An Inside Look: Worldwide Short Film Festival
by Alison Zemell
North America’s largest short film festival, Canadian Film Centre’s Worldwide Short Film Festival, took place in Toronto this year from June 5th to10th. The festival is one of only 4 festivals accredited by the Oscars and has always been an important one for REEL CANADA to attend.
Short films offer a vehicle to creativity that is unavailable in feature films. Because they can be made for little cost with a small crew, short films are the place where you can experiment. Even established filmmakers continue to utilize the short film format. This year at WSFF, Spike Jonze had a sweet yet funny short animated film in the Date Night program. Often, new filmmakers use shorts as a stepping stone to feature filmmaking, either to include on a demo reel as a calling card, or to adapt a short into a feature. I prefer to regard the short as an art form unto itself. Having to make an audience care about characters and understand a story in a short time is a challenge, but often pays off.
Young and emerging filmmakers should make it a point to attend the festival’s SHORT FILMS: BIG IDEAS SYMPOSIUM. This is where you can attend panels, power hours and roundtables with industry professionals who would otherwise be inaccessible, on topics geared directly at short filmmakers. Our own Artistic Director Sharon Corder sat on the Festivals panel and gave insight into how we choose films for REEL CANADA. REEL CANADA’s advisory member Jean-Marc Vallée taught this year’s master class that many attendees said was inspiring.
Having worked for the festival in the past, this year I facilitated several Q&As after screenings. I had the opportunity to moderate the discussion with 2 Canadian films in the “Stranger in a Strange Land” program, THE IMMIGRANT (directed by Josh Levy and starring Canadian comedy legend Scott Thompson), and THE CROSSING OF THE LIVING ROOM (directed by Geneviève Albert). Both filmmakers were charming and funny, and provided insight into shooting on a budget, working with celebrities, and what it’s like for them now living in LA.
My favourite film of the festival was WE REFUSE TO BE COLD by Alexander Carson. The film is about a couple who creates their own personal survival guide to enduring the long Montreal winter. The film was beautiful and honest, and evoked a haunting sense of memory.
All in all, the festival was a great success. I am very happy I was able to see so many unique films, listen in on the symposium sessions, and meet wonderfully artistic and friendly filmmakers. I can’t wait until next year.