A Local’s Guide to Aspen Shortsfest

The 25th annual Aspen Shorts Fest opened last night with “I, Destini” a 14-minute animated film about the tale of a prison’s toll on a North Carolina family. The film was produced by Destini Riley; a filmmaker who is only 16 years old.

Aspen Shortsfest Banner

What you might not know about Aspen Shorts Fest is that it is one of the only festivals entirely dedicated to the short film, which is any film under 40 minutes long. It is also an official qualifying competition for the Academy Awards, but in a smaller, more intimate setting than some of the bigger, more celebrity-studded festivals. In Aspen’s cozy, small mountain town setting, (especially in the off season when things are particularly quiet) the public has access to the filmmakers through Q&A sessions, panel discussions, and post-show drinks at the Hotel Jerome’s J-Bar.

It’s also a breeding ground for new talent and a place for industry people to mingle with filmmakers during the juried competition. And it’s highly competitive: of the 3,200 films auditioned for this year’s event, only 56 made the cut. Many films from past festivals have gone on to win Academy Awards, including “Bear Story” which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, and “We Can’t Live Without the Cosmos” and “Shok,” which were Oscar nominees.

Don’t know much about short films? Aren’t sure where to begin when it comes to attending a whole festival dedicated to shorts? Here are a few tips from some seasoned Aspen locals and shorts film aficionados.

#1) Arrive at the film on time—not 10 minutes late (which is sort of considered “on time by Aspen standards, so in other words, come early). The introductions are really good and provide a lot of context that will help you to appreciate and understand the film you are about to see.

#2) Be sure to attend the Friday and Saturday evening programs: they’re a lot racier and more fun.

#3) Stay late: Not just for the credit roll but because the Q&A sessions afterwards with the filmmakers are really informative, interesting and fun. It could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be in the audience of a future Oscar winner!

#4) The “après screenings” at the J Bar are really fun and very intimate. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to the filmmakers. They love to talk about their work and they could be famous soon, like Jason Reitman (a director best known for award-winning films like “Juno,” “Thank You For Not Smoking” “Up In the Air” and “Youg Adult”) who was discovered in Aspen at Shorts Fest.

#5) Why shorts? Many subjects benefit from the short subject format. And it’s also a great calling card for future directors and producers to showcase their style and talent. Many shorts creators go on to make feature length films and have successful careers in Hollywood.

For more information on Shorts Fest and for a complete festival schedule, click here.