Wednesday, September 05, 2007

2007 Dragon*Con Independent Short Film Festival - General Recap

Also posting on Southern Screen Report
The 2007 Dragon*Con Independent Short Film Festival was the main event (or "Track" as the convention topics are referred to) that I attended as part of Dragon*Con, "America's largest, multi-media, popular arts convention focusing on science fiction and fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, and film." The majority of screenings took place in the Learning Center of the Hyatt Regency. Though it resembled a classroom, the organizers installed a fairly high quality sound and projection system that was near perfectly calibrated for the space! Also, and this is no small issue, the chairs were fabulous! They were nice, large, executive office chairs, which rocked and swiveled and made the marathon screening schedule more than endurable.

The screening schedules started at 9:00 a.m. and ended at 6:00 a.m. the next morning, for three of the four days. This was intimidating, though HIGHLY tempting! I maintained a 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. pattern, since I was not staying in the hotel (which I may do next year!) and needed to go home to sleep and shower (though I admit that I missed a shower on Sunday morning). Feeding is a bit of an issue, and being a newbie, I never took advantage of the 'ConSuites' in the Hyatt (I kept forgetting they existed, since they are up in the hotel somewhere), but instead ate at the hotel restaurants, which charged a premium of course.

Though I did pop out for air and a couple other panels and events, the festival programming kept me pretty involved, if not captive! (You can visit this posting at "Life With Movies and Maxxxxx" for a detailed recap of shorts.) The film festival, or more specifically the 'film track' as it is referred to at Dragon*Con, is organized by Film Festival Director, Matthew M. Foster. Now, I could go off on a tangent about film festival directors here. They are a strange breed. Festival programming can be an art of sorts, and I think a lot of festival directors are frustrated artists themselves. There is also that added pressure on the ego of bringing an audience to a film. I suppose it is not unlike those moments when I am taking (dragging?) a friend to a film I LOVE, in the anticipation that he will love it too, which may or may not happen. Overcoming that bit of stress in the face of "What do you mean you didn't LOVE it?!" must be what gives film festival directors a bit of a diva edge to them.

I personally appreciated it as both an entertaining and a learning experience, but the programming at D*CIS is a bit schizophrenic. Foster obviously prefers the company of the filmmakers to the audience. Mind you, given the demographic (politely put) of the more vocal members of the audience, you can't blame him. I would probably find myself avoiding the 'sci-fi fan boy' base, too. Though this is the first festival that I have attended that was part of a convention or conference setting, I felt a bit of elitism creeping in as far as the focus of the festival, particularly in the nearly trivial issue of 'audience awards'.

The festival is a juried competition. The panel this year included Foster, Bob Coughlin, Pete Dawood and Dan Krovich from IMAGE F&V. There were a good dozen awards presented in various categories (listed below) from the panel, as well as a filmmakers award, voted on by the peers that were present. There is also a set of miscellaneous audience awards, with such categories not unlike "best horror romance" (I don't remember exact categories that were announced in mid-festival, and the awards themselves were not included on a public schedule), and they sounded to be a parody of the 'MTV Movie Awards'. I found it sort of amusing at first, but then I was just a bit offended by the end of the weekend, when I began to feel that the audience impressions or perhaps 'judgments' were being trivialized. (Perhaps that was just a bit of MY temperament coming to the surface?)

I also found my taste to be in conflict with members of the jury, in their award selections as well as in the panel discussion of "Film Criticism: The Most Influential Sci-Fi Films". But I do have a preference for the surreal, i.e. the films of David Lynch and Tim Burton, which were quite adamantly criticized during that panel. (Harumph!) I also found their selection of award winners as having fairly literal screenplays and not featuring the mind-bending antics of such a director as Don Hertzfeldt, whose "Everything Will Be OK" was passed over.

However, these disagreements aside, which are more personal than having to do with the festival itself, the programming had such depth, I found it nearly overwhelming! There is no question that I will attend again, next year!

The 2007 Dragon*Com Independent Short Film Festival Awards:
Best In Show - Live Action: Jakob and the Angels (no link available) (dir. Ron Lehman, USA, 13 mins.)
Best In Show - Animation: Operation: Fish (dir. Jeff Riley, USA, 10 mins.)
Filmmakers (Peers) Award: Zombie Love (dir. Yfke van Berckelaer, Netherlands/USA, 37 mins.)

Live Action Shorts -
Action & Suspense: Forged (dir. David No, Australia, 38 mins.)
Asian Themed: Lullaby Crossing (dir. Mel Soria, USA, 9 mins.)
Short-short: A Little Night Fright (dir. Mischa Livingstone, USA, 3 mins.)
Comedy: Monster Job Hunter (dir. Yehudi Mercado, USA, 9 mins.)
Parody: 07 (dir. Peter Sullivan, USA, 11 mins.)
Dark Comedy: The Fifth (dir. Ryan Levin, USA, 14 mins.)
Horror Comedy: Zombie Love (dir. Yfke van Berckelaer, Netherlands/USA, 37 mins.)
Fantasy: Jakob and the Angels (no link available) (dir. Ron Lehman, USA, 13 mins.)
Science Fiction: D-I-M, Deus in Machina (dir. Axel Ricke, Germany, 29 mins.)
Magic Realism: Enter the Dragonfly
Horror: Para-Normal (dir. Lauren Timmons, USA, 16 mins.)

Animated Shorts -
Whale (no link available) (dir. Rob Wicksteed, United Kingdom, 5 mins.)
Drama: When The World Goes Dark (dir. Anthony Scalmato, USA, 7 mins.)
Horror: Puppet (dir. Patrick Smith, USA, 6 mins.)
Fantasy/Science Fiction: Operation: Fish (dir. Jeff Riley, USA, 10 mins.)

Honorable Mention:
Thanksgiving With the Kranzes (dirs. Cory Betzel, Brian Finifte, USA, 18 mins.)


Dave Pryor said...

Hey, thanks for the nice comment. I'm glad you liked my film - sorry I couldn't be at the fest to see it in person. Looks like the convention was a great time.

Anthony said...

Thanks for the kind words on the artwork for When The World Goes Dark. Im glad you liked it.

Jay, aka The Angry Little Man said...

Hey Dave and Anthony!

Glad you found me 'out here'!
And, Anthony, thank you for not taking my 'bitter' comment to heart! It was sort of an in-joke for the Hertzfeldt 'cult' and his production company, Bitter Films! :)

Best wishes to both of you and yoru projects!

Anthony said...

Hey Jay, no offense was taking at all. Everyone is entitled to their own, i was honored that someone took the time to comment on my piece, its great to see. So thank you! As for Hertzfeldt, it was honor to screen not only with him but against him aswell.
I see bitter films production takes its name very serious as on his website it claims: "First place- Best Dramatic Animation" @ 2007 Dragon*Con :) Talk about not givin a poor student first award any credit.
-heh no hard feelings though:) He's famous im just starting off.

Jay, aka The Angry Little Man said...

Hmmm... Don does seem to be overstepping himself with "First Place - Dramatic Animation" I guess semantically that is correct, but still, it's a bit of a stretch.

Shame on him!

Anyway, I've been buried away at the "Anime Weekend Atlanta XIII" this weekend. NOT exactly my cup of tea but the anime music vids (aka AMVs) are incredible! You must go to one sometime!


Mark Kaulser said...

I don't understand, where on Bitter Films is this info you're quoting about Dragon*Con??Suggesting that Don H should be "ashamed" of something is sort of a bold statement.

Kudos to Anthony Scalmato, but talk about being a "sore winner".

Jay, aka The Angry Little Man said...


At the time of the original posting, the "Everything Will Be OK" website listed winning ""First place- Best Dramatic Animation" - Dragon*Con Short Film Festival. I see that the reference was removed since then.

I hope you understand that I am a part of the "Hertzfeldt Cult" and was taken aback by the apparent oversight of "When The World Goes Dark"'s recognition, considering that Hertzfeldt is an Oscar nominee. (I was surprised by the Dragon*Con panel's selection to begin with.) As you can see, Anthony and I have gone back and forth on this a bit... ;)

There was no 'harshness' intended toward Mr. H. Just surprise at what seems to have been an unintentional error by his publicist.

All is well and I am anxiously waiting for my pre-ordered "EWBOK"!


Anthony said...

Thanks Jay.

Sorry Mark, i suppose i did act a bit like a "sore winner" for taking recognition for an award.

A stupid award doesnt mean anything. The real achievement is that you finished a body of work that you can share with others.

Sorry again, and Thank you once more Jay for watching my film.