The People’s Choice

As I scanned the descriptions of the 12 finalists in the Manhattan Short Film Festival, in which the Michigan Theater participated on September 29, 2007, I thought about the power that my vote gave me over the careers of the 12 filmmakers. Then I realized that I wield the same power every time I decide on a movie to see.

After the lights dimmed for these dozen short movies that ranged from quirky comedies to compelling dramas to heartfelt documentaries, I wondered how well these films functioned as resumes for these filmmakers’ careers. How did they affect the chances of the directors to “make it”?

How would a producer decide that a director’s style was a good fit for a particular movie? What mattered most—camera angles, pacing, editing, ensemble acting? Could the director apply their skills and talents to a full-length feature, which might require more than the flashy, narrowly focused dynamics of many short films?

And who else was auditioning? Probably many others, based on the long credit lists after a lot of these films. You could just imagine a director approaching different people for different tasks, from acting to editing to special effects processing, with maybe only the film’s publicity as compensation.

For these directors, it was just another example of the negotiating that they must do to apply sound business principles to their art. The long lists of Thank You’s and sponsors at the end of each film was further proof of that.

Flashes of Creativity

A crowd of mostly young adults watched these short films, which in the past week have been shown at theaters around the world. Patrons picked one favorite, with the final choice from all theaters announced on September 30.

Like probably many other people in the theater, my reactions ranged far and wide while watching the movies. You might think, there’s some good moments in that one. Or, was this really one of the 12 best films from the 456 submitted? I really liked that one. You know, that one’s a little too much.

I’d guess that the futures of many of these directors are with the quirky, human independent films that often show up at art film theaters like the Michigan, the State, or the Landmark Main and Maple theaters. An added bonus to the films were their introductions by their directors, which ranged from clever to straightforward, and increased your interest in their movies.

When the lights went up, after about two hours and 15 minutes, the audience applauded, and then worked on its decisions. I made my choice fairly quickly, and as I walked out, I saw people discussing the different movies and looking through the festival program. And after the ballots were handed in, I heard happy comments about everybody’s favorite scenes.

My tastes ran towards dramas where serious decisions were discussed. In the German Clooney, director Florian Ross showed how a young man moved towards taking a stronger hand in his own destiny. In the Israeli Boris’s Complete Book of Rules, a janitor gives some significant advice to a young lady in a difficult romantic situation. And I hope that the young man in the Kenyan I Want To Be A Pilot gets his wish.

But the film that impressed me the most was one of the shortest, at five minutes, 20 seconds. In 100th of a Second, director Susan Jacobson shows the profound consequences of a photojournalist’s decision on how to cover a tragic story. I hope this isn’t the last time I see Ms. Jacobson’s name.

Detroit Movie Palaces Home Page

Copyright © 2007 by Robert Hollberg Smith, Jr.

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    One Response to The People’s Choice

    1. Administrator says:

      I’m happy to say that my favorite films did very well. 100th of a Second won the Best Film award. I Want to be a Pilot was named the Best Documentary, and Boris’s Complete Book of Rules won the Best Student Film award. For more details, visit the festival web site:

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