“If you look at the first short films made by the best filmmakers of today, most people couldn’t tell you whether or not they were going to achieve greatness. It was their ability to keep doing it and learn from their mistake and keep going.”
Every summer L.A. Shorts Film Fest screens a variety of international and domestic shorts from both established and up and coming filmmakers. L.A. Shorts also hosts a screenplay competition and includes a cast and crew call resource for the L.A. area on its website. Founder, Bob Arnetz, shares more about the festival he built 18 years ago.
Q: What is the story behind this festival? How did the festival begin?
A: At the time,  I was pursuing an acting career and I took a couple cinema courses and made a couple of short films. I screened them for my peers one time and I thought that being in Los Angeles, there are many filmmakers who have films that they’d like to exhibit. So I started screening a monthly showcase of shorts in a film club setting, which I did for a year and it grew. At that time L.A. didn’t have a short film festival. It had AFI and the LA Independent Film Festival, which is now L.A. Film festival. They were doing features and I figured no one was doing shorts. I thought it was a win-win situation. At the first screening it was very clear that we were filling a void locally and the screenings grew.
Our first year was 1997. After a year of that club setting and projecting with half-inch tape on the wall, we made a natural progression into having an actual film festival that ran for three days and featured about fifty short films. Now the festival is in its 18th year and runs for 8 days. This year we screened 235 films from 17 different countries.
Q: What are some of your favorites films from this year’s festival?
A: Award winners like, Nosferatu in Love, which won our Best of Fest. Mark Strong gave an awesome performance in that film. We had a foreign film called The Landing from Australia, which was pretty cool. The comedy, The Gunfighter screened closing night. It got a lot of great laughs. There were many others.
Q: Were there any filmmakers or actors at the screenings?
A: A lot of talent lives here so we have a lot of participation. One thing about the screenings that are enjoyable, is that at the end of each screening we do a Q & A with the directors or producers. Maybe the cast members will join. Both international and domestic filmmakers often make the trip out. The Landing director from the Australian film attended the event. The director from Germany who was awarded the Best Drama also attended the event.
The Disney event was also a special event this year. Animation is a strong category for us and is recognized by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Disney has participated not every year but consistently. Pixar had a screening of the short La Luna, one year. We get movies from Marvel as well. There are open submissions for everyone and everyone has to abide by the same guidelines.
Q: What is unique and exciting about LA Shorts?
A: One thing I’m proud is that after so many years we’ve gained the respect and attention of Disney, Pixar and Marvel. We’ve attracted attention within the industry but at the same time we still pride ourselves in that this festival is open to everyone. You could have shot a film for under 500 dollars and if you have something interesting to say there’s a place for you in this festival.
I think it also gives a chance to the filmmakers who are still learning their craft. If you look at the first short films made by the best filmmakers of today, most people couldn’t tell you whether or not they were going to achieve greatness. It was their ability to keep doing it and learn from their mistake and keep going. The more you do it, the better you get. These filmmakers need someone at the end of that journey who says we salute you and here’s your opportunity to screen your film on a big screen, in front of a large audience. If filmmakers don’t have that and they go through that whole process and no one gives a damn, that’s really discouraging. They need that encouragement. That pat on the back. That’s one reason that I think that what we’re doing is important in encouraging young filmmakers.
To see the full line-up past L.A. Shorts Fest or their submission requirements, check out their website.