Who needs Hollywood or Sundance when you’ve got Denver and Boulder?
Yes, filmmaking is alive and well in the region, but it’s not second-unit shooting for Die Hard 2. It’s the Creative Film Group, a conglomeration of local filmmakers banding together for the collective publicity power.
Their “Fall Shorts” program, at just under 2 hours, consists of seven films and videos from CFG directors. Their show is definitely not Hollywood. It’s not even Sundance. The longest movie is less than half an hour, and the total production cost of these films is a fraction of even the cheapest feature.
Sometimes, the films could have benefited from a little more professionalism. One or two of the shorts drag on and on as the filmmakers practice every film technique except editing. Other times the storylines wander aimlessly or end abruptly.
But when they’re good, they offer a perspective that you can’t get at the movies or on TV.
Two of the films have well-written angst and dialogue, grittier and more honest than you’ll find in the mainstream. One is “Pompous Circumstance” by Shane Ewegen, a video (trying very hard to look like film) about a man who becomes obsessed by a street-corner poet’s enigmatic ranting. The youthful, searching dialogue is heartfelt and interesting, even if it doesn’t lead to an answer.
The other is “Sleep Dirt” by Jonathan Fine (you may recognize Fine and his fellow actors from the Video Station). Fine plays an insomniac. He goes bowling with his friends, who offer sage advice about how his nightmares hold the key to his problem. They say he needs to open himself up emotionally, to talk about things that matter to him, not just about what’s on TV. Later he searches out his insomniac female friend, hitting the bars, the convenience stores, and any place that’s not closed, with his friends’ advice to open up, fresh on his mind.
Two other films are refreshingly tight short subjects — quick breaths of fresh air amidst the angst and self-importance of young filmmakers. One is “Deaf Man Walking,” by Dennis Hare. In it, a bartender tells the story of a man who appears to be deaf, recounting in a series of well-crafted flashbacks how his sudden “deafness” saved him from being convicted of murder,
The other is “It’s Okay to Be Myself,” by Jennifer Platt. An unemployed schmo takes the advice of a crazy newspaper vendor, and enjoys himself for a day. It’s a silly little film, but it has great energy and an infectious joy for life.
“Fall Shorts” is a mixed bag. At its worst it is boring and confusing. But when it is good, these truly independent filmmakers find a way to tell a story and communicate their insight without spending a million bucks.