FilmQuest 2021 Shorts To Keep An Eye Out For

FilmQuest 2021 had a strong short film game that needs to be celebrated.

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FilmQuest 2021 had a strong short film game that needs to be celebrated.

While away at FilmQuest, I discovered so many short films that I loved. There were 207 shorts programmed into this years’ festival (not counting web series, animated shorts, and music videos). I wanted to talk about at least 115 of them. That would make this the longest article in the history of the internet though. So, instead, I caught up with seven directors to talk to them about their movie.

Book

Directed by Eric Swiz

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Where can people find more information about your movie?

You can follow us @bookthefilm on Instagram and facebook.com/bookthefilm. Or shoot me a DM!

How long did it take you to film it?

Four days …over two years.

What drew you to this piece? 

Roger Casey approached me with his script after he and I met on my feature. I’d known Roger as an actor, but after reading BOOK, I knew immediately it was a film I wanted to make with him. BOOK turned out to be something of a response to a lot of the creative and personal disappointment he and I had been experiencing in our own ways. It was a thrill to commit whole-heartedly to an absurd idea and to take it as seriously as possible, which might sound backward to anyone who’s seen the film.

What do you want audiences to take away from it?

God, after the last two years plus of actual real-life horrors, I just want the audience to have a good time. We had such a blast making this film, I’d hope anyone watching can feel that and share in it.

Are you talking about making it into a feature? Why, or why not?

Me personally, no, but never say never. I was heavily influenced by the fake movie trailers in 2007’s Grindhouse, directed by Edgar Wright, Eli Roth, and others. I love all of those as self-contained pieces and never once wished for a feature-length version of any of them. I don’t think every idea needs to be a feature. Sometimes 3-6 minutes is all you need to get an idea across.

What is one thing about your movie that you are dying to talk about but haven’t had the chance yet?

“I’ve always been a fan of not only B-horror, but also spoofs like Airplane!, Hot Shots: Part Deux, Men in Tights, and of course Scary Movie and to a degree Evil Dead 2. Horror’s a genre that often walks a line with comedy. I think a good spoof starts first and foremost with a deep and unabashed love for the genre or source material they’re dissecting. A quality spoof knows the rules of the genre or source material inside and out. It’s neither interesting nor fair to point and say “Oh, look how terrible,” at films like Manos: Hands of Fate or Troll 2— made on a wing and a prayer by hardworking folks with a vision. Anyone who’s ever made a film knows how goddamn difficult it is, and the fact that anyone’s ever finished one is a minor miracle.

Also Read: FilmQuest Review – Code Name: Nagasaki is a Poignant Doc About Friendship and Filmmaking

So with all that in mind, it was the proper tone that Roger and I spent months hammering out before even beginning to audition actors. It made the casting process surprisingly challenging. I stumbled flailing into that conversation of “What is camp??” Does anyone know???” Nobody making a bad movie knows it’s a bad movie until it’s too late, was my thought. So as very talented actors playing bad actors playing their characters with the utmost seriousness, I must give special acknowledgment to Kassandra Cruz, Lynn R. Guerra, Peter Kendall, and Roger Casey. I’m fortunate to have worked with a cast that took on deceptively difficult roles and poured their hearts into hilariously tragic performances. Shouts out also to Chelsea Paige who was the mastermind behind all our practical effects! I could spend a paragraph talking about those too.”

What’s your next project? Where can people find out more about your work outside of this movie?

I’m currently wrapping up post-production on a feature film, Scenes From the Underground, about the New York subway. Folks can find more of my work at ericswiz.com or come find me on Instagram and Twitter @eswiz!

Escalation

Directed by Christian Bachini

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Where can people find more information about your movie?

www.escalationmovie.com

How long did it take you to film it?

30 days for the full 28 minutes Director’s Cut. The Festival Cut is instead 16 minutes.

What drew you to this piece? 

I have lived for many years in Shanghai doing action films and fight choreography and helped many filmmakers create their debut shorts or features working for free and getting injured without complaining, but when it came the time for them to help me, pretty much everyone refused. I was really upset and disappointed, I really wanted to debut as a director, showcasing my style of directing and storytelling.

So one night I went back home really disappointed and I began to think: “I am pretty much alone, I can only use my savings as a budget, so what can I shoot that would require just one location, me as an actor and maybe a villain that cannot be seen in order to save money?” Also, having tasted firsthand how people can be selfish and just take and take and take everything from someone else without giving back anything, I wanted to include this message in my story. Tell a story of a selfish and toxic person that feels untouchable but that will find himself facing something from which he has no chance to run away from. A story of fate and consequences for one’s actions.

Also Read: FilmQuest Review – Come For the Laughs, Stay For the WTF Moments in ‘Keeping Company’

At the same time, I wanted to create something new and fresh, I love horror with all my heart but a lot of movies nowadays follow the same pattern, a lot of films are contained in specific boxes and now everything is an homage to the past, homage to slashers, homage to the 80s, etc etc. I wanted to create something that would look forward instead. It’s cool to recreate those feelings from great horror films of the past, but the horror genre needs fresh blood and fresh ideas, it cannot be chained always in the past. And so, with all that in my mind, Escalation was born. In two nights I wrote a full feature film script of 170 pages.

But doing Escalation as a feature would have been impossible and then Covid came out so I decided to take one of the scenes at the beginning of the film, extend it and make it into a simpler short film that takes place during quarantine and the global pandemic and deals in a shorter time with the message that I wanted to send. A bad conscience will always eat you alive, sooner or later life always gets back at you.

What do you want audiences to take away from it?

I hope that knowing how Escalation came to be, people will remember that in life everything is possible if there is a dream inside our hearts. If there is a fire that burns inside of us, that drives us toward our goals, use that fire as fuel to keep pushing and getting up every time life or other people knock you down. Keep fighting always, I hope my short can be a reminder of this very important lesson. I was alone, and also had people telling me I wasn’t probably that great or talented, but instead of giving up, I used their words to ignite that fire inside of me even more. I knew their words were coming from a place of jealousy, of fear.

So I went out, looked for those few people that I knew would help me even if what I could pay them wasn’t much, and took on a dozen roles myself while on set and started shooting. And, as I was expecting by putting love and effort into the project, a good thing came back to me, in the midst of shooting, as I was finishing up all my savings, a great friend of mine, Antonio Vannucci, who collaborated also on the score, came to the rescue and decided to help me with the budget. It was tough and tiring but in the end, Escalation was born.

And now the audience loves it, it is winning awards all around the World and I have people coming up to me to tell me what a great experience watching my film was. I proved all those that wanted to shut me down wrong. With just one short, with my first time directing I have even achieved more than many of those people achieved in Years of shooting features. So I hope Escalation can be a symbol for all the dreamers out there, a reminder that if you don’t give up, in the end, you will come out on top.   

Are you talking about making it into a feature? Why, or why not?

As I mentioned, Escalation was born as a feature. So definitely yes, I am looking forward to that and will probably move to LA in order to get the project off the ground. Also, I still want to tell the full story of the character that people have seen in the short film version. In the feature film, his story is much more complicated, what he learns about himself and how his conscience gets to grow out of his selfish nature is a much deeper and scarier, and gorier journey lol. Plus I really want to create this new mix of genres that I could not deliver in the short film.

The feature film of Escalation has all kinds of crazy things blended in, body horror, evil clones, hallucinations, dark comedy, action, and even martial arts as I want to incorporate the skills I acquired in Asia into my films. And the thing that I am really looking forward to is to shock people with the final reveal in the story because Escalation will appear as many different things, a haunted house film, a demonic possession film, a psychological thriller but the question is…is it really? Or is there something else going on behind the scenes?

What is one thing about your movie that you are dying to talk about but haven’t had the chance yet?

People walking out of the set. When I started shooting Escalation I made it clear to the crew that as a director I wanted to obtain the maximum quality possible, that even if the budget was small I wanted to make my short look and feel like a big Hollywood production with top-notch art direction and cinematography. Also, my camera work is really dynamic, when I follow the story or the action my camera rarely stands still. And I told everyone on set, just about 10 people, to get ready for it, that it would be tiring but very rewarding in the end. Well, after the first few days, many started to complain that I was too much of a perfectionist, that the short is just a short and it doesn’t need to look amazing, average is good enough, and all these kinds of crazy things.

So I ended up changing crew three times. I shot the second half of the film with just 8 people on set. Even the person helping me with the practical makeup fx refused to help me more than once, in two key scenes. This person would tell me that I didn’t have the right tools to pull off some effects and refused to help me think about a way to make it work. So I told this person in the most kind of way, just go in another room and rest and I will call you once I am done. I figured out a way to make the effects work and in the end, the two scenes in question ended up being the audience’s favorite.

As I was saying, never let anyone tell you that something cannot be done. If you can imagine it, it will be done one way or another. The beautiful thing about all this is that in the end, I found out who were the people really deserving and passionate. Those who stuck with me till the very end. I know now that they will always have my back and I will do all I can to bring them with me in this journey up ahead.

What’s your next project? Where can people find out more about your work outside of this movie?

I am planning to get the feature film version of Escalation off the ground, hopefully in quite a short time and if people want to know more about me or my past in Shanghai as an action actor and martial artist they can visit my Facebook @OfficialChristianKang and follow me on Instagram: christiankangbachini

Every Time We Meet For Ice Cream Your Whole Fucking Face Explodes

Directed by Anthony Cousins

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Where can people find more information about your movie?

My Instagram: aj_cousins

How long did it take you to film it?

3 days

What drew you to this piece? 

I’m a big fan of Carlton Mellick who is the author of the novella this short is based on. He writes incredible works of bizarro fiction, bringing you to the strangest and most disturbing recesses of the imagination, but he finds a way to always wrap them up in a very meaningful and heartwarming way. When I read Face Explodes I immediately saw the potential for an adaptation and Carlton was kind enough to allow us to take a crack at it.

What do you want audiences to take away from it?

Hopefully, it delivers on the gore people have come to expect from our projects, but with a really heartwarming message, even your grandma could appreciate.

Are you talking about making it into a feature? Why, or why not?

I am putting together a pitch for an anthology series(that could also be a feature) taking place in this grotesque bizarro bubblegum world.

What is one thing about your movie that you are dying to talk about but haven’t had the chance yet?

The FX! We made camera-worthy practical heads of our actors and then digitally 3D scanned them so they could be animated in a way that couldn’t have been achieved on set.

What’s your next project? Where can people find out more about your work outside of this movie?

We are currently finishing up our first feature film, Frogman! You can find me on Instagram at aj_cousins

The Fourth Wall

Directed by Kelsey Bollig

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Where can people find more information about your movie?

KelseyBollig.com

How long did it take you to film it?

4 rehearsal days, 4 shooting days

What drew you to this piece? 

I wrote this piece to have a little fun at the expense of myself and other people in the performance and entertainment industry. I also really wanted to experiment with how we identify with “the fourth wall” as a whole and what we as an audience deem as “entertainment.”

What do you want audiences to take away from it?

I’d like them to think about their own identity as an audience member. The piece is meant to call to question how we perceive entertainment.

Are you talking about making it into a feature? Why, or why not?

I didn’t intend it to be a feature, however, I know what the feature would look like am always open to opportunities.

What is one thing about your movie that you are dying to talk about but haven’t had the chance yet?

The musical influence of the film stemmed from the french musician ‘Gesaffelstein’ and was incredibly and cleverly called upon by our talented composer Sylvain Kauffman. We wanted the film to feel like a french dance club with moments of pure horror weaved throughout.

What’s your next project? Where can people find out more about your work outside of this movie?

I recently just shot a horror/action short called ‘Kickstart My Heart.’ We’re looking for a premiere festival right now! My website has all the info about my projects KelseyBollig.com

Inch Thick, Knee Deep

Directed by Anatasha Blakely

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Where can people find more information about your movie?

darklingfilms.com (or IMDB)

How long did it take you to film it?

2 days of shooting

What drew you to this piece? 

I was interested in writing a character-driven piece. The protagonist (if you can call her that) had been bouncing around in my head for a few months and when I sat down to write the script came spilling out quite quickly and in one draft.

What do you want audiences to take away from it?

I wanted audiences to experience a slow, tense unraveling of not only the story but the character’s sanity. 

Are you talking about making it into a feature? Why, or why not?

The idea originally came to me as a feature. I haven’t written it yet (as I’m working on finishing up a different feature script) but I’m interested in coming back around to it eventually.

What is one thing about your movie that you are dying to talk about but haven’t had the chance yet?

We made this short with a very small, tight crew and a modest budget. I’m incredibly proud of what we pulled off with 6 people total on the shoot (and that’s including 2 actors.)

What’s your next project? Where can people find out more about your work outside of this movie?

You can keep up with me on Instagram (@anatashablakely) and darklingfilms.com. I have two shorts I’m editing right now. I think our feature will be out the gate any day now.

Make A Wish

Directed by Dinh Thai

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Where can people find more information about your movie?

www.makeawishshortfilm.com

How long did it take you to film it?

12 hours

What drew you to this piece? 

I needed better demo reel footage and found an old short film script written by Ivan Tsang that was easy to shoot (or so we thought at the time). After reading it, the characters felt like hyper realized versions of my actual relationship with my partner.

What do you want audiences to take away from it?

That I have a very devious sense of humor and that Asians are not to be trifled with

Are you talking about making it into a feature? Why, or why not?

If it garners enough interest, maybe!

What is one thing about your movie that you are dying to talk about but haven’t had the chance yet?

We truly did not think this is a horror film and thought it was just a delightful comedy

What’s your next project? Where can people find out more about your work outside of this movie?

Spider One’s upcoming debut horror feature film ALLEGORIA + Krsy Fox’s FRANK. Now available on Apple TV, Amazon Prime, and Google Play. You can find my work at resumes.actorsaccess.com/josephinechang

Also Read: FilmQuest Review – When The Screaming Starts Is a Wicked Funny Serial Killer Mockumentary

The Pey 

Directed by Ramon Menon

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Where can people find more information about your movie?

https://www.instagram.com/the.pey.movie/

How long did it take you to film it?

2 Days

What drew you to this piece? 

I wanted to make a Covid movie but soon realized that there would be a lot of Covid films coming out so I decided instead to make an allegorical Covid movie. I wondered what spreads faster than Covid and lawsuits and realized Social Media is the answer. Social media dominates every aspect of life – personal and professional. We live in an age of misinformation (election controversies, disbelief in vaccines, etc.) where we no longer know for sure what the truth is. Hence, I thought it would be appropriate to make a short film that reflects this idea where the belief in the idea of a Monster can spread through Social Media, go viral and make the Monster more powerful with the abundance of shares and followers the Monster’s post gains before it finally consumes the person (or people) who shares the Monster’s post.

I love Monster movies especially Alien and The Thing, so I came up with a reason as to why the Monster grows – the idea that the more followers the social media post gains, the more the creature grows – like a ticking time bomb which is always a fun and suspenseful story device to have in cinema.

What do you want audiences to take away from it?

I would like audiences to become more aware of what they share online as spreading certain types of misinformation and disinformation can have real-life consequences and can change other people’s perspectives in adverse ways. The audience needs to realize that we live in a time where we have to actively search for the truth and not blindly accept information as fact just because it showed up on our social media feed right after a post of your neighbor’s puppy’s birthday or after a post about a 10 hour Lord of The Rings watch party (Gross).

Are you talking about making it into a feature? Why, or why not?

Yes, I am developing The Pey into a feature film because I believe The Pey feature film has more to say about misinformation, perspectives and the divided world that we live in that is primarily driven by social media biases. The feature film will also delve into our collective desire to be seen as something other than what we truly are – a contrived version of ourselves that cannot be further from the truth. The Pey feature film will play around with structure as it deals with themes of truth and perspective which is the kind of cinema that I am inspired by (films like Rashomon, Time Crimes, and The Prestige)

What is one thing about your movie that you are dying to talk about but haven’t had the chance yet?

I can’t wait for the Feature Film version of The Pey. The short film is a small PG-13 version of the mind fuck that the Feature Film is going to be. I have spoken a lot about the short film but I am always skipping over how we had to put the Practical Monster suit and Monster effects together as we barely used any CGI for the Monster effects. I am a big believer in doing as much practical effects and then complementing it with some CGI to bring it all together. Our Special Effects Make-Up Artist Robert Bravo did a fantastic job creating all the creature effects on what he calls “a budget that is less than my monthly cell phone bill”.

I also would like to mention our cinematographer Tommy Oceanak worked closely with me to ensure that we lit and framed the movie in such a way that the Social Media posts would have their own space to thrive in the Narrative style we were creating. We had the idea of making a movie like Searching without staying on computer screens as that can get pretty tedious if not done right. We hope we managed to accomplish our goal on that front.

What’s your next project? Where can people find out more about your work outside of this movie?

My next project is the Feature Film version of The Pey. I have also recently completed a TV Pilot Comedy called The Station about the worst Police Station in India. Which we are developing into a TV show. People can also follow me on Instagram at @ramonemenon. My film Once Upon a Time in a Haunted House is streaming on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcedcqAUfEc&t=218s

Honorable Mentions:

The Dead Collectors, Directed by Brendan Cleaves

Muse, Directed by Camilla Tamara Demichelis Richard

Koreatown Ghost Story, Directed by Minsun Park and Teddy Tenebaum

Logan Lee & The Rise Of The Purple Dawn, Directed by Raymond C. Lai

Nagual: The Sin Eater Directed by Dan “Laz” Lazarovits

Reklaw, Directed by Polaris Banks

Strawman, Directed by Alexander Casimir

Subscribe, Directed by Benji Allred and Merik Richardson

Wasteland, Directed by Michael Muchnij

Watch Room, Directed by Noah Wagner

What Happened Downstairs, Directed by Andrew Nisinson

Keep an eye out for these movies and directors. If you get a chance to see them, let me know what you think @misssharai.

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