24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Shorts

L.A. Comedy Shorts Film Festival goes for big laughs, big breaks

April 26, 2012 |  7:00 am

LA Comedy Shorts Film Festival
You might say the L.A. Comedy Shorts Film Festival, which kicks off Thursday night in downtown Los Angeles, was born amid tragedy. Co-founders Gary Anthony Williams and Jeannie Roshar, both actors and comedians, got the idea for the event while showing a humorous short at a surprisingly glum film festival in San Diego.

"Our little comedy was sandwiched between all these tragedies where literally in every one of them, somebody died," Williams said. "Nothing but death and destruction, and then there was our happy comedy."

The incident inspired them to create the L.A. Comedy Shorts Film Festival. Now in its fourth year, the festival runs Thursday to Sunday and aims to showcase and foster comedic talent with screenings, panel discussions, a screenwriting competition, nightly parties and a closing awards ceremony.

Highlights from this year's schedule include Thursday's celebrity short film block with work by Margaret Cho, Michael Cera and David Alan Grier; a discussion Friday with screenwriter Buck Henry ("The Graduate," "Catch-22"); and a panel Saturday titled "Famous People Talking About S&*%." Daily screenings will be held at the Downtown Independent theater, and buses will shuttle attendees to nighttime events at venues such as the Conga Room, the Kyoto Grand Hotel and Exchange L.A.

Williams, a comedy veteran who has written for "Malcolm in the Middle," acted on "Boston Legal" and done voice work on "The Boondocks," said one of the festival's initial goals was to encourage aspiring actors and comedians to create short films they could use as calling cards to show their skills. The festival's timing has also proved fortuitous as the popularity of short videos on the Web has exploded in recent years.

"Now there are so many short-form comedy content providers on the Internet," Williams said, citing websites such as Fremantle Media's Atomic Wedgie, Yahoo Screen, and Funny or Die (a festival sponsor). "Everybody's looking for producers and writers and people who can make stuff really funny, really well and really fast."

Past festival winners have gone on to work for companies such as Fremantle, Disney and CTV, Williams said.

Williams and Roshar's other goal for the festival is to entertain audiences, and one of the benefits of screening shorts, according to Williams, is that viewers are bound to see something they like.

"I guarantee you, you're going to laugh," he said, "or I'm going to let you punch me in the throat. One or the other. It's a punch-in-the-throat guarantee I'm offering."

RELATED:

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KTLA previews L.A. Comedy Shorts Film Festival [video]

-- Oliver Gettell

Photo: Attendees at the 2011 L.A. Comedy Shorts Film Festival. Credit: L.A. Comedy Shorts


'Growing Up With Gosling' new addition to the Ryan oeuvre

April 5, 2012 |  1:54 pm

"Growing Up With Gosling"

Ryan Gosling completists have so much material to keep them busy. There are the award-nominated performances, the bare-armed tabloid photos, the feminist Internet memes, the breathless news reports of street corner heroics.

But for diehards who still cannot get enough Goslingalia, there is yet another option -- provided by his fictional best friend, Luke Barnett, star and co-writer of the short film "Growing Up With Gosling."

"Basically, Ryan's tried to put me in everything he's ever done," Barnett says in the short, which inserts the unknown actor into key clips from the Gosling canon including "The Notebook," "Crazy, Stupid, Love" and "Lars and the Real Girl." "We did plays together in grade school and it was never like, 'Ryan Gosling the star and also his friend Luke.' I played Romeo. Ryan played Mercutio, which is a great part, but c'mon -- the play is called 'Romeo and Juliet.'"

"Growing Up With Gosling" -- which plays off the conceit that Barnett was dropped from all of Gosling's films at the last minute in favor of casting female stars like Rachel McAdams and Emma Stone -- originally appeared on FunnyOrDie in February, and is now beginning to play film festivals, including the L.A. Comedy Fest, which opens April 20.

Barnett, 29, did not actually grow up with Gosling in Toronto but in Washington, D.C. His most recent work includes the independent film "Sedona" and the role of "everybody else" in the L.A. stage production of "Saved By the Bell." Barnett's co-star in the film, Carly Craig, appears in the new "Three Stooges" movie, and his director, Zak Stoltz, primarily works in visual effects.

Barnett said he selected Gosling as his muse because the actor is so widely admired.

"Girls love him. Guys want to be him," Barnett said. "He's a person we do really think is great."

Gosling, who has been shooting the crime drama "Only God Forgives" in Thailand with his "Drive" director, Nicolas Winding Refn, is not affiliated with "Growing Up With Gosling." "Ryan is not in on this, that we know of," Barnett said.

But Barnett's status as Gosling's make-believe best friend is getting him noticed by the ladies, he said.

"And hey, when they can’t get me, they might get Ryan Gosling," Barnett said.

 

RELATED:

Golden Globes: Ryan Gosling's absence and other mysteries

Follow-up to Ryan Gosling and Winding Refn's 'Drive' heads to U.S.

Critic's Notebook: The star quality of Ryan Gosling and Jessica Chastain

--Rebecca Keegan

twitter.com/@thatrebecca

Photo: Ryan Gosling, left, and Luke Barnett in "Growing Up With Gosling." Credit: Courtesy of Luke Barnett


Shorts Awards honors Oscar nominees, ‘Wallace & Gromit’ creator

February 25, 2012 |  5:09 pm

'Wallace & Gromit' creator Nick Park
The Film Independent Spirit Awards wasn't the only pre-Oscar ceremony happening this weekend: On Friday, the second annual Shorts Awards presented film slate-shaped plaques to the nominees competing in the short film categories at Sunday's 84th Academy Awards and honored "Wallace & Gromit" creator Nick Park with a lifetime achievement award.

Park was not at West Hollywood's Soho House to accept the prize, but in a video acceptance speech he said, “I’ve always loved making short films. It’s a good way to get ideas out quickly. Many see it as a stepping stone to features, but I will always go back to short films.”

An enthusiasm for shorts permeated the event, which was presented by ShortsHD, a cable network that exclusively airs short films.

“We are entering the golden age of short films,” said producer Marc Bertrand, on hand to support his Oscar-nominated animated short “Dimanche,” citing an increase in options for independent distribution, as well as the technology that makes it easy for anyone to make a film.

To honor that technology, ShortsHD this year created the Shorts Technology Awards, whose winners Friday night included the Apple iPhone 4S and the app Movie Slate by Pure Blend Software.

“I think audiences have now opened their eyes for short films,” said Norwegian director Hallvar Witzø. His 25-minute short “Tuba Atlantic” is nominated in the live action shorts category. He pointed to the success of ShortsHD’s limited theatrical run of the Oscar-nominated shorts, which had earned $1.196 million at the box office as of Friday, ShortsHD chief executive Carter Pilcher announced at the event.

“Nobody knows the directors. Nobody knows the actors. But people want to see them anyway,” Witzø said.

The event seemed to be a bit of a rally for the nominees. During a presentation of clips from the Oscar-nominated films, “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” got the loudest cheers of the animated group, to which the film’s co-director Brandon Oldenburg said off-stage, “Wow, we have fans."

“I’m king here,” said Luke Matheny, attempting to describe the small celebrity status that has followed his 2011 Oscar win for a live action short. “There are a few communities where people know who I am, and the Oscar-related short film community is one of them.”

Matheny told 24 Frames that he’s “rooting for ‘Raju,’ ” a 24-minute German-Indian film, to win the Academy Award in the live action category. “I thought it had a real battleship of a plot ... and just kept making the right artistic decisions throughout the whole movie until it was over,” said Matheny, who is prepping his first feature, “Love Sick.”

The Shorts Awards also presented visionary awards to Joan Collins, Ray McKinnon, Marcy Page and Bill Plympton, as well as the International Award to Turkey, an honor earned largely because of the Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival, which takes place each fall in Antalya, Turkey.

RELATED:

Movie review: Oscar-nominated short films

Oscar predictions: What's going to win the short film races

Oscars 2012: Shorts categories have multiple Irish, Canadian noms

–- Emily Rome

twitter.com/EmilyNRome

Photo: "Wallace & Gromit" creator Nick Park Credit: Carlo Allegri / Imagenet


Oscar shorts: Civil rights activists see day they never expected

February 25, 2012 | 12:28 pm

'The Barber of Birmingham'

Four years ago, as Americans were facing the question of whether voters would elect the country’s first African American president, Bay Area resident Robin Fryday flew to Birmingham, Ala., to see how the nearing election was affecting a city so seeped in civil rights-era history. What she found was a project that became an Oscar-nominated documentary short.

“The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement,” a 25-minute short, is Fryday’s first film. The photographer began her research in Birmingham alone, and then –- fittingly through an introduction made by Fryday’s hairdresser -– she connected with co-director Gail Dolgin, who was nominated in 2003 for her documentary feature, “Daughter From Danang.” Dolgin died of cancer in 2010 and shares the nomination posthumously with Fryday.

The short puts a spotlight on people whom Fryday calls “the unsung heroes of the civil rights movement.”

“Many of them are dying, they’re elderly, so it was important to capture these stories,” Fryday said.

OSCARS: Cheat Sheet | Key Scenes | Pundit's picks | Ballot | Timeline

As Fryday and Dolgin documented them through the 2008 election -– a day that “most of them thought they would never live to see,” Fryday said -– they recalled their experiences fighting for the right to vote in an era when many blacks were barred from voting through literacy tests and poll taxes.

Central to the film is James Armstrong, who had owned a Birmingham barbershop from 1950 until shortly before his death in late 2009. Armstrong dedicated his life to fighting for civil rights. He got his two sons into an all-white elementary school, and he carried the American flag on Bloody Sunday in the Selma-to-Montgomery marches. Fryday met Armstrong after another interviewee asked her, “Have you met the barber?”

Continue reading »

Oscars 2012: Short 'Stroll' spans 100 years in seven minutes

February 23, 2012 |  3:30 pm

'A Morning Stroll'

The animators at Studio AKA mostly fill their days with working on commercials, but in the past six or so years, the British company has been delving into short filmmaking. Now their work has paid off with an Oscar nomination for “A Morning Stroll.” The talent behind the quirky seven-minute film, which is partially in 3-D, has found that a background in commercials is really helpful for transitioning to storytelling in short films.

“Working within 30 seconds teaches you to keep things concise and brief,” said director Grant Orchard.

He shares the Oscar nomination with Studio AKA head of production and “Morning Stroll” producer Sue Goffe, who added, “But it’s really nice to give yourself a little bit more time than 30 seconds to tell a story [with shorts].”

That story was originally going to last 20 minutes, as Orchard at first hoped to make a natural history film with watercolors for the studio’s fourth short. But as he was looking for a more affordable project, he came across  “The Chicken,” an entry in Paul Auster’s book “True Tales of American Life.” The story inspired Orchard to write a film about New Yorkers who encounter a chicken on a city street.

The film is structured as a triptych, as three people witness the chicken pecking on a door in three different years: 1959, 2009 and 2059. Each segment features a different style of animation: black-and-white 2-D line drawings, colorful and more detailed 2-D and concluding with 3-D animation for the apocalyptic future. Switching among the different animation styles was the obvious way to go once Orchard decided to set the film in three different years, and it was certainly nothing new for Studio AKA.

Continue reading »

Oscar predictions: What's going to win the short film races?

February 22, 2012 |  4:30 pm

The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore
The Envelope's Gold Standard columnist Glenn Whipp is sweeping through all 24 Oscar categories this week, predicting the winners. Here he tiptoes through the minefield that is the three divisions of short films.

DOCUMENTARY SHORT

The nominees:

“The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement”
“God Is the Bigger Elvis”
“Incident in New Baghdad”
“Saving Face”
“The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom”

And the winner is … “Saving Face.” The HBO-backed short follows the work of plastic surgeon Muhammad Jawad as he performs reconstructive surgery on Pakistani women who have had acid thrown on their faces, usually by their husbands, often without consequence. It’s shocking and quite moving. And it’s about a subject -- disfigurement -- that academy members have often rewarded in this category.

Unless … Voters go with the equally moving survivors’ tale “The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom.” Or perhaps “God Is Bigger Than Elvis,” the story of Dolores Hart, who walked away from Hollywood to become a Benedictine nun shortly after making a movie with Elvis Presley, might intrigue, though we’d guess her particular journey doesn’t exactly resonate with the academy crowd.

ANIMATED SHORT

The nominees:

“Dimanche/Sunday”
“The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore”
“La Luna”
“A Morning Stroll”
“Wild Life”

And the winner is … “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.” It’s about reading and storytelling. In a nostalgia-fueled Oscar year, it pays tribute to Buster Keaton and “The Wizard of Oz.” It uses a natural disaster (Hurricane Katrina) as a plot device. And it’s silent. What more do you need?

Unless … Voters decide they can’t go a year without giving Pixar an award and give the Oscar to the charming “La Luna.” Inventive BAFTA winner “Morning Stroll” is also definitely in the mix.

LIVE ACTION SHORT

The nominees:

“Pentecost”
“Raju”
“The Shore”
“Time Freak”
“Tuba Atlantic”

And the winner is … “The Shore.” Oscar nominee Terry George (“Hotel Rwanda”) did a marvelous job directing this emotional story of an Irish man reuniting with the “blood brother” he left behind when he came to America during The Troubles. George’s pedigree and the presence of actors Ciaran Hinds and Kerry Condon make “The Shore” the showiest entry and the most obvious pick.

Unless … As is often the case in this category, the most obvious choice isn’t the choice at all and another tale of estrangement, “Tuba Atlantic,” wins for the way it adeptly blends wry humor and sentiment in its tale of a dying Norwegian man looking to blow up a few seagulls and reconnect with his brother in his final days.

RELATED:

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Oscars 2012: Shorts categories have multiple Irish, Canadian noms

Oscar shorts: 'Morris Lessmore' has hybrid animation, iPad app

-- Glenn Whipp

Image: "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore." Credit: Moonbot Studios


Oscar-nominated shorts, coming to a theater near you

February 9, 2012 |  6:00 am

Barber of birmingham oscar short
If you’re feeling behind on watching this year’s Oscar-nominated films, here’s one way to catch up on five titles in one sitting: ShortsHD’s theatrical screenings of the short film nominees, which kick off Friday.

For the seventh year, the Oscar-nominated shorts will screen at theaters in the U.S. and Canada, presented by ShortsHD, a cable TV network that exclusively shows short films. Screenings will group the films together by category: animation (79 minutes), documentary (130 minutes) and live action (107 minutes). Among this year’s nominees are Pixar’s longest theatrical short, a live action film by “Hotel Rwanda” director Terry George and a documentary about the tsunami that hit Japan in 2011.

“This is how the films were meant to be seen,” said Carter Pilcher, chief executive of Shorts International, which owns ShortsHD.

For those who can’t make it to the theater, there will still be a chance to watch the live action and animated films on demand, via providers including Time Warner and Comcast, and on iTunes, where ShortsHD will sell the shorts packaged by category starting Feb. 21 for $6.99. (Pixar’s “La Luna” will not be available digitally, because it is screening in front of the studio’s 2012 film “Brave.”)

“Even if you can’t have the full theater experience, we want to encourage people to watch the films together,” said Pilcher, who likened viewing all of a category’s nominees in one sitting to listening to an album instead of just one song.

When Pilcher started the screenings in 2006, he was met with resistance from theater owners who didn’t like the idea of screening films weeks before a digital release. Some shorts directors were also hesitant to hand their films over to an unfamiliar distributor. But the program has grown from about 50 theaters in its first year to more than 200 venues today.

The screenings have also gotten a boost from a new rule by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Previously, members could vote for short films only if they attended an academy screening. Now, attending a ShortsHD screening will make academy members eligible to vote for the films.

“It’s a great thing that after seven years, this has made a mark big enough to be included in the [voting] process,” Pilcher said. “It’s a big step forward for short films.”

Setting this year’s live action nominees apart from past years is a trend toward comedy, including a tale of time travel mishaps in the American film “Time Freak” and a heartwarming story of a 70-year-old man’s last days in the Norwegian short “Tuba Atlantic.”

“The live action films often deal with very serious and challenging subjects,” Pilcher said. “This year, most of the films you see will make you laugh. It’s really fun to see them on the big screen, all together in a row with an audience.”


In L.A., venues participating include the Egyptian Theatre, which will screen the documentary shorts Feb. 17, and the Nuart, which will show the live action and animated nominees Friday through Feb. 23.

RELATED:

Full coverage of Oscar nominated short films

 

Oscar shorts: Pixar takes on new poetic tone with ‘La Luna’

Oscar shorts: Discovering story through location in Norway

— Emily Rome

Photo: A scene from the Oscar-nominated short "The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement."  James Armstrong is a barber, whose barbershop in Birmingham, Ala., has been a hub for haircuts and civil rights since 1955.  Credit: Shorts HD.


Oscars 2012: Shorts categories have multiple Irish, Canadian noms

January 24, 2012 |  4:13 pm

Oscar-nominated shorts

Fifteen short films earned Oscar nominations Tuesday in three shorts categories, each with their own trend toward films from particular countries. The contenders hail from a variety of countries and have varying degrees of experience, from first-time directors to three-time Oscar nominees. 

The live action shorts category includes only one title from an American filmmaker, "Time Freak" -– it was also the only U.S. film on the shorts list announced in December. In the documentary shorts category, though, all the nominees are from the U.S. One is a doc that is rooted in American history, “The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement.” The film is about an 85-year-old barber who regales his customers with stories about his activism in the Civil Rights era, including marching from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. 

“I’m unbelievably excited to be nominated. And it’s amazing timing because we’ve had a lot of screenings around Martin Luther King Jr. Day,” said co-director Robin Fryday. Gail Dolgin, who died in 2010, shares the nomination posthumously with Fryday.

PHOTOS: Oscar nominees react

Fryday said it’s been exciting to get awards attention at the same time as “The Help,” the best picture nominee about African American maids in 1960s Mississippi. The “Barber of Birmingham” director saw “The Help” in Alabama with Civil Rights Activist Committee member Shirley Gavin Floyd as well as a woman whose mother was a maid and had similar experiences to the characters in “The Help."

“It was a really powerful film to see, and it was really powerful to see their reactions,” Fryday said.

In the live action shorts category, two films from the Emerald Isle earned nominations: “Pentecost” by Irish filmmaker-actor Peter McDonald and “The Shore” by Northern Ireland native Terry George.

“Ireland has always had a strong showing in the short category -– maybe something to do with our storytelling tradition,” George told 24 Frames via Skype instant message while on a flight from New York to Los Angeles for the premiere of “Luck.” (The TV series stars Nick Nolte, whom George directed in his Oscar-nominated feature “Hotel Rwanda.” Nolte received a nomination Tuesday in the best supporting actor category for his role in "Warrior.")

The writer-director said that the anticipation leading up to the nomination announcement was “nerve-wracking” for the short that was made with family members and had a storyline about the Troubles that struck close to home, even more nerve-wracking than his Oscar-nominated features. (He was nominated in 1994 for best adapted screenplay for "In the Name of the Father.")

“It felt like my family, the village I live in and grew up in and Northern Ireland were all on the line –- that’s way bigger than a studio pic,” George said.

OSCARS 2012: COMPLETE NOMINEES LIST

The animated shorts nominee list includes two films funded by the National Film Board of Canada: "Wild Life” by Calgary, Alberta-based filmmakers Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby, and “Sunday” by Montreal, Quebec-based filmmaker Patrick Doyon.

“We’re so happy for [Doyon],” Forbis said. “That was especially sweet to see that NFB got two nominations.”

Also nominated in the animation shorts category was Pixar’s “La Luna,” which was some consolation for the studio after its “Cars 2” became the first Pixar feature not to receive an Oscar nod in the animated feature film category. The seven-minute "La Luna" will screen in front of the studio’s 2012 feature, “Brave.”

The short’s director, Enrico Casarosa, said “there was some really good dancing and screaming” in his home when he told his family the news.

“But for my 4-year-old daughter, there was the challenge of trying to explain it to her,” Casarosa said. “I told her, ‘There’s a big party, and if they like Daddy’s movie, they’ll give me a nice prize.’ So then she could participate in the giddiness.”

The winners will be announced Sunday, Feb. 26, at the 84th Academy Awards, which will be held at Kodak Theatre and telecast on ABC.

RELATED:

Oscar nod a tall order for short films

PHOTOS: 84th Academy Awards nominees

Pixar’s awards hopes may lie with its short film, not ‘Cars 2’

– Emily Rome

Photos: Left: Ciarán Hinds stars in Terry George's "The Shore," one of two Irish films nominated in the live action shorts category. Credit: Aidan Monaghan. Right: "Sunday" is one of two Canadian films nominated in the animated shorts category. Credit: National Film Board of Canada


Oscar shorts: ‘Morris Lessmore’ has hybrid animation, iPad app

January 23, 2012 |  4:53 pm

'The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore'

Animated short film “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” is the first film made by Mootbot Studios, but it’s certainly no trial run for the small animation and visual effects company. A favorite on the film festival circuit last year, the short boasts some innovative merging of animation techniques, has launched a successful companion iPad app and is in the running for an Oscar for best animated short.

The 15-minute film was produced by Lampton Enochs and co-directed by Brandon Oldenburg and William Joyce, who also penned the  screenplay. The three are also Moonbot’s founders, who came together to form the studio under unusual circumstances.

Until 2009, writer-illustrator-filmmaker Joyce was bouncing back and forth between two coasts, constantly traveling for work, including as a concept artist for early Pixar films such as “Toy Story.” Then he decided he’d spent enough time on the road and was determined to find a way to base his work in his native Shreveport, La.

Enochs, whom Joyce knew through mutual friends, was already working in the upstate town after being forced north by Hurricane Katrina. The two decided to start Moonbot together with Joyce’s frequent collaborator, Oldenburg, who was freed up to become a partner in the company when his plans to work on the film about Michael Jackson’s comeback tour were canceled upon the announcement of the pop singer’s death.

“It took a hurricane and the death of a superstar” to bring the three of them together, Joyce pointed out.

One of those, Katrina, ended up being a key influence on the film, which also drew inspiration from “The Wizard of Oz” and filmmaker-comic actor Buster Keaton. But the idea for the story started with longtime children’s books publisher William Morris, Joyce’s mentor at HarperCollins.

“I wrote this little story about a guy who gives his life to books,” Joyce, 54, said. “I wrote it on this airplane flight [en route to visit Morris], and I got to read it to him when I went to see him. He died just a few days after that.”

That story became the film, which is  about not only a man who gives his life to books, but also the books that give back. The story, at turns bleak and bright, follows book lover Morris Lessmore as a windy force of nature leaves his town in shambles, blowing him “Oz” tornado style to a land where he discovers a library of lively books and becomes their caretaker.

Continue reading »

Oscar shorts: ‘Pentecost’ merges worlds of sports and church

January 23, 2012 | 12:18 pm

'Pentecost'

For Irish theater and film actor Peter McDonald, the idea for his directorial debut, the 11-minute film “Pentecost,” began with an image: a group of altar boys in the back room of a church with the sacristan giving them a pep talk before Mass.

“I thought, ‘Oh God, there’s a great film in there,’ ” said McDonald, 39. “It was incredibly visual and [the church] struck me as quite a high-stakes world.”

The comedy that arose when merging that world with the pressure of a high-stakes sports game was funny and endearing enough to earn “Pentecost” attention from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which included the film on its shortlist for the live action short category.

The film tells the story of Damien Lynch, a young altar boy who is offered the chance to serve at an important Mass in his small town, his chance to redeem himself after his last turn as altar boy two weeks before, when he knocked Father O’Toole off the altar. If he does the job right this time around, the ban his father has placed on his passion -– soccer -– will be lifted, just in time for him to see his favorite team in its first European cup final.

McDonald takes the language and tone of a sports movie and places it in the realm of the Catholic Church in the 1970s -– when the director himself was an altar boy. Priests in the film refer to altar boys with such phrases as “We lost him on a technicality.” Sports-arena-like cheers overlay the sounds of the small church. And that image of a pep talk that was McDonald’s starting point becomes a central part of the film.

“[That scene] is lit to almost feel like a sports movie, the pep talk before they go out and play the big game… And I lit it so the boys look angelic in their white and red, and the sacristan is walking around kind of like a Darth Vader,” McDonald said.

When the film screened in Ireland, the director could see that it resonated with its audience.

“I think people in Ireland particularly connected with the material. Hopefully, it’s universal but … they understand the role the Mass plays within a small town like that -– it’s very much a public event,” McDonald said.

The film was shot in the Irish counties of Dublin and Wicklow. Also sticking close to home is some of the short’s music: The closing credits feature the song “My Perfect Cousin” by the Undertones, a punk band from Northern Ireland.

McDonald also had his composer record a version of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony –- the portion best known as “Ode to Joy” -- dominated by acoustic guitar, which is used repeatedly through the film. (Hear it in the film's trailer, below.)

“I wanted some classical music in there. And there’s also a great energy to that particular melody. It kind of has a marching forward feel,” McDonald said. “[This instrumentation] keeps the tone of the film bright and marching forward yet within the world of this clerical, ecclesiastical backdrop.”

The actor-filmmaker, who is now based in London, will next appear in front of the camera in “Titanic,” the upcoming miniseries written by “Downton Abbey” creator Julian Fellowes.

“Pentecost,” which was funded by the Irish Film Board’s Signatures program, is set for distribution in the United Kingdom through Network Ireland, with a U.S. release a possibility. Shorts International will release the film theatrically with this year’s other Oscar-nominated shorts if it makes the cut.

RELATED:

Oscar nod a tall order for short films

Academy names its shortlist of 10 live action shorts

Oscar shorts: An evolution of films about Northern Ireland

-- Emily Rome

Photo: Short film "Pentecost" features a scene in the sacristy of a Catholic church that evokes pep talk scenes from sports movies. Credit: Helen Warner.


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