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Palm Springs International Shortfest Winners and Panel Takeaways

Palm Springs International Shortfest Winners and Panel Takeaways

A record 500 filmmakers from 37 countries attended the 20th annual Palm Springs International Shortfest (June 17-23). The largest short film festival and only short film market in North America screened 330 short films out of 3000 submissions. The Fest awarded more than $115,000 in prizes, including $21,000 in cash awards, in 21 categories. 

Among the jury awards, “Carry On,” Yatao Li’s World War II drama set in China, won the Best of the Festival award, which makes it eligible for Oscar submission. “Whisker” won Best Future Filmmaker. Frank Meli’s live-action “Dragula,” Ned McNeilage’s doc “Showfolk” and “Bendik & the Monster” took home audience awards. 
I participated in Part One of two well-attended Filmmaker Forums on The Business, moderated by Preferred Partners’ Kevin Iwashina, along with The Exchange’s Brian O’Shea, CAA’s Nick Ogiony, ICM’s Peter Trinh, and Jeremy Kay, of Screen International. Part Two, moderated by critic John Anderson, featured Nickelodeon’s Brian Banks, Anonymous Content’s Alix Madigan, TNT’s David Poynter, Variety’s Pat Saperstein and Participant Media’s Diane Weyermann.

The takeaway from both panels was much the same: there is far more opportunity for financing and finding an audience via television and emerging digital platforms than the ever-narrower indie film market. It’s flooded with aspiring short and feature filmmakers from all over the world hoping to get a foothold in the relatively large and seemingly robust American entertainment industry. But as the Hollywood studios are more focused on big-budget action tentpoles–much was made of the ascension of Gareth Edwards from “Monster” to “Godzilla,” and Rian Johnson from “Brick” to the “Star Wars”–for most they are more out of reach than ever.

It’s still possible to raise production funds via foreign financing, equity investors and crowd sourcing. But getting your work seen and appraised is a tall order. Self-releasing is one option. Several panelists complained about the lack of transparency with VOD numbers.

Shorts are one way to get attention with a popular hit. Gillian Robespierre’s current feature “Obvious Child” grew from a short, as did Oscar-winner Shawn Christensen’s “Curfew.” Sure the agencies use festivals like Palm Springs to cull talent–most likely the ones who win awards and go on to Oscar nominations–but it was clear that the gulf between emerging indies and real sustaining careers in film has never been greater. 

The Palm Springs International Film Festival will be held January 2-12, 2015. 

See the full list of the 2014 Palm Springs International ShortFest award winner below:

BEST OF FESTIVAL AWARD – Winner received $2,000 cash prize, camera package valued at $10,000 courtesy of Radiant Images, and Final Cut Pro X courtesy of Apple Computer.  The winner of this award may be eligible to submit their film to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Oscar consideration.
Carry On (China), Yatao Li
During the brutal withdrawal of Japanese forces at the end of WWII, a Chinese father does whatever he can to save his family.
GREATER PALM SPRINGS CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU GRAND JURY AWARD – Winner received $5,000 cash prize courtesy of the Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Joanna (Poland), Aneta Kopacz
An intimate portrayal of a young mother who must contemplate what she wants to leave behind for her toddler son and husband.
FUTURE FILMMAKER AWARD – Winner received a $2,000 cash prize. 
Whisker (New Zealand), Steven Saussey
A homeless hobo wants to feed his dog but has nothing to give him, until he notices a ‘beard growing contest’ at a local pub that presents a way to get the dog what he needs…
PANAVISION BEST NORTH AMERICAN SHORT – Camera package valued at $60,000 courtesy of Panavision.
90 Days (9O天) (Canada/Hong Kong), Timothy Yeung
Armed with a 90-day tourist visa, a young Chinese girl arrives in Hong Kong. She is quickly led by her guide to the big city’s seedy back alleys, where she is prepared to work as a prostitute in a series of red light hotels with the hopes of earning money for her family.
Dragula (USA), Frank Meli
A young guy with an all-American father, jock older brother and an understanding mother (Missi Pyle), comes to terms with his inner voice when he performs a drag number at the high school talent show, after being taken under the wing of a famous old drag performer (Barry Bostwick) in a gay bar.
Runner-up – Young Americans (USA), Kevin Lacy
Showfolk (USA), Ned McNeilage
Showbiz vets residing at the Motion Picture & Television Fund Home share wisdom and inspiration (and a little song and dance) garnered over lifetimes in the business.
Runner-up – The War Photographers (USA), Steven Kochones
Bendik & the Monster (Norway), Frank Mosvold
A monster dreams of a being a cabaret singer. Bendik dreams of a better relationship with his mom and her boyfriend. The two of them can hardly dream of what will happen if they work together.
Runner-up – The Gulf (Canada), Carl Beauchemin, Thomas Chrétien, David Forest
Juliet (Australia), Martin Høgberget
Obsessed with Shakespeare and Alex, the hottest guy in school playing Romeo in the school play, Brooke is convinced the way to her Romeo’s heart is to star opposite him in the school play…and she will do anything to get the part.
Awards in the non-student and student categories were selected by ShortFest jury members Nigel Daly (Screen International), Steven Gaydos (Variety) and Katie Holly (Blinder Films).  All first place winners in the non-student categories received a cash award of $2,000.  First place winners in the non-student Animation and Live Action categories may be eligible for Academy Awards consideration.  Second place recipients received a $500 cash prize. 
First Place ($2,000) – Los Rosales (Italy), Daniel Ferreira
A humble and solitary robot is stuck in a repetitive life, turning wheels and cogs all day to produce his only means of survival—until he finds a way to feed his heart instead.
Second Place ($500) – Dwarf Giant (Nain Geant) (France/Switzerland), Fabienne Giezendanner
First Place ($2,000) – That Music (Esa Música) (Colombia), Darío Vejarano
Omar, a construction worker, receives a recorded message on his cell phone from an unknown caller. Even though nobody speaks in the message, he vaguely recognizes a melody amidst the noise of the recording. From that moment on, he starts a search to find out the name of the song in an attempt to remember the life he once led.
Second Place ($500) – The Nostalgist (UK), Giacomo Cimini
First Place ($2,000) – The Chicken (Germany/Croatia), Una Gunjak
On her sixth birthday, Selma receives a chicken from her dad, a soldier away at the front, but her joy is quickly squashed when she realizes her mother has other plans for the new pet.
Second Place ($500) – Oranges (Naranjas) (Colombia), Iván D. Gaona
Honorable Mention – Through the Breaking Glass (A través del espejo) (Spain), Iván Mena
First Place ($2,000) –
Joanna (Poland), Aneta Kopacz
An intimate portrayal of a young mother who must contemplate what she wants to leave behind for her toddler son and husband.
Second Place ($500) –The Dogwalker (Hundvakten) (Sweden), Caroline Ingvarsson
Honorable Mention – A Paradise (Un Paraiso) (Cuba/UK), Jayisha Patel
All first place winners in these categories received a 1-year download membership to Videoblocks, AudioBlocks or GraphicStock. 
First Place – Mend and Make Do (UK), Bexie Bush
A woman’s memories of her youth, love and family life come alive through everyday household objects.
Second Place – The Little Cousteau (Maly Cousteau) (Czech Republic), Jakob Kouril
First Place – The Aftermath of the Inauguration of the Public Toilet at Kilometer 375 (Egypt), Omar El Zohairy
A mistimed sneeze at a government ceremony dedicating a new public toilet unleashes a nightmare for one civil servant in this beautifully shot dark comedy.
Second Place – Serori (Japan/Netherlands), Pedro Collantes
First Place – Siham (Lebanon/USA), Cyril Aris
A young couple struggles with impending news as they spend time at the husband’s childhood home.
Second Place – Here (UK), Colum Eastwood
First Place – Tyres (Myanmar), Kyaw Myo Lwin
Amazingly gorgeous look at an unusual place and people who serendipitously create beautiful art along the way as they recycle old tires into functional fashionware.
Second Place – The Immaculates (Gil immacolati) (France), Ronny Trocker
First Place – Aung Ko Ko (cinematographer), Tyres (Myanmar)
Amazingly gorgeous look at an unusual place and people who serendipitously create beautiful art along the way as they recycle old tires into functional fashionware.
Second Place – Jeff Wong (cinematographer), 90 Days (9O天) (Canada/Hong Kong)
BEST US FILM SCHOOL STUDENT FILM AWARD – $2,000 cash prize courtesy of KQED, San Francisco.
Pigs (Singapore/USA), Laura Mohai
A boy with Down’s syndrome tries to help his grieving mother.
ALEXIS AWARD FOR BEST EMERGING STUDENT FILMMAKER – The Alexis Award is selected by the Festival’s programming team and was created in honor of Alexis Echavarria, a young filmmaker, whose talent as a budding filmmaker and gift for inspiring excellence among his fellow students were cut short suddenly in 2005 at age 16.  The recipient received Final Cut Pro X courtesy of Apple Computer. 
First Place – Sun Can Blind (O Sol Pode Cegar) (Brazil), Toti Loureiro
Terrible consequences follow when Paulo shares with his friends that he lost his virginity to the housekeeper who lives in his home.
Runner-up – He Took His Skin Off For Me (UK), Ben Aston.
HP BRIDGING THE BORDERS AWARD PRESENTED BY CINEMA WITHOUT BORDERS – The winner received the award’s diploma and an HP ZBook Mobile Workstation with a color critical HP DreamColor display and Thunderbolt™2, an approximately $3000 value.  The runner received a certificate for an upcoming Method Acting Intensive Workshop provided by The Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute with a value of $2000
First Place – Foad (Norway), Farzad Samsami
A street smart Moroccan boy devises a business opportunity with the desperate refugees at his seaside town in this film about dreaming of a better life.
Runner-up – Kush (India), Shubhashish Bhutiani

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