"To me, a really great short film is like a great appetizer, where it sort of packs the punch of an incredible meal in a single bite. You can have a story that takes you on an emotional journey that keeps you on the edge of your seat, but doesn't take 90 minutes to complete that goal," Arkansas Shorts Director Jen Gerber said as the 16th annual weekend of short film approaches this weekend.
Gerber says the 66 films to be shown in the three-day event will do just that.
"They're going to make you laugh, they're going to make you cry, they're going to transport you."
The weekend will be full of films shot in Hot Springs, in Arkansas and around the world. Of the 66 films, 21 are from Arkansas filmmakers, 17 are from filmmakers around the world, and 28 are products of Low Key Arts' Inception to Projection program.
The weekend's film schedule can be found here. Passes can be purchased here. All-weekend passes cost $65, Friday passes cost $25, Saturday passes cost $35 and Sunday passes cost $15. Day passes provide access to film screenings and an afterparty. Sunday's pass will also provide access to the award ceremony. Weekend passes will provide access to film workshops.
Of all the films, cash prizes provided by SQZBX will be awarded to the "Best Arkansas Film" and "Audience Choice." The Best Arkansas Film finalists are:
Directed by Levi Matthew Smith and Blake Dean Allen, the 15:19-minute film will show in the 7 p.m. "And Then a Hero Came Along" film block Friday.
Two teenagers stay overnight in an arcade and happen upon a spooky, haunted arcade machine.
Call of the Clown Horn
Directed by Mike Stutz, the 18:59-minute film will show in the 7 p.m. "In Search Of" film block Friday.
They say if you're feeling lost, reach out to those around you. But what if they don't reach back? Shot in and around Fayetteville, Arkansas and inspired by a true story, this dark comedy explores the boundaries of friendship, love and clown horns.
Directed by Havilah Galaxy Rodgers, the 10:42-minute film will show in the 7 p.m. "And Then a Hero Came Along" film block Friday.
A young woman struggling to find meaning and beauty in life, journeys down a path of the mind in search of a way out.
Directed by Gabriel Liam Cook Henk, the 9:05-minute film will show in the 4:30 p.m. "When Life Hands You Lemons" film block Saturday. This is the first-ever Inception to Projection film to be a finalist in the Best Arkansas Film.
After the loss of her beloved husband, a woman tiptoes up to the line of the great beyond.
Banana Triangle Six
Directed by Marc E Crandall, the 23:30-minute film will show in the 4:30 p.m. "When Life Hands You Lemons" film block Saturday.
A day in the life of an elderly gentleman, Hank Crute, as he deals with the trials and tribulations of a resident of Spring Valley retirement home, bad food, conniving females and an unexpected Doctor's visit.
There are a few films that didn't make it as a finalist, but that Gerber highly recommends.
She describes In the Blink of an Eye: A James Bond Fan Film as "such a fun ride." Directed by Kevin Croxton, the 11:20-minute film will show in the 11 a.m. "Fun For the Whole Family" film block Saturday.
In the "Relationships Are Hard" film block at 1 p.m., she said there are three international films woven throughout that she expects audiences will find quite humorous: Spider, Bear and Shark. Directed by Nash Edgerton, the trilogy follow main character Jack — a prankster in search of love.
One last, but certainly not least, recommendation from Gerber is Warsha, a 15-minute Lebanon film nominated in the 2023 Oscars. Directed by Dania Bdeir, the film will be shown in the "And Then a Hero Came Along" film block at 7 p.m. Friday.
"It is one of my favorite films we've had outside of Arkansas," Gerber said. "It's breathtaking, it's emotional, it's beautiful, it's adventurous — I think it will be a true crowd pleaser at the screening."
A key difference in this year's Arkansas Shorts is the expanded run-time of the films. In the past, the short films rarely exceeded 10 minutes. This year, most are under 20 minutes, but some are as long as 40 minutes.
"I think that's interesting to see how our filmmakers are stepping closer and closer to high-quality feature filmmaking," Gerber said. "I expect we're going to start seeing incredible work within the state, and I think even more feature films produced because clearly, the filmmaking is very high quality."
Another key difference is the amount of Inception to Projection films being showcased.
In the past, Arkansas Shorts has only had 8-10 Inception films showcased. The uptick is due to 2022 being the first time in 13 years Inception has held four classes rather than one. Gerber said the program is allowing stories to be told in Hot Springs and by locals who, in some cases, have never created a film before.
"There's no other program like Inception in the state, where anyone 12 and above can take a film class and write, direct, produce, edit and screen their own original short film," she said.
"I'm excited to see what 2023 holds for the program because I think that it's just going to continue to flourish and grow our film community here in Hot Springs and beyond."