Outtakes: Sundance hosts filmmaker workshop

Mar. 17, 2015 | 0 Comments

outtakes mug aug 2014

BY MIKE GORDON / mgordon@staradvertiser.com

Unless you attend a lot of film festivals, chances are you probably don’t see a lot of short films. They’re not a staple in a world filled with blockbusters.

And yet, short films are easier to find than ever, thanks to online outlets that cater to the vibrant art form — from ESPN to the New Yorker — and aspiring filmmakers whose 10- to 12-minute stories become visual calling cards.

sundanceMike Plante, senior programmer for short films at the Sundance Film Festival, believes short films fill a valuable niche in the movie world, especially for the people who make them.

“The good thing is it doesn’t take months or a year to make a short film,” he said. “Someone can make a short film in a weekend and it really can be a complete film and not destroy your budget and destroy your friendships. It’s reasonable. It’s much more low risk.”

Plante’s philosophy on the power of short films will be the dominant message this weekend during Sundance ShortsLab: Honolulu, a free two-day workshop at the Honolulu Museum of Art.

Sundance ShortsLab: Honolulu will start with a half-day panel discussion on Saturday and a screening the following day of short films, including some that Plante selected from this years’ festival. Discussions will include story development, dialog, the collaborative process, the value of good crew, working with actors and how to make the leap from shorts to feature films.

Sundance does only five of these a year so the event is a big deal for local filmmakers, said Hawaii filmmaker Gerard Elmore.

“Nothing can be better than a top-tier festival telling you what they are looking for,” he said. “What they are going to say is invaluable. I don’t know if they are going to meet everyone and remember their name but it is your chance to meet them and get their point of view.”

JOHN BERGER / 2007Gerard Elmore.

JOHN BERGER / 2007

Gerard Elmore.

Elmore, who is executive director of the ‘Ohina Short Film Showcase, said a short film is an opportunity for filmmakers to experiment. Some shorts exist as a way to interest potential financial backers for a feature project. That was the case with “Whiplash,” which started out as a Sundance short and won three Oscars last month as a feature film.

“They are not intended to make money,” Elmore said. “A short film is a lot of people’s chance to go crazy and find themselves as a filmmaker. The rules are meant to be broken.”

THE SUNDANCE ShortsLab was arranged by Hathaway Jakobsen, the museum’s chief advancement officer. Before she moved to Hawaii in 2013, she worked for Sundance for five years. Jakobsen approached Sundance about a year ago because she knew what the Sundance experience could do for an artist’s career.

“When I worked for Sundance, I saw a lot of dreams come true,” she said.

But the reality is a lot of dreams simply fade to black. With thousands of films submitted every year to Sundance, rejection is common.

“Sundance in the independent film world is the king of the film festivals,” she said. “There are probably people in Honolulu who aspire to be a filmmaker and they look at Sundance as being inaccessible. But Sundance doesn’t want to discourage you from trying.”

Experience isn’t a requirement for the workshops, although more than half of the participants who signed up have made movies.

“Just spending time with the game changers in this world is a fantastic experience,” Jakobsen said. “You will learn something that will stick with you.”

Although the event is free, space is limited and participants will need to sign up at the museum’s website.
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Mike Gordon covers film and television in Hawaii for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Email him at mgordon@staradvertiser.com and follow him on Twitter. Read his weekly “Outtakes” column Sundays in the Star-Advertiser.

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