WASHINGTON – It’s a wrap for the 16th annual DC Shorts International Short Film Festival and Screenplay Competition, where once again artists and audiences spent 10 days engaged with the craft of short filmmaking.
“We like to refer to it as “cinematic dim sum,” said Joe Bilancio, the director of programming for DC Shorts. “We really try to give the viewer the breadth of what a short film is.”
Last weekend, a small crowd of almost 100 gathered in the Miracle Theatre in Eastern Market for an evening of well-scripted storytelling and lively table reads. The screenplay competition was only one of several showcases, workshops and competitions that have built the festival’s reputation for highlighting short films and screenwriting.
Bilancio explained that the concept of a film festival that “champions short filmmaking” was born in 2003 when Washington-based filmmaker Jon Gann attended a series of festivals where he felt that shorts were mostly an afterthought.
Having been with DC Shorts since before 2011, Bilancio has witnessed the festival evolve into a celebration of short films and their creators.
“It’s really about the quality of the films… and we really take pride in making sure that everything we screen really meets the standard of DC Shorts.” Bilancio said.
A staple of the festival, the screenplay competition was one of closing events this year. After a panel of filmmakers, screenwriters, and critics read through and judged over 80 works, the top five were selected to be performed.
This year’s finalists included “The Errant Signal,” “The Best You’ve Got,” “Dear Emma, Your Charlie,” “Lost at Home,” and “Life in the Pen.”
Stories included a daughter discovering her dead mother’s former secret lover; to a man who pre-approved life plans for souls before they’re physically born; and a woman who deceptively wrote letters to an inmate in order to escape her own life.
The winner was that last plot, “Life in the Pen,” written by New York native Jason Forbach.
Forbach said the script was inspired by a real letter that a friend, a young mother, accidentally received from a convict.
“The letter itself was so beautiful and raw,” Forbach said. “It just had such an impact.”
The short is a tribute to that friend, his mother, and women in general for the sacrifices they must make for their families, he said.
Forbach, who is also an established Broadway actor and vocalist, received $1,000 after the competition toward the production of his screenplay into a short film. Another $1,000 will be awarded to him at next year’s festival, where the completed short will debut.
Over the duration of the festival, which closed Sept. 28, 156 short films were screened over the weekends at the Landmark’s E Street Cinema in Washington’s Penn Quarter. The festival’s last day featured films deemed by judges to be the “Best of the Fest.”
Although the festival has ended, DC Shorts hosts other events throughout the year.
DC Shorts Wins, which showcases the film festival winners, offers special screenings before the Academy Awards in January.
DC Shorts Laughs focuses on comedy shorts and hosts its screenings in June. Upcoming mentorship programs are also scheduled to start in March 2020, according to executive director Peter Morgan; workshops are also held year-round.