HOT SHORTS: The 1997 Palm Springs Short Film Festival
by Shakti Brien
The Palm Springs Film Festivals (August 6-10, 1997) are on the verge of
becoming one of the "big boys," says the Los Angeles Times and
L.A. Magazine, reaching for the ranks of Sundance and Toronto. "We are
taking our place in that very prestigious group and our local fans gain when we do. . .
more tourism, more press coverage, more of the best film selections and
international guests, more excitement," explained Artistic Director Paola
The Short Films and Feature Animation Branch Executive Committee of the
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Spring of 1997 voted to
include the Palm Springs International Short Film Festival among the
list of festivals that qualify for Academy Award consideration,
effective with the 70th Academy Awards.
At the time of the vote, PSISFF was one of only six short film festivals
worldwide to be named as an official qualifying site. Short Films are
recognized by the Academy in three categories: animation, documentary,
and live action. Prize winners are automatically forwarded to the
Academy for Award consideration.
On 624 submitted films, 147 were in competition including such
noteworthy films as the award winning "The Beauty of the Common Tool"
from Scott Gayle Thomas. The 16mm short is a perfect jewel that unfolds 7
minutes of surprises, universal recognitions and all shades of common
Between visions and parties, filmmakers revealed how they got the money
to shoot their movies. "I financed this movie ($40,000) with money I
earned on Hollywood shows," says Jan Rudolph, Script Supervisor on "Dr.
Quinn, Medicine Woman," who was delivering her first film "The Time
of My Life", a dark comic tale of 38 minutes made in 16mm. "I shot three
week-ends in a row, and I already won the Grand Prize at the
International Woman's Film Festival in Minsk, Russia last May."
On the other hand, Deborah Stenard ("I Do, Don't I?") saved close to
133,000 bottles and cans (catering weddings) accumulating over $4,000 as
partial funding. Denying herself pleasures such as movies, clothes and
restaurants, she made up the rest, totaling close to $35,000. With her
many contacts, she was able to get a professional cast and crew to
donate their time for the film.
What became one of the most unexpected and alluring events for
participating filmmakers on Saturday, was a distributors "Expo,"
animated by Maggie Abbott of Sun Broadcasting Systems, and David Russel
and Jon Ponder of Big Film Shorts,
who respectively launched innovative ways and venues to promote short films.
"Each year, the audience grows, endorsing our belief that there is an
emerging awareness and viable market for short films. Our company has
begun an alliance with Maggie Abbott and The Showcase Channel, which is
focused on future co-production of short films and programming for cable
television," says David Russel. "Best of all, we found some great films
for which we are currently negotiating distribution rights."
SHORT cinema journal, a monthly
journal released on the new and exciting digital video format (DVD), showed
us how they celebrate the art of short films via narratives, fiction,
experimental, documentary, criticism, monologues, interviews, and editorials,
by including two hours of non-stop thought-provoking, if not life-altering
entertainment, that can be played on a television or on a computer using the
digital video discs.
The festival closed with Academy Award nominated and winning short films
programs. "It's particularly exciting that several of these films were
screened at the 1996 Festival, before they were discovered by the
Academy. We are thrilled to know that we may have helped these
filmmakers achieve such heights." commented Paola Freccero. "We are
excited about the caliber of films being screened at the Academy
program. To have the participation of films which have been honored by
the Academy is a great accomplishment for such a young festival."
[To reach the Palm Springs International Short Film Festival, visit their
[Shakti Brien is a French-Canadian writer, director and producer.]