Friday, May 6, 2011

An Interview with Steve Barrett, organizer of the ADD Short Film Festival (Saturday May 7th at Now That's Class)

[The ADD Short Film Festival takes place on Saturday May 7th at Now That's Class, located at 11213 Detroit Avenue in Cleveland, OH. The festival starts at 2pm and goes until 2am. Admission is $2 for the entire day.]

Interview by Bob Ignizio

Cleveland Movie Blog: So what exactly is the ADD Short Film Festival, and how did it come about?
Steve Barrett: The A.D.D. Short Film Festival is a day-long event that will be taking place at Now That's Class on Saturday May 7th. It will feature 52 short films and will also have performances from five bands and one puppet theater (Self Destruct Button, Dikes Of Holland, Leah Lou & The Two Left Shoes, Mr. California, Cereal Banter, and The Possibilitarian Puppet Theater). It will start at 2pm and go until 2am and it will be only $2 for the entire day. The purpose of the festival is to promote the art of short filmmaking, show that the world of short films is every bit as diverse and enriching as that of feature length films, and to expose people to some films that they would otherwise not have a chance to see.
The inspiration for the festival goes way back. There used to be an amazing festival here in Cleveland called the 20,000 Leagues Under The Industry Film Festival that ran from 2000 until 2004. It was dedicated to promoting a lot of very cool independent, underground, and student work. The Cleveland International Film Festival, Ohio Independent Film Festival, and the Akron Film Festival are all incredible and screen lots of short films, but after 20,000 Leagues stopped running I felt that it left this void in Northeast Ohio of an event solely dedicated to the art of short movie making. So I had been contemplating organizing a short film festival since 2005.


In the meantime I was seeing amazing touring short film programs like THE ANIMATION SHOW, NINE NATION ANIMATION, A SHORT HISTORY OF POLISH ANIMATION, and OSCAR NOMINATED SHORTS and touring programs from festivals like Ottawa International Film Festival, Ann Arbor Film Festival, and the Black Maria Film Festival at The Cinematheque, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cedar Lee, and Capitol Theatre that only made me want to organize a festival even more.

Every year the Cinematheque holds an event called .E.M.I.T which is a lengthy program of work from students in the Cleveland Institute of Art's T.I.M.E. department. I was never able to go because it is always on a Thursday night and I have the Live From Cleveland radio show on WRUW every Thursday night. This past September though, the band that was supposed to play the night of the .E.M.I.T screening let me know a few weeks prior that they were going to have to reschedule for a later date. So instead of booking another band in their place, I decided to just deejay that night so that I could arrive at the station when the radio show starts at 10pm instead of 8:30pm when we usually start loading in equipment so that I could go to the .E.M.I.T screening. I went and was totally blown away by the quality of the work done by CIA students.

There were a number of short films that were some of the best short films I had seen that year. I was really inspired by their work and felt it was a shame that not many people would see this work outside of the school. Right then and there I decided that I would have to start work on organizing the short film festival that I had been thinking about so that I could help in some small way to get some really great short films a little bit of attention. So although I've been working on organizing the festival since October, I've been thinking about it for a long time so you could say that this film festival has been six years in the planning.


CMB: Is this a Cleveland/Ohio thing, or did you get submissions from outside of the area?
SB: We received the bulk of the submissions from Ohio, but submission rolled in from all over the country from places like Pennsylvania, New York, New Mexico, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and California and from around the world like Canada, France, Italy, Portugal, India, China, Ukraine, Australia, and Trinidad. It was great to see such a huge showing from Ohio filmmakers, but also incredibly exciting to see submissions pouring in from all over. I wanted the festival to focus on a lot on work done right here in Ohio but also to balance that with cool films from all over the world.

CMB: What is the shortest submission in the program, and what's the longest? How long is the total program?
SB: The shortest submission was thirty seconds and the longest was forty minutes. There will be a total of seven hours of short films divided into five programs that range from an hour ten minutes to an hour and a half each.

CMB: What do you think short films have that's different from traditional feature-length films? What is it about the short film format that appeals to you?
SB: To me short films should be an entirely different breed from feature length films, and I feel that a very good short film is a real challenge to make. So many short films try to cram the story of a feature-length film into a fifteen or twenty minute time span. The problem with that is that everything that goes into a really strong feature-length film like character development, complex subplots, minute details, pacing, etc. can't really be fit into such a short running time.


Films that try to tell a large story in a short amount of time end up feeling flat and one-dimensional to me. In order to overcome this, short films need to find a new and clever way to tell narratives or push towards a purely visual medium while still remaining thoroughly engaging. I think the greatest short films are based on an idea that can be fully realized and executed in a short amount of time, and that idea needs to be a real gem. It's a really tough challenge to do this, but the short films that can pull it off end up offering an experience that is unique from feature-length films and can be really exciting and refreshing.


I feel that short films tragically do not receive the attention that they deserve. So many short films these days are being made simply as a business card. A short film is often made just as a rough draft to shop around for financing to turn it into a feature or as an exercise to show the competence of the filmmaker and build their portfolio in hopes that Hollywood or television will give them a directing job. That's absolutely fine, but the focus still needs to be on making a really unique and interesting short that stands as great work on its own merits. Many people view short films like they were just the little kid brother to feature length films which is really tragic. The world of short films is every bit as diverse and exciting and contains as many wonderful films as the world of feature-length films.


Sadly, there's not a market for short films that much right now, but it's really wonderful to start seeing a lot of new short films festival cropping up all over the world each year, touring programs of short films hitting up arthouse and independent theaters across the country, and a lot of collections of shorts being released on DVD. Hopefully with more people working on promoting great short films and shining a spotlight on the talent of short film directors, short films will gain the respect they deserve and will be viewed as every bit as equal to feature-length films in the eyes of movie lovers.

CMB: Any particular films that you want to mention, or filmmakers/actors that people might know?
SB: There is going to be a spotlight on three different filmmakers: Kristian Day from Iowa City, Faustine Gau from Columbus, and Michaela Lynch from here in Cleveland. These are three people who are putting out work that is so amazingly creative and all have a really unique voice. These are three young filmmakers who I feel have a really bright future ahead of them. There's an amazing amount of talent coming from people in their teens and twenties (the youngest filmmaker featured in the film fest is only sixteen!) and these talented young filmmakers need to have their efforts recognized so that they know that there is an interest in their work and that they feel inspired to continue putting out new works.


I also have a great love for animation. The diversity of animation styles and forms of storytelling is so incredibly broad that one could watch hundreds of shorts animated films and still feel like everything was really unique and different. I also have a fondness for more experimental modes of filmmaking. Sometime experimental films can be more challenging to watch and wrap your brain around but can be so wonderfully rewarding and can provide such a truly unique viewing experience. In this festival I put together a program of animated and more experimental films that I am really proud of and hope people will enjoy those films every bit as much as I did.

CMB: What do you think of the state of Cleveland's film scene, both in terms of people making movies here and the level of audience interest in things outside of the big Hollywood blockbusters like your fest?
SB: Cleveland's films scene is so strong. There are a lot of filmmakers making shorts and features here, and with Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland State University, and Cuyahoga Community College all having great filmmaking programs, I think the amount of talent in the region will continue to increase over the coming years.

Also, the Greater Cleveland Film Commission and the Ohio Film Office are very dedicated to bringing filmmaking talent to the region to work on films here which is really exciting. Some of the filmmakers featured in the A.D.D. Short Film Festival like Keitj T. Alin and Jon Mancinetti and a few others have had their work screened at the Cedar Lee, Capitol Theater, and the Cinematheque. The Cleveland International Film Festival had a short film program solely dedicated to Ohio filmmakers this year, the Ohio Independent Film Festival shows works from a lot of area filmmakers, and the Wexner Center in Columbus organizes the Ohio Shorts event and another one that focuses on very young filmmakers from around the area. In the future, it would be great to see many other theaters and events promoting local talent and the work being made in our very own backyard.



Also, the greater Cleveland area has an absolutely amazing film exhibition scene. With the combined efforts of the Cinematheque, the Cleveland Museum of Art, various Cleveland Cinemas theaters like the Cedar Lee and Capitol Theater, Strosacker Hall on the campus of Case, Stocker Arts Center at Lorain County Community College, Cinema On The Square at Playhouse Square, Canton Palace Theater, and the Wexner Center down in Columbus and events like the Cleveland International Film Festival, Ohio Independent Film Festival, Akron Film Festival, and Cinema Wasteland one can literally see hundreds of amazing films on the big screen every year in and around Cleveland. We are so lucky to have such a huge volume of great films being shown in Cleveland each and every week and most other cities don't have nearly as many good films happening there.



I think it's a shame that most people don't realize how good we have it here in Cleveland when it comes to film. It is truly tragic that most Clevelanders aren't even aware of the existence of the Cinematheque. The Cinematheque is one of the most important cultural institutions in Cleveland and is a real gem in this city and it would be great to see more people seeing films there and supporting it. A city is only as good as its local business and institutions and its local talent. It is so important to support local businesses and institutions and help out local talent so that this city can attract even more local business and inspire even more talent. It is through our support that we can make Cleveland a really unique and thriving city.

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