Festival Spotlight: HollyShorts

AWD is excited to partner with HollyShorts Film Festival for a block of films directed by AWD Members! The films programmed by the festival are:

Choices; Dir. Kameishia Wooten
Random Check; Dir. Monique Sorgen
The Other Road; Dir. Jennifer Steinman Sternin
Clinical; Dir. Lauren Ciaravalli
Judy-ism; Dir. Emily Lerer
There Can Be Light; Dir. Angela Cohen
Take Good Care; Dir. Dedi Felman
Stitched; Dir. Lorena Lourenço
How To Catfish Your Ex; Dir. Madeline Mack

The event will be: Saturday, August 12, 2023 2:30 PM PDT
Tickets are available HERE.

We caught up with co-founder Daniel Sol to find out more about this Academy Award-qualifying festival.

Q: Tell us about the history of HollyShorts – When did it start? How long has it been around? What is your “mission statement”?

HollyShorts began 20 years ago (in 2004) as an idea between two childhood friends from Miami (Theo Dumont and me) with access to a small, family-owned, hole-in-the-wall 40-seat live theater called The Space, and as a passion project/family business with the intent of giving filmmakers a chance to showcase their work. [It grew} to a full-fledged international Academy Award-qualifying film festival showcasing films from over 100 countries annually at the TCL Chinese Theatres. 

Our mission statement is essentially devotion to showcasing the best and brightest short films from around the globe in front of an industry audience.   

Q: What is your process for selecting the films that are screened at HollyShorts?  

We are looking for films that surprise us or wow us…easier said than done, but with so many films watched over the years and so many submissions, we need to feel excited to showcase a film.  New takes on old themes, impactful films socially, films that are very entertaining, and excellence in craft (shot making, set design, cinematography, etc etc) are all considered. 

Q: What is your process for determining what “themes” you will select for your blocks of films? 

We have a general range of genres and themes we will always program (horror, comedy, drama, etc etc) and then we build out others based current themes, countries in focus, themes we see consistently across the submissions that are strong and seem to fit thematically together, sponsor programs and of course our submission categories (animation, documentary, etc).  

Naturally we consider current events and things to try and touch on but note, if we do not have enough quality films to cover the topics then we cannot do it… so it is subjective and does change so no matter what is happening around the world we may or may not see it reflected enough in our submission pool to cover it in a block necessarily, but we always try.

Q: What have been the most memorable films that have screened at HollyShorts? What happened to those films? Were any shortlisted for the Academy Awards (or possibly nominated/won?)  

We have been blessed and honored to have many Oscar winners over the years.  Most notably are two films we always mention because we qualified them and helped them get to Oscar glory.  First is “Skin” directed by Guy Nattiv.  We qualified “Skin” as it won our Grand Prix Best of Fest and it went on to take home the Academy Award. We feel “Skin” is essentially our champion and often refer to the film as our best fest success story.  The second film would be “The Long Goodbye” starring Riz Ahmed and directed by Aneil Karia which we also qualified with it taking home Best of Fest and it went on to make a run and win the Oscar.  

Lastly, an all time favorite [Director] for us is Kat Coiro. She is an amazing director and champion of HollyShorts who has always come back to support us in various ways with panels and jury participation etc.  She has screened numerous shorts with us that have won awards and she followed that success with a number of great feature films and TV shows (most notably [the feature film] MARRY ME starring Jennifer Lopez and the “She Hulk” TV show for Disney+!).

Q: Some shorts are expanded into features after their festival run. Would we know any of the titles that have screened at HollyShorts that then went on to become features?  

OUTLAWS AND ANGELS directed by JT Mollner and distributed by MGM is one highlight of many.  We screened the short film version and it won an award and we continually stay close with JT to promote his work etc. 

Q: Have you had any “surprise hits?” Any films that were sleepers that the audiences just loved?  

Hard to say specifically but we always have one or two films that audiences keep talking about for days after a screening.  “Meltdown” was one film I have always loved and recall the audience loving and that film screened with us over 14 years ago! Another of course was “Skin” as everyone talked about the ending of the film and the impact for the entire fest.  It was a fest favorite. Not a surprise though. I would also say I am often surprised in the other direction…films I think are going to play well and be loved get a limited reaction and it always bums me out!

Q: Is there anything else you’d like our members (and others) to know about HollyShorts?  

Attend the fest!  Attend festivals in general… all filmmakers MUST attend lots of film festivals… see films, learn, grow, take part in the community, find your people… we have seen countless filmmakers connect at the festival and go on to collaborate with future projects and we LOVE to see it.  [It] makes us very happy and excited when that takes place. Our panels are top notch so [there’s] another chance to learn and meet industry pros. 

Lastly, I want to give a shout out to our screenplay contest. We are proud of the films we have been able to get made with production grants and sponsors and some we produce as well with our sponsor partners… we have been able to get over 10 films made after they won at HollyShorts and we screen them at the fest as well. We are proud of our contest and amazing partners that help facilitate these amazing prizes to get the writers’ work produced and on the big screen! We partner with Festival Formula to offer a consulting prize for winning scripts that are produced and finished to help them with their festival runs. Over 100 festival selections for numerous script winners-turned-completed films. 

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