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Festival Review

Aug. 31 - Sept. 3, 2007 Atlanta, GA

by Jay Blodgett

The 2007 Dragon*Con Independent Short Film Festival was the main event (or "Track" as the convention topics are referred to) that I attended as part of Dragon*Con, billed as "America's largest, multi-media, popular arts convention focusing on science fiction and fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, and film."

The majority of screenings took place in the Learning Center of the Hyatt Regency. Though it resembled a classroom, the organizers installed a fairly high quality sound and projection system that was near perfectly calibrated for the space! Also, and this is no small issue, the chairs were fabulous! They were nice, large, executive office chairs, which rocked and swiveled and made the marathon screening schedule more than endurable.

The screening schedules started at 9:00 a.m. and ended at 6:00 a.m. the next morning, for three of the four days. This was intimidating, though HIGHLY tempting! I maintained a 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. pattern, since I was not staying in the hotel (which I may do next year!) and needed to go home to sleep and shower (though I admit that I missed a shower on Sunday morning). Feeding is a bit of an issue, and being a newbie, I never took advantage of the 'ConSuites' in the Hyatt (I kept forgetting they existed, since they are up in the hotel somewhere), but instead ate at the hotel restaurants, which charged a premium of course.

Though I did pop out for air and a couple of other panels and events, the festival programming kept me pretty involved, if not captive! (You can visit this posting at "Life With Movies and Maxxxxx" for a detailed recap of shorts.) The film festival, or more specifically the 'film track' as it is referred to at Dragon*Con, is organized by Film Festival Director, Matthew M. Foster. Now, I could go off on a tangent about film festival directors here. They are a strange breed. Festival programming can be an art of sorts, and I think a lot of festival directors are frustrated artists themselves. There is also that added pressure on the ego of bringing an audience to a film. I suppose it is not unlike those moments when I am taking (dragging?) a friend to a film I LOVE, in the anticipation that he will love it too, which may or may not happen. Overcoming that bit of stress in the face of "What do you mean you didn't LOVE it?!" must be what gives film festival directors a bit of a diva edge to them.

I personally appreciated it as both an entertaining and a learning experience, but the programming at D*CIS is a bit schizophrenic. Foster obviously prefers the company of the filmmakers to the audience. Mind you, given the demographic (politely put) of the more vocal members of the audience, you can't blame him. I would probably find myself avoiding the 'sci-fi fan boy' base, too. Though this is the first festival that I have attended that was part of a convention or conference setting, I felt a bit of elitism creeping in as far as the focus of the festival, particularly in the nearly trivial issue of 'audience awards.' The festival is a juried competition.

The panel this year included Foster, Bob Coughlin, Pete Dawood and Dan Krovich from IMAGE. There were a good dozen awards presented in various categories (listed below) from the panel, as well as a filmmakers award, voted on by the peers that were present. There is also a set of miscellaneous audience awards, with such categories not unlike "best horror romance." (I don't remember exact categories that were announced in mid-festival, and the awards themselves were not included on a public schedule.) They sounded like a parody of the 'MTV Movie Awards.' I found it sort of amusing at first, but then I was just a bit offended by the end of the weekend, when I began to feel that the audience impressions or perhaps 'judgments' were being trivialized. (Perhaps that was just a bit of MY temperament coming to the surface?)

I also found my taste to be in conflict with members of the jury, in their award selections as well as in the panel discussion of "Film Criticism: The Most Influential Sci-Fi Films." But I do have a preference for the surreal, i.e., the films of David Lynch and Tim Burton, which were quite adamantly criticized during that panel. (Harumph!) I also found their selection of award winners as having fairly literal screenplays and not featuring the mind-bending antics of such a director as Don Hertzfeldt, whose film, Everything Will Be OK, was passed over for awards.

However, these disagreements aside, which are more personal than having to do with the festival itself, the programming had such depth, I found it nearly overwhelming! There is no question that I will attend again, next year!

The 2007 Dragon*Com Independent Short Film Festival Awards

  • Best In Show - Live Action: Jakob and the Angels (dir. Ron Lehman, USA, 13 mins.)
  • Best In Show - Animation: Operation: Fish (dir. Jeff Riley, USA, 10 mins.)
  • Filmmakers (Peers) Award: Zombie Love (dir. Yfke van Berckelaer, Netherlands/USA, 37 mins.)
  • Live Action Shorts - Action & Suspense: Forged (dir. David No, Australia, 38 mins.)
  • Parody: 07 (dir. Peter Sullivan, USA, 11 mins.) Dark Comedy: The Fifth (dir. Ryan Levin, USA, 14 mins.)
  • Horror Comedy: Zombie Love (dir. Yfke van Berckelaer, Netherlands/USA, 37 mins.)
  • Fantasy: Jakob and the Angels (no link available) (dir. Ron Lehman, USA, 13 mins.)
  • Horror: Para-Normal (dir. Lauren Timmons, USA, 16 mins.)
  • Animated Shorts - Comedy: Whale (dir. Rob Wicksteed, United Kingdom, 5 mins.)
  • Fantasy/Science Fiction: Operation: Fish (dir. Jeff Riley, USA, 10 mins.)