ShortFest Spotlight

We've curated films for your escaping pleasure.  We hope you enjoy them as much as we do! 

The Nostalgist | 18 Minutes

With properly tuned ImmerSyst eyes™ & ears™ the futuristic city of Vanille can look and sound like a paradise. But the life of a father and his son threatens to disintegrate when the father’s Immersyst begins to fail. Desperate to avoid facing his own traumatic reality, the man must venture into a city where violence and danger brew beneath a veneer of beautiful illusion.

The Nostalgist is a science fiction short film project based on Daniel H Wilson‘s short story of the same name. The Year’s Best Science Fiction: 2009 Finalist, the story was first published on in July 2009 and is also available for download from major ebook retailers.

Two Dosas | 16 Minutes

Geeky Pavan takes his 'English Rose' on a date to the most authentic Indian restaurant in the city. To his horror she goes off-menu, in Hindi.

Two Dosas, funded by Film London was voted best film in their London Calling Plus category by David Yates and then went on to pick up numerous awards on the festival circuit; winning at London Short Film Festival, Aspen shortsfest, River to River in Florence and Shufflefest voted by Danny Boyle. Sarmaud also wrote and directed Adha Cup which was the first Urdu language drama commissioned by Channel Four, going on to develop it as a six part TV series with the BBC.

Observatory Blues | 20 Minutes

Observatory Blues is an L.L. Bean-clad ode to writers, their loved ones, and the expanding universe narrated by Hugo Guinness (The Grand Budapest Hotel). Starring Tom Schiller (SNL) and Amy Sedaris.

Coin Operated | 5 Minutes

Coin Operated is an award-winning animated short film that spans 70 years in the life of one naive explorer.

Points of Origin | 19 Minutes

Ankur Vikal (Slumdog Millionaire) and Tessa Thompson (Creed) tackle the moral complications of international surrogacy in this festival favorite short film.

Love is Blind | 7 Minutes

When Alice’s husband arrives home to try and make amends it leaves her navigating a tricky situation.

Dan Hodgson is a London-based writer/director known for his shorts Are You Albert? (2014) and Love is Blind (2015). The latter is a fresh, hilarious twist on the classic love triangle which also works as a bit of a suspense thriller.

The Tide Keeper | 9 Minutes

One night an old seaman dreams the ocean into his bed. His sea-green sheets become the polluted waters of his worst nightmare. His own mortality is at risk as his household objects begin to suffocate him. The film is inspired by the life of, and performed by, the filmmaker’s father.

Alyx is an art filmmaker and choreographer. She has made dance theatre, installations, award-winning shorts and a critically acclaimed feature film. She has over sixteen years of experience choreographing for film and TV commercials. Alongside her industry work and artistic practice, she teaches dance and film in the tertiary sector.

Speed Dating| 11 Minutes

Desperate to find the man of her dreams, sweet and plain Ava tries a last-ditch effort, speed dating. But the absurd cast of characters she encounters makes her wonder if being single is not so bad after all.

Meghann Artes is an award-winning filmmaker and animator who has worked with Sesame Street, Warner Bros., Nickelodeon, Bix Pix, NBC, and ABC. Her short films have enjoyed success in festivals across the country and, in 2009, her work for Sesame Street was awarded both an Emmy and a Peabody.

Breathe | 15 Minutes

Set amongst the Irish traveling community, Breathe questions to what extent a father, living in a patriarchal society, is willing to go when the one who’s threatening his legacy and his reputation is his own son. Patrick’s reluctance to accept his son, Francie, for who and what he is (becoming) spirals out of control; pushing him too far, which results in a devastating consequence. Can Patrick bring about change in his son, or ultimately is he the one that needs to change?

James Doherty is a Mancunian-Irish writer/director working in drama and thriller genres, with a particular focus on intense stories of brittle masculinity on the fringes of society. His debut short film Breathe won awards internationally and was showcased by the BFI and British Council. Currently, he is working on a neon-infused apprenticeship drama, along with his first feature; The Seventh Son.

Einstein-Rosen | 9 Minutes

Summer of 1982. Teo claims he has found a wormhole. His brother Óscar does not believe him - at least not for now.

Olga Osorio is a teacher of Editing in the faculty of Ciencias da Comunicación (media sciences) in A Coruña and Filmmaking in the Escola de Imaxe e Son in the same city. She has directed four short films: Tinder Time (2019); reStart (2015) Einstein-Rosen (2016) and Mouras (2018), receiving around 80 national and international awards and 500 selections in several festivals. 

Olga Osorio is currently working on the development of her first feature film, based on Einstein-Rosen, with Vaca Films production company. She has also been selected to participate in an intensive workshop with Spanish scriptwriter Alberto Marini to develop her new feature script “Yo, Bárbara”.

The Heights | 22 Minutes

A promising musical duo tries to avoid a meltdown before the biggest show of their career.

Ryan has always been drawn to telling the stories of real people. He naturally began his directing work in documentaries. He created a doc series pilot called Five Star, about the insane world of college football recruiting. This led to shopping deals with SpringHill Entertainment and Preferred Content. He naturally moved into branded content, directing projects for Spotify and Google. He then caught the eye of Pulse Films, the award-winning production company behind American Honey and Lemonade.

Ryan co-wrote and directed his first narrative short, The Heights, as a proof of concept for what would be his first narrative feature. Not one to wait around for permission, he is actively developing a handful of film and television projects with writers and producers from around the world.

Feathers | 20 Minutes

Feathers centers around Elizier, an emotionally-dejected new enrollee at The Edward R. Mill School for Boys, who must overcome memories of a tragic past and the present hazing by his peers in order to tackle larger issues dominating his young life.

A.V. Rockwell is an award-winning filmmaker, commercial and television director from New York City. Named as one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film,” her distinctive voice has been celebrated for slyly addressing issues of race, identity, and systematic oppression. Rockwell studied filmmaking at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and has received fellowships from Tribeca Film Institute, the Sundance Institute and the John S. Guggenheim Foundation.

Fox Searchlight acquired her short film Feathers ahead of its premiere at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. It was also selected as part of the 2019 Sundance and Telluride Film Festivals. She is an alumni of the 2019 Sundance Screenwriters and Directors Labs.

Gnarly in Pink | 8 Minutes

This film is about a trio of skateboarding six-year-olds who form the Pink Helmet Posse. This fantastical short follows the girls as they pop ollies and shred through gender stereotypes—all while dressed in tutus. In a sport where girls are traditionally underrepresented, the posse proves that despite their nail polish and pink helmets, there’s no limit to what they can do.

Ben Mullinkosson is a Chicago-raised, China-based director. His film Don’t Be a Dick About It recently won the Audience Award at IDFA and is being distributed by Oscilloscope Laboratories. He now works directing commercials and music videos. His works include the Cannes Silver Lion Advertising award, Vimeo Staff Picks, NYT Op-Docs, and some of his films have millions of views.

Kristelle Laroche spends her time working on independent projects and volunteering with kids. Kelsey fancies herself an avid editor (no pun intended) and has been cutting and directing films since she could hold a camcorder. She loves storytelling in all of its forms, especially when it involves traveling to new places and engaging with new people.

Death Metal Grandma |13 Minutes

Death Metal Grandma is a documentary about the story of Inge Ginsberg, a 96-year-old death metal music icon. During World War II, she fled the Holocaust and landed in a refugee camp in Switzerland. After the war she and her husband, Otto Kollmann, moved to Hollywood and built new lives, composing for some of the most popular singers of their generation, including Nat King Cole, Doris Day, and Dean Martin.  

Leah Galant specializes in documentary producing and directing with additional experience as a cinematographer and editor focusing on social justice issued based stories. Her work has been featured on the NY Times, The Atlantic, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Salon, MovieMaker Magazine, and earned Vimeo Staff Picks.

Another film of hers, The Provider, also showed at ShortFest.

ICarus | 19 Minutes

Today's Sunday Short is Icarus, from ShortFest 2017. Icarus had its world premiere at Show Me Shorts in New Zealand, and has appeared at numerous international festivals and was awarded the Jury Prize for Best Special Effects at Bend Film Festival.

When a Mars colony's comm satellite is damaged and the commander embarks on a repair excursion, an unforeseen problem forces her son to go after her.

Tom Teller, the director of Icarus, grew up in Bend, Oregon where he discovered his passion for storytelling before moving to southern California to pursue film. He was a 2015 Student Academy Award finalist for his animated short, Hum and has spent the last four years directing narrative shorts, animation, and the feature length documentary The Rise of Enduro. Tom graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in film production from Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, and is in the process of beginning his Masters of Business Administration.

Thunder Road | 13 Minutes

Today's Sunday Short is Thunder Road, from ShortFest 2016. In 2018, it developed into a feature film of the same name, available to stream for free on Amazon Prime.

Thunder Road is a short comedy-drama film written, directed by, and starring Jim Cummings. Shot in one take, the film depicts police officer Arnaud giving a eulogy for his mother at her funeral by singing and dancing to the Bruce Springsteen song, "Thunder Road".

Jim Cummings is a producer and director, known for Thunder Road (2018), Thunder Road (2016) and The Robbery (2017).

SNOR | 13 Minutes

Today's Sunday Short features SNOR, from ShortFest 2019. It was written and directed by Michael Middelkoop, an Amsterdam-based director/creative artist.

In an urban neighbourhood overcome by rapid gentrification, recently widowed Harry has a hard time adapting. Scrambling to protect his traditional way of life, Harry spearheads a protest committee. When even his friends cave in to a relocation bonus, they urge Harry to stop wasting his life living in the past.

From Middelkoop: "I made SNOR in an attempt to reflect on the rapid modernization undergoing in my childhood neighbourhood. Channeling my mother who still lives there, main character Harry is unwilling to accept this profound change. I am proud of this quirky short movie, that although very personal, has proven to resonate with a diverse audience. SNOR deals with fundamental aspects of modern life such as loss, grief and gentrification, but does so in a manner meant to put a smile on your face and love in your heart. Everyone knows what it's like to cling onto things from the past, but as my main character in SNOR learns: often it's better to let go and look forward. The film had it's worldwide premiere at IFFR (International Film Festival Rotterdam 2019)."

A View from the Window | 8 Minutes

Today's Sunday Short features A View from the Window from ShortFest18. It shows an immersive glimpse of a school day through the eyes of deaf children. Directed by Chris Filippone and Azar Kafaei. Shot with the 3rd grade class at the California School for the Deaf.

Chris Filippone is a documentary filmmaker whose work has screened in the Berlinale, Visions du Réel, SXSW, CPH:DOX, Sheffield Doc/Fest, Ann Arbor Film Festival, and The Guardian. His film Scrap won the Spirit Award for Short Documentary at the Brooklyn Film Festival in 2017 and A View from the Window was nominated for a 2018 Best of the Year Award on Vimeo. He has received support from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, MiND TV, and the Bread and Roses Fund as well as fellowships from the Telluride Student Symposium and UFVA. He is a recent graduate of Stanford University's M.F.A. Documentary Film and Video program and currently a Lecturer at the San Francisco Art Institute.

Azar Kafaei is a documentary filmmaker. She studied at Borough of Manhattan Community College, Yale University, and earned an MFA at Stanford University in 2018. Some of her works include This is Not a (Iranian) Film (featured at ShortFest19), When Mother Goes to Work, and Butterfly.

Welcome to the Iron Knob | 21 Minutes

Today's ShortFest Spotlight features David Wade, writer and director of, Welcome to the Iron Knob from ShortFest 2013 and winner of Best of The Fest Audience Choice award.

After a young boy accidentally shoots a stranger with his father's gun, it is left to the nonchalant townsfolk to cover it up as quickly as possible - so they can get back to whatever it was they were doing before.

David Wade on making the film: "It was great. There was a real stress free fun vibe on set. It was like we were all on holiday, and in between festivities and drinking sessions, we happened to make a film. It's a light-hearted, feel-good film, and right now -- I think the world needs to have a laugh."

"I live in small town Australia, and generally speaking country people (all around the world) cop a hard time from the big-knob city folk, for being either narrow-minded or jaundiced. This was made to show that deep down, we're really decent people."

I Have a Message for You | 13 Minutes

Today's ShortFest Spotlight features Matan Rochlitz, director of Emmy award nominee, I Have A Message For You from ShortFest 2018.

Matan is an award-winning, Emmy-nominated filmmaker. Born and raised in Rome, Italy he trained as a video journalist at Al-Jazeera English, making films for political, environmental and science strands. ​Broadcast credits include Channel 4 and the BBC.

Matan's personal work focuses on the short documentary form but has also worked with creative agencies creating content for organisations and international brands such as The North Face, Save the Children, Cancer Research UK, ArtAngel and many more.

I Have a Message for You was produced with The New York Times and was nominated for an Emmy (2018). The film is about a young woman on a train on April 4, 1943. A decision she makes that day saves her life, but leaves a huge burden on her conscience. Until, 20 years later, she meets a stranger, with a message for her.

Soar | 7 Minutes

Director: Alyce Tzue

Today's ShortFest Spotlight features Alyce Tzue, the writer and director of Academy Award winning Soar, from ShortFest 2015.

Alyce is a director and artist based in LA. She wishes to tell stories that spread empathy, in particular by elevating female and minority voices. When creating art, she draws from her experience in a multitude of fields, including a BA in architecture, classical music training, ballet, fine art, and graphic design. She is currently developing both animated and live action content.

In Soar, Mara, a bright and optimistic thirteen-year-old, dreams of one day becoming an airplane designer. But every day, she test flies her model airplanes in the fields behind her house, and every day, they crash.

One day, after yet another unsuccessful flying attempt, Mara sits gloomily at a picnic table, trying to come up with new ideas. Suddenly, inspiration hits her on the head - literally. A tiny 5-inch-tall boy and his fantastical flying machine drop out of the sky.She realizes that he is in trouble: his flying ship is broken, and the rest of his fleet is leaving without him. Now Mara must use every ounce of inspiration she has to fly her new friend back home - before it's too late!

Joy Joy Nails | 20 Minutes

Today's ShortFest Spotlight features Joey Ally, writer and director of Joy Joy Nails from ShortFest 2017.

Joey Ally grew up in the New York tri-state area. Ally's inspiration for Joy Joy Nails came after reading a series of articles about the nail salon industry, including the Pulitzer Prize nominated New York Times expose' Unvarnished. When she realized she may have frequented those salons without knowing what was going on, she wanted to explore the narrative.

In the film, Korean manager Sarah gets her claws out when she suspects Chinese new-hire Mia of being after her man -- only to discover that everyone is a victim at Joy Joy Nails. The film explores a female-dominated story of race, power dynamics, bullying, and jealousy.

From Joey Ally, "I have since reflected often with the many wonderful people involved in Joy Joy Nails about how painful it is to see and feel the steps backwards since the film came out - to watch the rights of immigrants, women, people of color, and workers broadly face an endless and intensifying assault. I connected to the article because what I saw in it was a universal bully story - one I've experienced, although in a different time and place. So many people are being bullied right now, in a country and with an administration that through in/action condones it. I'm grateful for every person who worked with me on Joy Joy Nails, and to Palm Springs Shortfest - which premiered my first film as a director, and has championed every short I've ever made - for encouraging me to tell this story.  Short films can't fix the world, but hopefully they can make us think, and encourage us to keep trying."

Joey Ally is looking to do feature length films in the future but will continue to work on short film projects.

Mother's Day | 8 Minutes

Directors: Elizabeth Lo & R.J. Lozada

Today's ShortFest Spotlight features Elizabeth Lo and R.J. Lozada, co-directors of Mother's Day from ShortFest 2017.

From co-director Elizabeth Lo, "Mother's Day is a celebration of motherhood and the influence that mothers have on society. But for too many American children, the holiday serves as a bitter reminder that their mothers are locked behind bars. While many are aware of the problems resulting from the United States' staggeringly high incarceration rate - nearly one-fourth of the world's incarcerated population is in the United States - it can be more difficult to consider the impact it has on the children who grow up without those parents." 

"We made Mother's Day to remind us of the steep price an entire generation of youth - and by extension, our nation - has to pay because of systems that remain broken across America. The incarceration epidemic is not just today's problem; it's a structural disaster that stretches across generations, and will be with us for many years to come."

Elizabeth was named one of the "25 New Faces of Independent Film" by Filmmaker Magazine in 2015, and was featured in the 2015 Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors' Showcase at Cannes Lion and the 2016 Next Director Award Shortlist in London. Elizabeth was the inaugural recipient of the 2016 Investigative Fund Fellowship by the Nation Institute. In 2018, Elizabeth was selected for the 56th New York Film Festival (NYFF) Artist Academy, and in 2019 participated in the 72nd Locarno Film Festival Filmmakers Academy.

R.J. Lozada is an award-winning multimedia journalist and filmmaker. Lozada has worked in varying capacities from film festival programming for CAAMFest to producing documentaries, radio segments, and photo editorials. Lozada co-produced and shot the documentary Among B-Boys, following young Hmong American men and hip hop. As Director of Photography, Lozada completed shooting Breathin': The Eddy Zheng Story, a profile on Eddy Zheng, a community advocate who was incarcerated during his teenage years through his adulthood. Lozada has also been a producer for Making Contact, a contributor and host for API radio magazine show, APEX Express, as well as Multimedia Editor for Hyphen Magazine.

Game Night | 15 Minutes

Director: Jan van Gorkum

Today's ShortFest Spotlight features Jan van Gorkum, director of Game Night from ShortFest 2017.

Jan van Gorkum is a director, writer and editor from the Netherlands. He studied at the Utrecht School of the Arts, where he graduated in 2010. Since then, he's made several award winning short films and has worked as an editor and assistant editor on films and TV-shows. In 2011, he created his own production company, Zuiderlicht Film. Recently, he made his debut as a writer. His first book was published in November 2019: a quirky and adventurous fantasy book, entitled Winged Darkness.

He has two feature films and one short film in development in the horror/dark comedy genre.

In Game Night, Liz meets the parents of her new boyfriend Pepijn during their regular game night, where Pepijn's mother Ingrid is calling the shots. What begins as an innocent game, quickly changes into a nightmare for Liz when she clashes with Ingrid, who's determined to win the game at all costs.

Edith + Eddie | 30 Minutes

Director: Laura Checkoway

Today's ShortFest Spotlight features Laura Checkoway, director of 2018's Best Short Documentary Oscar nominee Edith + Eddie (ShortFest 2017).

Checkoway's work earned a social impact grant from NBC Universal and the American Film Institute and a nonfiction fellowship with the Carey Institute for Global Good in 2018. Her award-winning debut film, Lucky, screened at festivals across the globe and premiered on television in 2014. With a background in journalism, Laura penned revealing celebrity profiles and investigative features for many publications and she was senior editor of Vibe magazine. She co-authored the acclaimed book My Infamous Life: The Autobiography of Mobb Deep's Prodigy and the New York Times Best Seller My Voice: A Memoir by Angie Martinez.

Edith + Eddie, ages 96 and 95, are America's oldest interracial newlyweds. Their love story is disrupted by a family feud that threatens to tear the couple apart. Their story represents millions of American families who have experienced elder care disputes and guardianship cases. These cases are life altering, emotionally and financially depleting, and dealt with in isolation.

The winner of the prestigious International Documentary Association's Award for Best Short, as well as the Jury prize at #ShortFest17, the film is, despite it's heart-wrenching developments, a true crowd-pleaser, and definitely worth a watch.

Kleptomami | 10 Minutes

Director: Pola Beck

Today's ShortFest Spotlight features Pola Beck, the co-writer and director of Kleptomami from ShortFest 2017.

Pola Beck is from Berlin, Germany. After various jobs and internships in the film industry, followed in 2003 a one-year stay in Denmark at the European Film College . From 2005 to 2011 Beck studied directing at the Konrad Wolf Film School and made documentaries and feature films in Denmark , Mexico and Iran . Her first completed short film at the film school was shown in 2008 at the Berlinale in the "Perspective German Cinema" series.

In Kleptomami, Lucy is tired of being the perfect mother. She is seething on the inside. When a department store security guard searches her stroller he finds more than he could ever have imagined. A film about the absurdities of today's mummyhood.

Studies in Quarantine | 4 Minutes

Today we wanted to feature RAVA films, from our ShortFest Spotlight series. They have a new series called Studies in Quarantine. 

RAVA Films is a documentary production studio led by husband and wife filmmaking duo Ava Wiland and Rafael Salazar. They make films about the creative process by translating complex and thought-provoking ideas into engaging and consumable films that bring art closer to the general public.

After recovering from the coronavirus, feeling antsy and slightly anxious about the future, the filmmakers turned to the things they love - art and storytelling - to help them see through. The lockdown compelled them to quickly reinvent and adapt the way they do things, so they set out to make a short documentary using only the remote tools at their disposal.

That's how #StudiesinQuarantine was born, a new mini-series that examines how artists across disciplines are finding inspiration and staying creative during this period of isolation.

The first episode peeks into sculptor Ruby Sky Stiler's world and studio. We learn about her path as an artist, her inspirations and work process, and the challenges of homeschooling her two children during this lockdown. Ruby brings a wonderful sense of humor, life and love of art to this film, both on screen and behind the scenes - and don't we all need art and good humor during these very challenging and isolating times?

From RAVA films: "In the face of adversity, we are often forced to realign priorities and consider what we deem to be "essential" and "nonessential" to our lives. When crises erupt and societies struggle to meet even basic human needs - like food, shelter, and healthcare - art is often minimized and overlooked. But as we hope this project will show, creativity and the power of imagination can be a powerful steadying force in our lives, providing inspiration and solace, especially in times like these. We hope you will learn, feel inspired, laugh, and possibly find yourself reflected in the struggles and creative musings of these artists."

Unfinished | 16 Minutes

Director: Rafael Salazar

Today's ShortFest Spotlight features Rafael Salazar, director, writer, and editor of Unfinished, 2017 (Mixed media) from ShortFest 2017.

This film depicts a moment of crisis in the life of a young artist in New York who has to make an important decision which she fears will put a brake on her artistic dreams. Her anxiety begins to manifest through moments of magical realism using her artworks.

"I chose to feature the real artwork of environmental artist and sculptor Mary Mattingly, to point to how we are all, consciously or not, implicated in a mass production system that is harmful to people and the environment, and yet feels inescapable. I wanted to depict an artist torn between her political ideals and her own personal and artistic ambitions."

Rafael Salazar is a filmmaker from Spain based in Brooklyn, New York. Under his production company RAVA Films, which he co-founded with his wife Ava Wiland, Rafa has made numerous documentaries commissioned by world renowned arts organizations such as Art21, the Whitney Museum, The Met, among others. Rafael's projects range from documentary to narrative films, and always explore the intersection of visual arts and filmmaking to tell stories about real life and characters with a magical lens. 

Richard Twine | 11 Minutes

Director: Matthew Salton

Today's ShortFest Spotlight is on documentary filmmaker Matthew Salton, creator of Richard Twice from ShortFest 2017.

This animated documentary tells the story of Richard Atkins, the singer and songwriter of the early 70's California psychedelic folk duo Richard Twice, who was on his way to stardom and a huge success with his first debut album when he mysteriously walked away from it all.

Matthew Salton is a filmmaker from Washington State who lives in Brooklyn. His first documentary feature, Dwarves Kingdom, is about a Chinese theme park that employs 100 little people. It was the first time he's done an animated film, and its success has encouraged him to continue to explore animated docs. His next project is another short, about the first female pot smuggler in the USA.

Alike | 8 Minutes

Director: Daniel Martinez Lara

In a busy life, Copi is a father who tries to teach the right way to his son, Paste. But - What is the correct path?

Alike started as a personal project of Daniel Martínez Lara. As a father,  he saw that there was a lot of narrative potential in a father-son relationship, so he wanted to translate it into an animated short. "

He indicated that "the expressions of the faces were very important to us. It is a very emotional story, focused a lot on the animation of characters. It took almost a year and a half to put the final story on its feet, we went through four previous stories. Of the fourth, we had several versions and we had problems with the final outcome of the story. In the end it was a year and a half of narrative creation. "

In a short that has no dialogue, Alike communicates so much about how parents teach their children.

Second to None | 7 Minutes

Director: Vincent Gallagher

Today's ShortFest Spotlight is on Vincent Gallagher, writer and director of Second to None, from ShortFest 2017.

Written and directed by IFTA nominee Vincent Gallagher, Second to None is a richly detailed stop-motion animation about the world's second oldest man.

Frederick Butterfield has always been runner up to his twin brother Herman. When Herman, the older by a mere minute, becomes the world's oldest man, Frederick finally sees an opportunity to be first place. Frederick will stop at nothing to claim the top spot in the most inventive way possible.

The Irish Film Board presents a stunning stop-motion animated film that is painstakingly detailed. Delivered with a sense of energy and black comedy that is equal in measure to the craftsmanship behind the film, you will see that Second to None truly lives up to its name.

Vincent Gallagher, also known for Room (2015) and Vikings (2013), is a storyteller, no matter the medium. Second To None is Gallagher's first fully animated short film, and his first venture into stop frame animation.

Iron Hands| 11 Minutes

Director: Johnson Cheng

Today's ShortFest Spotlight features Johnson Cheng, the writer and director of Iron Hands from ShortFest 2017. It tells the story of a 12-year-old girl who tries to make the traditionally all-boys Chinese youth Olympic weightlifting team and gets help from an unlikely source. 

It won the "Best Student Live Action Short Film Under 15 Minutes" at ShortFest 2017. The jury who awarded Iron Hands said, "We've chosen to award this beautifully edited film for its economy and precision. This filmmaker manages, in just ten minutes and with only a handful of spoken lines, to create a film that we found surprising and emotional, balancing wistfulness for one character's past with hope for another's future."

Cheng made this short as a part of his Columbia MFA Film Direction program and shot it in Beijing China. Johnson Cheng is an award-winning Chinese American writer/director hailing from the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles County. His films have screened at over 100 international film festivals. 

Most recently, Johnson shadowed veteran TV director Adam Bernstein on FX's upcoming limited series, Fosse/Verdon, and wrote/directed the narrative short film, Lonely Blue Night, starring Diana Lin (The Farewell) as a 2019 Film Independent Project Involve Writer/Director Fellow.

The Orchestra |15 Minutes

Director: Mikey Hill

Today's ShortFest Spotlight is on Mikey Hill, award-winning Australian director and animator of The Orchestra, from ShortFest 2015. It has won over 40 awards and has screened at over 100 festivals.

Imagine a world where a band of tiny musicians follow you and play a soundtrack for your life - communicating your emotions, fears and hopes. In this world lives elderly Vernon; a lonely man whose crippling shyness causes his orchestral musicians to perform terribly out of tune. When Vernon and his little band fall for their new next door neighbour and her classical ensemble, they find themselves presented with perhaps their last chance at happiness - a chance to strike a chord and play in harmony. But first they must confront their stage fright.

Born sometime in the latter half of the 20th century, Mikey Hill emerged from suburban anonymity to triumphantly pen the cover for his primary school annual publication. Despite occasionally looking sideways, he's never looked back. Several indelible incidents later, Hill passed an animation course and threw himself into the world of independent animation filmmaking.

The Orchestra is Mikey's third hand animated short film - each more elaborately time-consuming than the last. His two previous films, Norbert (2007) and The Not-So-Great Eugene Green (2009), have screened at festivals near and far, and have garnered several awards.

Rebuilding in Miniature | 8 Minutes

Director: Veena Rao

Displaced from the very concept of a homeland by a world torn apart by conflict, Iraqi refugee Ali Almedy recreates locations he has never seen, from far away in time and space, in the form of highly detailed dioramas. In Veena Rao's short portrait, there is something elusive, intriguing - and also comforting - about the resilient psyche of the artist despite the permanent scars wrought by war.

Veena is an alumna of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, and a member of Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective, Brown Girls Doc Mafia and New York Women in Film & Television. In her own work, she is interested in revealing the extraordinary in the everyday. Learning about the experiences of others, and translating them into moving images is an incredible privilege and challenge for her.

Her films have screened at festivals across the U.S. and internationally, been featured on The New York Times Op-Docs, The Atlantic, National Geographic, Vimeo Staff Picks, and supported by Independent Television Service (ITVS), The New York City Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment, and the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA).

Brotherhood | 25 Minutes

Director: Meryam Joobeur

Brotherhood, from ShortFest 2019, was nominated for an Academy Award in 2020 for Best Live Action Short Film. It showed at 160 festivals, and accumulated over 70 awards.

Brotherhood tells the story of Mohamed, who is deeply shaken and suspicious when his estranged eldest son Malek returns home from Syria to rural Tunisia with a mysterious young wife in tow. The emotional complexities of a family reunion and past wounds lead to tragic consequences.

Tunisian writer/director Meryam Joobeur is a graduate of Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema in Montréal. Her previous films include the short documentary Gods, Weeds & Revolutions (2012) and Born in the Maelstrom (2017), starring Sasha Lane. She is currently developing three feature films including the feature version of Brotherhood and has participated in the Berlinale Talent Lab (2016) TIFF Talent Lab (2016) and the Rawi Screenwriter's Lab (2016).

Mixtape Marauders | 15 Minutes

Director: Peter Edlund and Ian Edlund

Today's Shortfest Spotlight is on director Peter and Ian Edlund, of Mixtape Marauders from ShortFest 2017. Peter is the director of the film and co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Ian, who also starred in the short.

A nine song visual mixtape following two young stoners into a world of mindless day jobs, petty drug deals and loud music. Best friends Patrick and Cheech aim to create the perfect mixtape.

Peter Edlund has a production company with Producer/Editor Megan Leonard called Visual Pollution. Their focus is narrative storytelling for film, music videos, and branded content. Their film, Mixtape Marauders, was awarded Short of the Week's 2019 Best Comedy of the Year, was a Vimeo Staff Pick Premiere, and received a nomination for Vimeo's 2018 Comedy of the Year. Peter is a freelance director outside of Visual Pollution.

Ian Edlund is an actor based in Brooklyn, New York. He graduated with a B.A. in Theatre from Fordham University and has since starred in a few short films. In Mixtape Marauders, he plays Cheech.

Liquor Store Babies | 5 minutes

Director: So Yun Um

Liquor Store Babies explores the intersecting lives of two friends and their fathers, each of whom own Liquor stores as they take a real look at how their lives and dreams are cyclical and ever connected to one another.

So Yun Um is a Korean American Film Critic, Programmer and Filmmaker, born and based in Los Angeles. She explores the intimate stories of marginalized people through her poetic visual language and poignant editing style. She runs her film blog & YouTube channel, So's Reel Thoughts, which highlights international, independent, and genre films. She is currently working on her first feature film, Liquor Store Dreams, expanding upon her short, Liquor Store Babies.

Madame Tutli-Putli | 17 minutes


Directors: Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski

This stop-motion animated film takes viewers on an exhilarating existential journey into the fully imagined, tactile world of Madame Tutli-Putli.

As she travels alone on the night train, weighed down with all her earthly possessions and the ghosts of her past, she faces both the kindness and menace of strangers. Finding herself caught up in a desperate metaphysical adventure, adrift between real and imagined worlds, Madame Tutli-Putli confronts her demons.

Since 1997, Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski have formed the artistic partnership called Clyde Henry Productions. The pair has created award-winning films, ads, and illustrations. They received an Oscar nomination for Madame Tutli-Putli in 2008. In 2010, they wrote and co-directed Higglety Pigglety Pop!, a Maurice Sendak adaptation, featuring the voice of Meryl Streep.

Prospect | 14 minutes

Directors: Zeek Earl and Chris Caldwell

Prospect is the coming-of-age story of a teenage girl on a toxic alien planet. She and her father hunt for precious materials, aiming to strike it rich. When the father is attacked by a roving bandit, the daughter must take control. 
This short turned into their first feature length film of the same title in 2018. The feature is available to stream on Hulu and Kanopy.

Meeting when they both studied writing at Seattle Pacific University, Earl and Caldwell quickly worked out a collaborative dynamic. Says Earl, "I'm more visual, Chris is more verbal, and we overlap on pretty much everything." "It's an ever-evolving partnership," Caldwell adds.

In 2010, they formed a production company, Shep Films, making shorts and commercials.Both Earl and Caldwell have lived in Seattle for 10 years, and are planning their next couple projects in Washington. They want to take advantage of the rainforest of the Pacific Northwest as filming locations for upcoming projects as well.

How to make a rainbow | 16 minutes

Director: Ryan Maxey
Producer: Jade Phoenix Martinez

Told in an observational style, the documentary captures raw and beautiful moments of struggle and triumphs, communication and love.

Ryan Maxey makes documentary films exploring humanity through stories of the introverted, imperfect, and folks on the fringe. He is regularly commissioned to direct films on the beat of environmental preservation, cycling, and philanthropy. 

Jade Phoenix is a fierce story and truth teller, an activist that uses her platform and art to shift and change the conversations and dialogue, specifically for trans women/femme and gender non conforming people of color in the arts, academia, and film.

Jade Phoenix Martinez and Ryan Maxey have been friends for over 10 years. They lived together for years in an arts co-op in Los Angeles; he says throughout their friendship, she's played a vital role in his creative growth. Eventually, they started collaborating on a number of video and music projects. "She even gave me the nickname Maxey Fish and Sea, which inspired the name of my Vimeo channel, Maxey Fish."

This documentary was very much a collaborative effort. "Alaizah was four years old when Jade was going through her transition. During this time, she displayed an incredible amount of empathy and understanding. It was incredible to witness her curiosity and unwavering support - she seemed ageless to me. Eventually, Jade and I decided that their relationship would be a good focus for an observational doc, and they invited me to be a fly on the wall in their life," says Maxey.

Chopper | 2 minutes

Directors: Lars Damoiseaux and Frederik Palmaers

Chopper was an official selection film at ShortFest 2013. The food chain told in two minutes.

Lars Damoiseaux was born in the Netherlands. He is a writer and director, known for Chopper (2012), Striker Bob (1997) and Yummy (2019). Frederik Palmaers is a film director, film editor, film art director and screenwriter.

The Present | 4 minutes

Director: Jacob Frey

The Present was featured at ShortFest 2014. The short tells the story of a boy who rather spends his time indoors playing video games instead of discovering what's waiting at the front door. One day, his mother gets a little surprise for her son, which makes it hard for him to concentrate on his video game. The story is based on a comic strip by Fabio Coala. 

The film had a very successful festival circuit, running in over 180 film festivals and winning more than 50 awards. Frey's credits as an animator include Walt Disney Animation's Zootopia & Moana as well as Illumination Entertainment's The Secret Life of Pets. He also worked as a character animator for London based Magic Light Pictures, where he animated on the Oscar-nominated short Room on the Broom.

Stay CLose | 19 minutes

Directors: Luther Clement and Shuhan Fan

Stay Close is the underdog story of a fencer from Brooklyn who overcomes a gauntlet of hardships on the road to the Olympics.

Luther began his film career as a concept designer and editor for Grammy nominated artist J Cole. He has since worked as a writer, director, videographer, animator, and editor. Luther graduated with a masters of fine arts in documentary media from Northwestern University.

Shuhan Fan is a Chinese documentary filmmaker and recent Northwestern University graduate. She uses colorful, quirky, and graphic imagery to blend mundane social activities into metaphorical expressions.

They began collaborating as MFA students at Northwestern. Merging Luther's dynamic, associative visual style with Shuhan's surrealist film logic and talent for story structure, they work in both fiction and nonfiction, live action, and animation.

Russian Roulette | 5 minutes

Director: Ben Aston

Ben is a London born filmmaker, raised in Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Australia and Bath. He graduated with a BA in Philosophy from King's College London. His mid-course LFS film, Dinner and a Movie, was selected for the #Shortfest13.

His graduation film He Took His Skin Off For Me premiered at the BFI London Film Festival 2014. After screening at over 30 festivals and winning several awards it went viral upon it's online release, quickly reaching over 2 million views on Vimeo alone.  His micro-budget comedy short, Russian Roulette, won the jury prize at Sundance London and went on to be selected for #ShortFest15, eventually selling to Condé Nast. As a result, Screen International named him a Star Of Tomorrow in October 2015. His work is regularly described as poignant, hilarious, heartwarming and terrifying. He is currently in development on a feature project John Moves In and can otherwise be found squirrelling away on something small and weird on the side.

Sweater | 5 minutes

Director: Nick Borenstein

A short Nick Borenstein wrote, directed, and starred in. Sweater is about Corey's worst day ever, until he gets a free coffee.

Nick Borenstein is a New York-based writer, director, dancer, and actor. Nick wrote, directed and starred in Sweater and 99, two short films that screened at many film festivals including #ShortFest19.

He also wrote, directed, and starred in the comedic digital series Trip, a selection of IFP's Screen Forward Lab, and The Buddy System, a short film that was developed into a digital series for Elite Daily. Additionally, Nick was a finalist for Sundance Institute's YouTube New Voices Lab, and he staged a live dance performance entitled "5INCO" during his 2019 Artist Residency at Casa Lü in Mexico City. He just wrapped a new short film to be released in 2020 and is developing his first feature film.

Pickle | 15 minutes

Director: Amy Nicholson

Her short film, Pickle, was featured at ShortFest 2016. After going on the festival circuit, the film was picked up by the New York Times.

Examining the complicated relationships humans have with animals, Amy Nicholson's festival favourite Pickle is a film of unexpected warmth and mirth. Centering on a couple's dedication to homing sick and deformed animals (from paraplegic possums to cross-eyed cats), Nicholson's 15-minute short may sound morbid on paper, but this documentary quickly proves to be a life-affirming watch.

Nicholson has a film production company called Myrtle & Olive. Her other films include: Zipper: Coney Island's Last Wild Ride, Muskrat Lovely, and Beauty School.

How to Lose Weight in 4 easy steps | 7 minutes

Director: Ben Berman

Benjamin Berman is a director and editor, known for The Amazing Johnathan Documentary (2019), Lady Dynamite (2016) and Man Seeking Woman (2015). How To Lose Weight in 4 Easy Steps was featured during ShortFest 2016.

How to Lose Weight in 4 Easy Steps almost begs to be watched during this back-to-the-gym season, when the year's resolutions are still fresh in our minds. Per its click-bait title, this story of a heartbroken mattress salesman who pulls himself out of a rut by lifting weights does offer a smattering of timeworn weight loss tips (portion control! avoid carbs!), along with the far more substantial reminder that loss and grief can make us stronger.

His future projects include developing a TV show with some similar elements and philosophies to 4 Easy Steps. He's also working on a feature film and filming a documentary about a magician-comedian who, although diagnosed with a terminal disease and given 2 years to live, doesn't appear to be dying.

Garfield | 12 minutes

Director: Georgi Banks-Davies

Georgi Banks-Davies is a director born in the UK. A graduate of the Newport Film School, she has also directed many festival screened shorts - two of which; The Glossy Mag & Penny Collectors were UK lottery funded. Her short film, Garfield (2016) was selected for the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Alongside establishing a career as a successful commercials director.

She is currently directing Sky Atlantic's new drama I Hate Suzie. Her debut feature film is in development.

MAUDE | 10 Minutes

Director: Anna Margaret Hollyman

Known for her extensive filmography as an actor, Anna Margaret Hollyman steps behind the camera in Maude, her writing and directing debut. With her trademark humor, she conveys the millennial struggle with a rare authenticity in this farcical story of a woman who tries another's life on for size.

Another upscale babysitting gig at a beautiful house-this is routine for Teeny, a stereotypical 20-something, gig-economy worker. This time is a bit different however. When she gets to the door she is not greeted by an anonymous trophy-wife, but by someone she went to high school with. The mild surprise jars loose something deep and repressed in Teeny's brain as the unflattering comparison of their social and economic stations awakens a hunger she didn't know she had.

BODEGA | 12 minutes

Director: Rebecca Halfon

Rebecca Halfon is a writer and director born and raised in New York City. Her short film Bodega had its World Premiere at the 2019 South By Southwest Film Festival, premiered online on Short of the Week, was licensed by Air Canada, and is a Vimeo Staff Pick. It aired on RevoltTV's "Short & Fresh" anthology series in March 2020 and is currently available on Revolt on Demand.

Bodega is about A Syrian deli owner and a high school girl with a fake ID find common ground on one winter night in Brooklyn. Her latest short is a coming-of-age comedy called Esther. It will be released in 2020.

MADE PUBLIC | 13 minutes

Director: Foster Wilson

Foster is an award-winning director, filmmaker, and Emergence Award Recipient. She earned her BFA at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, where she studied for 3 years with the Atlantic Theater Company under the tutelage of David Mamet, Chris Bauer, Scott Zigler, and Mary McCann, among others. After more than a decade working in the industry as an actor, Foster co-founded Detroit Street Films, an independent film production company intent on building a robust community of filmmakers to collaborate on micro-budget films. In DSF's inaugural year, the company produced over a dozen films, including Foster's directorial debut: a gritty short about possessions and priorities titled BRICK & MOPSIE. Foster's most notable directing work to date is the award-winning short film MADE PUBLIC, a Emergence Award Recipient for Female Filmmakers, written by her husband Brian Leahy, and starring Jeanine Mason (Roswell, New Mexico) and Josh Zuckerman (90210). The film premiered in 2019 and has played at more than 25 festivals including Palm Springs, Cinequest, Cleveland, and many more. The film has received 13 nominations and 9 awards, including Best Film, Best Director, and the Audience Award at the Bentonville Film Festival.

Director Foster Wilson discusses Made Public during the 2019 ShortFest ShortShots!  More ShortShots may be watched on the ShortFest YouTube Channel.