Short Films: An Art Form Unto Itself

NYC PictureStart Film Festival Starts June 3
By Mark Jackson, Epoch Times
May 31, 2014 Updated: May 31, 2014

Short films primarily function as steppingstones for crossing the river into big-film land. Ambitious actors or brand new directors will make “shorts” to showcase their talent.

The secondary function is that short films are practice. Like painters in sketch class practicing their lyrical line, or musicians running scales, so to filmmakers also stay sharp using the short film medium. 

“They need to stay busy, regardless of whether they’re actively working, which most are,” said Ben Arredondo, festival director of the NYC PictureStart Film Festival, which will screen June 3–5 at Arlene’s Grocery on the Lower East Side.

Originally a multimedia director and producer himself, Arredondo didn’t originally imagine he’d get into film festival directing. But NYCPSFF founder Greg Segal offered him the director position in 2010. And then the joy of showcasing filmmaker talent hit him. 

“It’s like being a gallery owner,” said Arredondo. “I like showing off the ingenuity of these creations, and being amazed by the ingenuity displayed within the confines of tiny budgets.”

The founding principle of the festival is simply to pick the top-notch short films from around the world, and creating a community and a gathering place—a hangout for peer networking, discussion, and inspiration. The festival has no set theme, just a wide representation of countries and types, and dramas and comedies; everything but the kitchen sink basically—but all quality pieces. 

In New York City where it’s common to have several film festivals scheduled during the same week, short films have an advantage.

The Internet has made short films more accessible. As Arredondo points out, “along with the Internet, the modern-day shortened attention span increasingly makes people like to go see a program of short films.”

The short form lends itself to suspense, dark comedy, and documentary, judging by this year’s lineup of 17 films.

“The tendency in short films is that they are dramatic. It’s difficult to find something funny,” Arredondo said. 

“Short films will continue to grow as an art-form; the short film is definitely an art-form unto itself,” he said.

NYC PictureStart Film Festival will take place at Arlene’s Grocery, 95 Stanton St. Tickets $10–$12 for each night; $20–$25 for all three nights. Screenings are accompanied by readings. 

Festival Director’s Picks:

“Mipso In Japan,” directed by Jon Kasbe 
(15 minutes; USA; Documentary)
Starring: Jacob Sharp, Joseph Terrell, and Wood Robinson

This charming documentary follows the North Carolina-based young bluegrass band Mipso on their whirlwind tour of Japan. On a journey that blurs the cultural divide between East and West, three young musicians travel across the world to discover a hidden Japanese bluegrass community. The twang of the banjo, it turns out, needs no translation.

Screening Tuesday, June 3 at 7 p.m.

“Bone to Brain,” directed by Rachel Greco 
(20 minutes; USA; Documentary)

“Bone to Brain” is a short documentary based on the themes of art, healing, acceptance, and progress. It is an uplifting and unique story about Nicki Muller, a 21-year-old art student, who was diagnosed with brain cancer. The unique way in which Nicki created artwork directly relating to her brain cancer invites the exploration of her artistry.

Screening Wednesday, June 4 at 7 p.m.

Follow Mark on Twitter: @FilmCriticEpoch