Jonas Carpignano, Tal Zegreba, Jayisha Patel, Sergei Rostropovich, Guillaume Mainguet and Selma Vilhunen at the NYFF Shorts Program
Making a short film can be a thankless job. Screening options are few, and the chances for financing even fewer. Audiences aren’t trained to consume content that may conclude in as little as five minutes, though the Internet is changing attention spans and offering more ways to get shorts seen. That’s good news for today’s short filmmakers, and those new methods of distribution were one of the topics discussed at the Q&A panel following the New York Film Festival’s Shorts programs.
The conundrum, of course, is that despite those challenges, short films are where most filmmakers learn the ropes, gaining an understanding of movie-making realities on a small scale before taking on the grander needs of a full-length production. Plus, learning to do a lot with a little is a valuable skill for true artists. How many of today’s greatest directors and actors are routinely praised for subtlety and conciseness in their framing and expressions?
What does all that mean? Those of us wanting to get a look at the potential powerhouse filmmakers of the future need watch the shorts being produced today. Luckily, the New York Film Festival is one of the few venues that give us a sneak peek into the best of the next for the film industry. The 52nd NYFF offered two programs of shorts, and Indiezone.TV is here to introduce you to the first slate of filmmakers. We have red carpet interviews for you and a few of their answers from the Q & A panel at the end of the evening.
Making it to the NYFF doesn’t mean these short filmmakers have made their way to securing financing. The few who have talk about governmental funding and how a memorable short about a part of the male anatomy led to its successor winning contest money used to finance the third that screened at the festival—and that’s only the beginning for this filmmaker’s career! The less money you have, the smarter you have to be about planning the production.
Jonas Carpignano’s Young Lions of Gypsy takes place in Southern Italy, a destination that inspires him regularly. On the red carpet with Carpignano, we learn how one delayed project allowed him just enough time to shoot this striking film motivated by—and starring—the gypsies who stole his car! Keep your eyes open for Carpignano’s first feature. Maybe it’ll be premiering at the NYFF next year!
Sergei Rostropovich explains how the use of different filming mediums and nonchronological editing helped him capture the confusion and shifting perceptions of an Alzheimer’s patient in his film, Ophelia. Rostropovich is happy to explain why he chose Hanna Schygulla for the sole role in the narrative, namely for her amazing skill as an actress. Working with German director Alexander Sokurov on Faust taught Rostropovich how to give actors the space they need to perform and how to prepare for making a film.
Who can blame our host for laughing at an interview beginning with a clown nose? Filmmaker Tal Zagreba is boisterous on the red carpet for his short film Humor. It’s about a mime who thinks his work is pointless and the nexus of people who prove it isn’t. Is Humor an exercise in futility or unexpected inspiration? Zagreba won’t say, but he does liken the theme to Humor’s own journey through the film festival circuit, its influence allowed to spread through many audiences. Directing was new to this scriptwriter, but that’s what happens when financing is tight, and we think the end result proves how forced adaption in short films sharpens the focus of our future filmmakers.
On the importance of picking the right actors, Zagreba explains that they are the faces of a film, and thus casting is integral to the vision a director wants to put forward. But picking someone that a director can have a relationship with is also essential. He’s learned that watching the right person breathe life into a character can inspire him to do something new with the script.
Making A Paradise didn’t cost Jayisha Patel a dime! Imagine her surprise when the short documentary landed her a screening at the NYFF and was nominated for a Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. Patel shares with us how exploring Cuba’s beautiful countryside led to the discovery of a spate of child suicides and the families suffering from those losses. The film’s greatest success has been landing a volunteer psychologist who is offering those families grief counseling. That’s making a difference you can see, and Patel’s future films are bound to change more lives. Her first, Gentle Men, won many festival awards, and her third short and first feature are both currently in production.
It’s fitting that Guillaume Mainguet and Selma Vilhunen conquered the red carpet together—they also conquered their short film together! The Girl and the Dogs is the result of Mainguet and Vilhunen’s pairing at the Nordic Factory, an organization that matches up foreign filmmakers to produce shorts. While Mainguet jokes that he’s finally free to give his true opinion of Vilhunen now that the film is complete, it’s obvious that the two filmmakers’ personalities made for a winning team—if the short weren’t evidence enough of that! They guide us through the process they used to bring about this “masterful detour into the realm of fable when the girls are deterred by a disturbing discovery on the windswept shore”, as Film Comment’s Emma Myers describes it.