February 26, 2018
Sundance 2018

Why You Need to Stop Making Excuses and Make a Short Film

We finally figured out the formula for getting a short film into Sundance, but it won't work if you copy it. 

2018 was another year of razor sharp competition for the toughest shorts lineup in the United States: the Sundance Film Festival. What seperated the chosen few from the other 8,671 submissions? Who knows! However, Sundance programmer Dilcia Barrera told No Film School that the only real marker is to make a short "that is authentic to your story, your reality, your style. Anything forced or contrived is obvious to film festival programmers." So, the formula we spoke of? Make a film entirely authentic to who you are, and make sure it's damned good, too.

That's how it worked for five talented filmmakers who played their short films at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Pete Lee, Diane Obomsawin, Shaandiin Tome, Kamau Bilal, and Anna Margaret Hollyman sat down for a roundtable discussion with No Film School to talk about their films, which represent a diverse lineup of colorful animation, 16mm, proximity documentary, and more. The great thing is that each short from this roundtable embodies just that kind of authenticity Barrera is talking about. Each film is indicative of the filmmaker's personal experience and voice. Take a look for yourself!

In I like Girls, filmmaker Diane Obomsawin transforms stories, including her own, of women falling in love with women into colorful world of animated anthropomorphic animals, an aesthetic that she has spent years cultivating in her graphic novels and other films.

In Don’t Be A Hero, Pete Lee tells the true story of a woman who robs banks on her lunch break with a kinetic stylized magic of multiple realities. How did he come up with the unique visual style? It could be informed by having been teenage transplant from Taiwan to New England (two pretty different realities) holding onto dear life for a mad love of Kung Fu Cinema!

In Mud, Shaandiin Tome takes the story of personal tragedy in her family and re-envisions the circumstances imbued with a surrealistic quality that transforms this dramatic experience into a timeless look into the last day of a woman’s life.

Ismaeel Bilal appears in Baby Brother by Kamau Bilal, an official selection of the Shorts Programs at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Kamau Bilal.

In Baby Brother, which you can watch free on NYTimes Op-Docs here, filmmaker Kamau Bilal turns his camera on his brother, crafting a film with both delightful comedy and intimate melancholy, in an incredible distillation of the feelings one goes through when deciding what to do after those salad days of youth are gone.

In Maude, accomplished actress Anna Margaret Hollyman takes on directing with herself in front of and behind the camera, and overcomes her own fears by making us laugh at that all too familiar experience – humiliation!


For more, see our ongoing list of coverage of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.

Sundance
No Film School's podcast and editorial coverage of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival is sponsored by RODE Microphones and Blackmagic Design.     

Header image featuring Missi Pyle in "Don't Be a Hero" by Pete Lee, an official selection of the Shorts Programs at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

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This is exactly what I needed to hear.

February 27, 2018 at 12:49PM

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Chris Neal
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