I’m delighted that once again this September—for the 5th year in a row—Jennifer Dean and Eric Rice are contributing to the #DirectedbyWomen Worldwide Film Viewing Party with a lovingly curated evening of short films.
Shorts of All Sorts NYC takes place on Monday September 2 at Crystal Lake in Brooklyn. This year to make room for even MORE wonderful short films they’ve programmed two distinct blocks of films: 5pm and 7pm. Each screening will be followed by a Q&A with filmmakers in attendance. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll be there. The screenings are free, but space is limited. Reserve your seat here.
Here’s a glimpse into the films included in Block #1… sharing images, trailers (where available) and insights shared by some of the filmmakers in response to the question…
“Could you please tell us about a moment during the making of your film when you could feel your vision coming together or when you overcame a challenge in a satisfying way?”
Fox Spirit directed by Min Ding
Signs of Aging directed by Tara Gadomski
The whole premise of the film, Signs of Aging, rests on the natural “special effect” of two women who look like twins, but with a 15-year age difference. Though we had the right actors, it was still a risky idea to try, without prosthetics. We had a table read, rehearsals with the cast and the DP, Liza Gipsova, and I had extensively planned the shots. But it wasn’t until we were on set, setting up the first two-shot of Denise (Bisserat Tseggai) and Donna (Antu Yacob) that I was 100 percent sure. The moment when I saw those two magnificent women together in the monitor, I looked at our Producer and Production Designer, Penny Middleton, who has been working with me on the concept since day one, and we silently nodded at each other, knowing in that moment, our idea worked! And I admit, I cried a little right then. It was an emotionally overwhelming moment, in a good way, as a first-time director, to see a vision come together, with the help of all the cast, crew and supporters of the film.
When the Light Goes Out (Quando a Luz se Apaga) directed by Tânia Prates
The film emerged in the context of the final project of the FotoFílmica photography course at Universidade Nova de Lisboa.
It was important to me that the film’s theme was based on the local history of my country. So I decided to go to the Coruche Municipal Museum because it has a very rich photographic collection, with regard to local traditions and experiences. After analyzing various themes, inspiration came when the technicians told me about death photographs, specifically the practice of photographing child death.
The first thought was, “How will it be possible to show the beauty of a photograph in a movie when death is portrayed, especially that of a child?”
After the idea was consolidated, the next step was to ask the technician, Ana Paiva, responsible for the MMC / CMC archive to interpret the photographs that appear in the film.
The challenge was to be able to capture in words the emotion that photographs convey when being observed, analyzed and interpreted in person.
I believe that because I was able to reach such a personal testimony, my goal was exceeded, besides preserving a record of interpretation and study of this subject, which is a local heritage.
Too Many Bodies directed by Reena Dutt
My greatest challenge and feeling of fulfillment happened before we even began production, oddly enough. After conceiving this concept, the largest hurdles were locations and funding. Soon after dreaming the idea up, I jumped on the phone. Gun reform is something I’m passionate about, since I have a couple attachments to Columbine. I took the risk of cold-calling folks for leads on funding, a location, gear, etc. and to my delight, there are so, so many folks in entertainment eager to support cause-driven content. Our sound stage was donated by the EP of Teen Wolf. The Camera Division jumped in with a full camera package. My caterer donated all the food for all dancers and crew. It was pretty amazing to feel that kind of support. It was a brilliant reminder – Los Angeles is so very saturated with projects that “sell” that it’s easy to forget how kind and generous folks in Hollywood want to be when they are moved by a cause and the community effort it takes to get a message film like this made.
State of Independence directed by Erica Mann
Mujer en Día directed by Juanita Umaña
The best moment during set was when we were shooting the final scene. The focus of the film is my mother’s hands and in this scene I am shooting them very straight forward, being massaged by her “daughters”. There was something about the sound of the hands being rubbed together and the silence in the room that made this final shot feel like the whole thing was coming together perfectly.
Follow Juanita Umaña on Instagram.
Gaslit directed by Naomi Chainey
Over/Under directed by Dia Jenet
I filmed Over/Under by myself, so the first significant challenge was directing myself as an actor. How do I get a good performance take and a good shot underwater without drowning? After numerous comedic/terrifying attempts, things flowed when I got specific and economical.
Conversely, what pushed me through the end was experimenting with the quirks of the camera; it had a certain beautiful haze, but was rudimentary in functionality. In the beginning I tried to use it as any other camera, and was disappointed with the footage. Improvising led me to approach shooting (and editing) like any other instrument, a mirror of the song’s origins.
Good Egg directed by Laurel Cummings
Good Egg is a gender flip on the classic rom-com trope in which a 30-something male Peter Pan, charming playboy type wakes up one day to find himself suddenly responsible for a kid he didn’t know he had. Sometimes an old girlfriend shows up at the door, sometimes a single mom moves in next door, sometimes some kind of magic spell is involved, but generally the outcome is always the same–the Peter Pan initially resists stepping up to the responsibility, then is gradually won over by the child’s charming precociousness and ends the story a more evolved and mature man. There’s often a female love interest he’s consequently finally ready to commit to.
We wanted to tell a story that showed how plenty of women, especially in New York City, feel a little Peter Pan-syndrome. (Hey, it’s hard to be ready to “grow up” when there’s fun to be had every night, Ubers to take us home, and doormen to make sure we don’t pass out in the lobby). Our challenge, was how to work out the logic of a woman not realizing she had had a daughter? Lily likes to party as much as the next socialite, but there’s no way she’d forget giving birth. After many, many, many script revisions, we realized by embracing the absurdity of our set-up by not calling it out at all, we could highlight the absurdity of the trope we are satirizing, which freed us up to let the story find its own ending on the day. Rather than Poppy teaching immature Lily how to grow up, Lily finds in Poppy the best friend she was missing (they both share a love of tantrums and candy), thus freeing her of the loneliness that was stunting her all along.
Also, Poppy overheard the “F” word on set, and repeated it (NOT GOOD!) which we overcame by adding it to the script because it honestly really cracked us up. (BUT PLEASE DON’T TELL HER DAD!)
Moody directed by Alyssa Shea
Scare directed by Sarah Grant
Scare was made as part of the 48 hour film project, so the entire film was written, shot, edited, animated and scored in 48 hours. I am usually part of a large filmmaking team who met at university and are now scattered across the UK, who enters this competition twice a year as a way to get together, catch up and be creative, however this time we were unable to partake as a team as the next weekend a team member was getting married, and everyone was saving their annual leave and travel money for that event. I decided to enter the competition on my own and operate mainly as a one person team. My partner offered his assistance to score the film on Sunday morning and a friend offered to colour grade the film on the way home after a Eurovision Song Contest party the night before (she was a trooper).
I was aware that making this film alone would be a huge task, but it was also entirely liberating. I knew, if possible, I wanted to make a film in response to the women reproductive rights issues happening in Northern Ireland and Alabama, and for my response to be deeply personal and honest. Being part of a team would have diluted that honesty. On my own I could push boundaries and be brave in my storytelling, as the sole responsibility lay on me.
You asked me for a single moment, but I don’t have one. The whole 48 hours blurred together in a whirlwind of problem solving and self shooting and animation and every moment was exhilarating. If I had to, I would say the moment for me when everything came together was the moment, at the completion kick off event, where I reached into the hat and pulled out my designated genre; politics film. I knew right then what story I was going to tell and how I was going to tell it. I left the event, got in my car and headed home, writing a script in my head for a film I hoped would end up being perceived as honest, feminist and fearless.