PS 99 Open for Business
by Kevin Dreyfuss
PS 99, the new short film festival from the team behind the Phat Shorts
festival, is set to begin on Monday, April 5 (8 pm, at the Anthology Film
Archives in NYC) with a diverse slate of short film offerings in as many
different film and video mediums as you can think of, from award-winning to
obscure, along with a seminar for filmmakers and the odd raging party or
two for all. Some of the highlights of the shorts unspooling every Monday
night this month include: the Academy Award-winner "Bunny" from Chris
Wedge, a new pixel-vision version of D.H. Lawrence's "The Rocking Horse
Winner" from feature director Michael Almereyda ("Nadja"), and festival
fave "Bystander from Hell" by Matthew Harrison.
PS 99 is aiming at a young audience "...who have yet to really cement any
sort of relationship to short films," notes Andre Hereford, producer of PS
99, along with Byrd McDonald, Ryan Werner, Kelly Markus and Jorge Aguirre.
"America was introduced to filmmaking by short films, and short films were
part of the common experience of movie-going, and then that stopped. So now
we're trying to toss that back into a theater, for people who just haven't
experienced them that way."
According to the group, a filmmaker to pay close attention to is Greg Pak,
whose first film was the controversial abortion comedy (yes, abortion
comedy) "Mouse," and who is represented this year with two films, "Po Mo
Knock Knock" and "Fighting Grandpa." Also, there is Roberto Lopez, creator
of the guerilla filmmaking subway movie "Crazyheads" (It's "Wong Kar-Wai
meets...Wong Kar-Wai," says Werner), "Gut Feeling," an unusual horror
offering from Lee Davis, and two films by festival founders, Hereford's
"Pop Tarts" and Aguirre's "Pancho's Revenge." "We try to go for the edgier
work, and oftentimes if that means low-tech, so be it," notes McDonald,
"While some festivals select films on the basis of pedigree, we're much
more likely to show something on super-8 or hi-8 if it's fascinating."
As for the filmmaker seminar (Monday, April 19, 5:30, the Tribeca Film
Center), PS 99 decided to stay away from the usual airy bullshit and give
new filmmakers a good dose of concrete reality, entitled Rent Money: Your
Short and Beyond, focusing on making a living as a short filmmaker. "It's
much more about, literally; now that you've done this and you've proven to
yourself that you can tell a story, how can you use that skill, because
that skill is very marketable."
Writer-director Almereyda, Gersh Agency agent Kara Baker, music video
director Evan Bernard, commercials director Laura Shapiro, Caroline Kaplan
of the Independent Film Channel, filmmaker Jason Hernandez Rosenblatt
(developing a series for MTV based on his cannibal coming-of-age short
screened last year at Phat Shorts, "Meat") headline the panel. The purpose
is to help guide filmmakers through ways of using their ability to feed
their dreams and visions -- as well as their stomachs -- through real work
in the real world making music videos, commercial work, wedding videos,
whatever it takes.
PS 99 takes particular pride in this year's slate of films, considering
what they had to go through to rebuild their standing from scratch. "In the
changeover from Phat Shorts to PS 99, we had to rework our sponsorship, to
go about it all over again," says McDonald, "It was tough. We ended up with
a great list of sponsors, but we had to reinvent the festival." This
year's sponsors are an eclectic bunch, from Eureka Pictures to Skyy Vodka
to HBO and Paper Magazine, not to mention FILMMAKER Magazine. And the club
Baby Jupiter isn't just hosting Opening and Closing Night parties, they're
chipping in as a sponsor as well.
And as for the future, PS 99 is already thinking about their moves beyond
the festival. Perhaps posting festival films in streaming video on the PS
99 Web site, or becoming presenters of features without distribution,
setting up screenings and helping them attract interest. The bigger plan
for PS 99 is to become year-round consultants in the independent film community,
thus completing their scheme for World Domination...through short film.
As with past years, PS 99 is a free festival, with a strongly urged $5
donation for tickets at the Anthology door every Monday this month. For
more information, call (212) 253-5907, or check out their Web site at