Outfest 2008: The 26th Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival scheduled an amazing 12 short film programs over the course of this year’s festival, which runs July 9 to 21st. With the programs centering around themes such as “Young and Restless” and “Laugh All You Want,” the shorts ranged from earnest coming of age dramas to irreverent political riffs. And while production values and the quality of acting varies wildly, one thing unites all Outfest shorts: each showcases a unique filmmaking voice. While some like Guinevere Turner are already known entities, many other directors are student filmmakers who may not be on the radar yet but should be. Here’s a look at ten short film helmers making some noise at Outfest.
Benedict Campbell – “Lloyd Neck” is Campbell’s senior film at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. The 16 minute suburban romantic triangle concerns a young girl who idolizes her older brother’s photographer friend, who clearly has eyes for her brother. Beautifully photographed in 35 mm by cinematographer Serena Kuo, Campbell gets wonderfully naturalistic performances from his leads Carina Goldbach, Aaron Michael Davies, and Brian Dare.
Angela Cheng – Set in Texas, “Wicked Desire” is a 13-minute family drama concerning a mother and daughter’s flawed reactions to their discovery of a family member’s secret double life. Filmmaker Cheng did her undergrad work at the University of Texas at Austin and pursued her MFA at NYU Tisch School of the Arts.
Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung – Employing the catchphrase “Because Washington is Hollywood for Ugly People” as the title of his mixed-media film, Hung attacks all the major Washington D.C. players in his eight minutes of manic animation. Born in Hong Kong, educated in San Francisco, and now based in New York City, Hung is steadily gaining a following in both the art and indie film worlds.
Myna Joseph – Playing in the “Young and Restless” program, Joseph’s Columbia graduate student film, “Man” is a 16-minute portrait of two sisters testing their budding sexuality. Joseph debuted the film at Sundance and has been touring the festival circuit with this compelling coming-of-age drama.
Amanda Micheli & Isabel Vega – Nominated for an Oscar for “La Corona” (The Crown),
Micheli & Vega took their camera inside a Bogota women’s prison to document a highly competitive beauty pageant. By allowing their subjects to speak for themselves, the co-directors craft a story that holds viewers captivated for all of its 40-minutes running time.
Nick Oceano – The Spanish language “El Primo” (The Cousin) is Oceano’s 16-minute story of a sensitive teenage boy visiting his macho older cousin in Texas. Oceano’s film has already been embraced by festival programmers at NewFest, Frameline, Palm Springs Shortfest, and the New York and Los Angeles International Latino Film Festivals.
Benjamin M. Piety – Piety’s film “The Lonely Lights. The Color of Lemons” is part of a trilogy called “The Way I Read Myself.” The 16-minute film, shot on 35 MM, is a collection of remembrances and critical moments in a young man’s life. Heavily influenced by filmmaker Su Friedrich‘s film “Sink or Swim,” Piety admits his film is intensely personal.
Carrie Schrader – Schrader has two comedic shorts at Outfest: the eight-minute “The Thorny Rose” which takes place in an S&M den, and the six-minute “Don’t Mess with Texas,” set in a Texas roadside diner. An MFA candidate in Directing at Columbia University, Schrader’s screenplays have received acclaim from Outfest in years past. However, for “Don’t Mess with Texas,” she works from a script by Tricia Cooke and Ethan Coen.
Greg Ivan Smith – Smith’s little gem of short, “The Back Room,” appeals to both book and art lovers. In the 16-minute film, Smith himself plays a long suffering bookstore clerk who helps a last-minute customer (Dan Sturges) find a tome on particular Italian Renaissance artist’s work. Setting his story in a cramped section of the store and relying entirely on the interaction between the two men to carry the plot, Smith gives himself a lot of obstacles to overcome and yet perseveres in creating a memorable story.
Guinevere Turner – Turner is another two-timer at Outfest 2008, helming both the stylish twelve-minute librarian sex comedy “Quiet Please” and the seven-minute “Late.” A high profile writer/actress with credits including “Go Fish,” “The L Word,” and “The Notorious Bettie Page,” Turner seems to take particular delight stepping behind the camera. In “Late,” the camera work is particularly noteworthy in that the entire film consists of answering machine messages playing as the camera roams around a woman’s apartment.
Remember these names: Campbell, Cheng, Hung, Joseph, Micheli & Vega, Oceano, Piety, Schrader, Smith, and Turner. We’ll be hearing a lot more from these shining stars of Outfest 2008.