In just over a month multiple Oscar nominated films will screen in Grande Prairie as a part of the Reel Shorts Film Festival. The short films have been selected from the more that 5,000 submissions. That’s more short film entries than the Edmonton and Calgary film festival’s see combined.
Films this year include Dear Basketball which was written and narrated by Kobe Bryant. It was nominated in the Best Animated Short category at this year’s awards. The timely DeKalb Elementary was nominated in the Best Live Action Short category. The film was inspired by a 911 call during a school shooting in Atlanta.
About 3,600 people attended the festival last year. Just 1,200 of those were festival goers though, much of the festival’s time and energy is dedicated to their school program. The school program grew by 1,000 kids last year.
That’s something Festival Director Terry Scerbak says she would like to see in festival attendance too. She says marketing is only minmally successful for them since people are sometimes hesitant with short films.
“It’s just a different experience. Until somebody has come and actually sat in the audience they don’t really know what it’s like. And then they bring others and then that’s how our audience grows.”
The variety of films is something that Scerbak really thinks is the strength of what they offer.
“In an hour and a half instead of seeing one feature film you can see six or seven or eight short films. If they all relate somewhat to the same theme then you’re getting all these different perspectives.”
That is also part of the reason Scerbak thinks their school program has been so successful. Teachers have told her the variety of ways they can look at just one theme can lead to “hours” of classroom conversation.
The festival’s growth is also limited by the facility space which they are currently using. Scerbak says what the group really needs a space developed for them.
“Instead of the other way around, which is purpose built for live performances and then just, ‘Oh. Let’s just add a screen and a projector and we’re good for film.’ Which it’s like, no. It’s not going to be the kind of projector that we can get feature films on and it’s not going to be surround sound.”
The only facility in GP that could currently accommodate the shift to digital that distributors have been undergoing is the Cineplex. That’s something Scerbak says hasn’t worked out in the past.
“They have ten screens. They’re busy. They’re are like ‘well, yeah, you can have a Monday or a Wednesday night. Maybe.’ [Then we] deal with Toronto to get it. But [there’s] nothing where we can say we want to run a festival Friday, Saturday, Sunday. We just can’t get it.”
This year’s festival runs May 8 to the 14 at multiple venues around town. It is the 12th year for the festival, their second as their own standalone entity. The festival was launched as part of Grande Prairie Live Theatre’s programming.