Behind the Scenes: Love Your Shorts Film Festival

March 09, 2012

Love Your Shorts Film Festival
The Monroes are statuettes that serve as the Love Your Shorts awards. (Photo by Cass Yankala ’12)

As I walk from the brick road to the quaint space that is the Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center in Sanford, Florida, I can tell that something unique is about to happen. The red carpet is laid out. Rollins students are setting up to take paparazzi-style photos of attendees. People capture video with handheld digital devices in the same building that once showcased films on reels. The balance of old and new creates an energy that can only be experienced in person. Over the course of the festival’s three days (February 10-12), participants and audience members will be able to see various short films and help vote on the winners.

This is my first time at Love Your Shorts (LYS) Film Festival, but I am not necessarily a novice. This is only the second year that the festival has existed, though it is hard to tell by the look of things, which appears as though they’ve been orchestrated by experienced festival veterans. And yet, founders Christina Grace-Beverly and Nelson Beverly will joke that the festival casually sprung from a night of dreaming out loud with friends in a pub. They make it seem easy. A quick look behind the scenes of opening night, though, shows that it is not quite the case.

6:30 p.m.—Volunteers stand ready with brochures and ballots, waiting to answer questions and seat guests. I grab a brochure and run outside to find out what Grace-Beverly might be experiencing at the front table.

6:45 p.m.—After some confusion over the difference between weekend passholders and one-night ticketholders, the line of attendees grows. LYS is a community-centered festival set in a small town, and perhaps one of the most important duties of the night is offering a friendly face. “I get to meet all the people that I’d been emailing over the last month,” Grace-Beverly said. “It’s so great to put a face to a name and meet the filmmakers.”

6:55 p.m.—Loud chatter fills the theater as I walk through to find a seat. Organizers are busy getting the last of the tasks done, waiting for the stragglers to seat themselves and, outside, hoping the light wind does not turn into a light rain.

7:05 p.m.—I, along with other attendees, get comfortable in my seat while, upstairs, tech crew flashes the lights as a five-minute warning that the show will start soon.

7:10 p.m.—I can feel the excitement in the room heighten as the intro starts. “Welcome to the second annual Love Your Shorts Film Festival!”

7:16 p.m.—Call to tweet and text. What draws some to LYS over other film festivals is its openness to community and various media. Instead of immediately asking the audience to silence its phones, attendees are asked to take their phones out and to text, tweet, and whatever else they can think of to let their friends know that they are at the festival. Then, of course, it is time to turn the phones off and enjoy the show.

8:06 p.m.—After an onslaught of heavy rain, technical difficulties from lightning cut a film off only a few minutes before it ends. “There are certain times that you can plan for and then there are other times when you just have to go with the flow,” Grace-Beverly said. “You improvise and make the best of it.” Sitting next to the projection pit, I get to see how quickly organizers address problems behind the scenes. Luckily, their quick thinking and the storm’s passing allow us to keep watching.

8:52 p.m.—As the film block ends, the show is over for those of us sitting in the audience. All that is left is to vote for the winner and go home to talk about the night over coffee or wine. But in a way, the night has only just begun behind the scenes of LYS. Now is time to count votes, announce the winner, and shuffle everyone out safely in order to clean up from tonight, prep for tomorrow, and manage the opening night party.

9:04 p.m.—“A Finger, Two Dots, Then Me” wins the festival’s first Monroe, a statuette crafted by local artist Julie Kessler that serves as the LYS award.

Love Your Shorts Film Festival

Amanda Hampton ’12 (far right) joins up with Cameron Greeley ’12, Cass Yankala ’12, and Associate Professor of Critical Media and Cultural Studies Denise Cummings for a post-festival celebration.

A successful opening night. But all of this is only a small fraction of what these dedicated individuals do. When Grace-Beverly and Beverly came to speak to my class at Rollins, we heard about all that goes into the festival before the actual event takes place. Before any of the opening night events can occur, they have to secure a venue, obtain sponsors, organize the dates and times of the festival, and select 70 films for screening from the 220 that were submitted. When I arrive on opening night, I become aware that someone also had to handle ticket sales, promoting, coordinating volunteers, designing t-shirts, and deciding how to control traffic flow. Needless to say, it is a team effort.

All that effort seems to have paid off though and at the end of the night, the Wayne Densch explodes with applause. This is the sound of satisfied attendees, of people falling in love with film. It is the sound of what will prove to be a fruitful second film festival for its founders and for the town of Sanford. “It was really amazing to see how far we had come in just one year,” Grace-Beverly said. As I look around, I can see nothing but smiles on the faces of organizers and attendees alike.

By the time I leave, the theater is empty. Nearly everything seems to be calming down—the box office is closed and the paparazzi have moved on—but one thing is clear: that energy that I felt upon approaching the festival’s red carpet earlier this evening, the one that could only be felt in person, is still present. As I walk away from the crimson lane and back onto the brick roads of Sanford, I can only think what that means for 2013.

Contributed by Amanda Hampton ’12

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