Talk about a bonus project

By Ryan Pike

Society, we’re told, is in dire straits. The economy is in recession, folks aren’t willing to help each other out and everyone seems fine with doing the bare minimum. At a time like this, an odd beacon of light shines bright. That beacon? Shorts. Short films, that is, in the form of the Show Us Your Shorts festival.

The origin of the festival, while not exactly something out of science fiction, is definitely unique. As part of the coursework in FILM 441, a class devoted to film festivals, fourth-year art history student Jeanette Burman was required to do a 10-hour practicum working for a local festival. Instead of searching for somewhere to put in her hours, she did the unthinkable– she created her own.

“I thought, ‘How about a shorts festival? Why don’t I make my own festival?’, ” recalls Burman. “I decided to propose that as my practicum and it was approved by George Melnyk, the professor, and I just kinda started.”

Burman hasn’t gone it alone, though. She’s had the help of her friends, family and classmates in starting the festival from scratch. Interestingly enough, some of her classmates helped out even though they had already completed the 20-hour requirement for the course but still wanted to be involved.

“It’s been really exciting for me to see the volunteer students who are my fellow classmates get this practical hands-on experience,” shares Burman. “I don’t think a big festival would allow them to do the main marketing of their festival. How often is a student volunteer going to contact major media in Calgary and say, ‘I’m promoting a film festival?’ ”

Show Us Your Shorts features a bevy of films split into three categories by length: short, medium and long. Burman and her student volunteers have managed to cull together a diverse collection of films for the festival, a number of which wouldn’t otherwise have an avenue to be shown.

“I really tried to get the word out for submissions through every arts organization and institution I could think of in Calgary and Alberta,” says Burman. “We received over 31 films in a period of two months, all from local filmmakers– one actually from British Columbia– which I think is pretty phenomenal for a first festival and for such a short period of time. I was pretty much blown away by how much material we got. Once the films started rolling in, it started to build itself.”

The shorts festival has grown beyond what Burman initially anticipated and emerges as a three-day affair. The festivities begin with a reception and workshops Thursday night at 6 p.m. at the Nickle Arts Museum. Then, Emmedia hosts a screening beginning Friday at 7 p.m. Finally, the festival’s main event is nine shorts screened at the Plaza Theatre on Saturday beginning at 4 p.m., with a reception to follow at the Yardhouse across the street. Burman is succinct in stating why fans of film should check out Show Us Your Shorts.

“We have great short films and you’ll enjoy yourselves,” she says. “No attendance is going to be taken and it’s free, which is not very common.”

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