nominated, the two big winners were “Not It,” which came out with the audience prize, and “Noah,” which took home the jury award.
And what’s surprising about each of the winners? Both films cost only $300 to produce.
Writer/director Pablo Orta’s “Not It,” shot in Mexico, follows a group of kids who draw straws to carry out an uncomfortable task. Previous to TheWrap’s Shortlist Film Festival, the four-plus minute film earned an Honorable Mention when it screened at Festival Internacional de Cine en Guadalajara.
“You couldn’t compete with my mother’s ruthlessness when it comes to promoting me on Facebook,” joked Orta after his win. Orta said he hoped that his short film shined a light on conditions south of the border. Orta told TheWrap that he will likely use the prize money toward his parents’ mortgage or a Masters degree.
Writer/directors Patrick Cederberg and Walter Woodman’s 17-minute “Noah” follows a young man who destroys his relationship with his girlfriend while pasting together the information available to him online.
Actress Rose McGowan, who recently became a short film director, presented the prizes to the filmmakers. She used her moment at the podium to plead with writers and directors to promote filmmaking as art and implored the filmmakers to offer up meaty roles for women.
“I’ve been in this business since I was fifteen years old. I have fallen victim to the hands of unimaginative, mean, and stupid directors, and I’m gonna ask you to not be them,” said McGowan. “I want you to give them [women] dimensional roles. I want you not to call them whores.”
Over 8,000 voters weighed in on twelve finalists who were curated from the best short films shown at festivals throughout the year. Each film will be awarded $5,000 and the filmmakers will have the opportunity to consult with a production executive at Cinedigm.
“It’s been insane,” said Woodman of the past year. “Noah” won Best Short at the Toronto International Film Festival and garnered over 10 million YouTube video views.
Woodman says he plans on reinvesting most of the $5,000 into new projects, but the Toronto-based filmmaker said he also has an eye on a Brookstone massager he saw while in L.A.
“We don’t have Brookstone back home,” Woodman said.
An expert panel kicked off the evening’s award ceremony and included producer David Friendly, UTA agent Hailey Wierengo, producer Ron Yerxa, filmmaker Rory Kennedy and SVP of Participant Robert Kessel.
“A story should have a beginning, middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order,” said Friendly, citing the great Jean-Luc Godard. “Short films are a challenging format with the limited time frame. That’s a lot of pressure from the get go.”
What can be even more challenging for short filmmakers is getting audiences to pay attention to their work. To give you an idea of how crowded the space is, YouTube uploads 100 hours of filmed content every minute. The panel discussed at length the best ways for short filmmakers to attract attention.
“For me it’s always about someone finding their voice,” said Kessel. “Things that are special pop.”
Most panelists agreed that shorter is better, Wierengo noted that it’s much easier to program shorts into festivals if they run under eight minutes.
“But if it sustains interest,” countered Yerxa. “There were films in this group that were a little long, but they were so riveting that it didn’t matter.”
“It’s so easy to push a button and forward material now,” said Friendly. “But short films can become a really great calling card for genuine employment.”
And the filmmakers are willing to go to great lengths to create that calling card.
Max Kirby, who directed the finalists entitled “The Phone Call,” sold his car for $8,000 to finance part of his $20,000 budget. The short also offered up some star power with Sally Hawkins and Jim Broadbent.
“I harassed Sally at a theater,” said Kirby. “Then I was able to take her out to tea.” Kirby’s film went on to win Best Narrative at the Tribeca Film Festival.
“It was totally worth it,” said Kirby. “But I owe a lot of people a lot of favors.”
The films played on EPIX and the awards ceremony will air exclusively on the channel soon. The cash prizes were underwritten by YouTube and EPIX. MTV also sponsored the festival.
Watch TheWrap’s ShortList panel discussion: