Shorts That Are Not Pants: the ideal place to find short films in Toronto

In 2009, Toronto film blogger James McNally invited a small group of friends over to his apartment to watch a program of short films and this little event has morphed into Shorts That Are Not Pants. Starting the year with screenings at Carlton Cinema on January 16th (inspiring and creative international shorts) and The Royal on January 22nd (Spanish sci-fi shorts – enough said!!), Shorts That Are Not Pants has a lot in store for audiences.

MAE AND ASH / Dir: Shuchi Talati / USA – 2013

Not only does Shorts That Are Not Pants screen films, they also accept submissions. Check out what James had to say on the state of short films, some films you can catch this month, and the opportunities the program brings to filmmakers alike.

How important is this festival to the city of Toronto now that the Worldwide Short Film Fest has been ‘cancelled?’

I’m a bit uncomfortable comparing our tiny festival in any way to the juggernaut that was WSFF. When we started out I was really hoping to work together and learn from them, so when I learned about their “indefinite hiatus” I was a little crushed. I do think it’s important to have an outlet for short filmmakers to show their work in a city like Toronto, where audiences are so in love with film, but we are a long way from having the sort of influence that WSFF had. I dearly hope they’ll return.
What are so great about shorts, anyway?
I love that there are so few limits on short film. You’re not limited to a traditional three-act structure, for instance. You can make your film just as long as it needs to be to tell your story. There are fewer people involved (sometimes it’s just one person!) so the filmmaker can work as slowly or as quickly as required. The budgets are usually small enough that the film can be funded more easily. Many short films are completely self-funded. That gives filmmakers a lot of freedom to try out things that wouldn’t be possible in a traditional feature film. As a result, there’s more potential for surprise, and that sense of discovery is something I have always loved about watching films in general.

Which films in the Shorts That Are Not Pants program are you most excited about this year?
It’s a cliche but I don’t really have favourites since I have a hand in picking all of the films that we show. But I will give a plug to our first themed programme which first showed in October and which we are bringing back on January 22nd at The Royal Cinema. It’s called “El ataque de los cineastas españoles” and it’s a collection of really weird little films from Spain which all have a bit of a sci-fi bent. Our first screening of these films was woefully underattended (probably because our date conflicted with the Toronto After Dark Film Festival), so I’m bringing it back and begging people to come this time. These films are really really great! And yes, of course, they have subtitles.

LOS REYES MAGOS / Dir: Alberto González Vázquez / Spain – 2011
This festival started in your apartment with your friends. Had you ever imagined nights at the Carlton when you first began?
Not at all! But one of the great things is that the core of the audience who shows up at every screening are still some of those friends who have been with me since the beginning. Sometimes I think they’re just great friends for supporting me, but really I think I’ve just convinced them that short films are really worth watching. Watching the attendance grow over the past couple of years has been incredibly satisfying.

Considering your whole experience with the festival, what is your favourite memory or film thus far?

Again, I hate to play favourites, but one of the very coolest things happened just after we’d opened up the festival to online submissions from filmmakers. I received an amazing little film called THE CUB by Riley Stearns. He told me that it had been turned down by Austin’s Fantastic Fest, which really puzzled me. He’d also submitted to Sundance but wasn’t feeling very confident. I was so sure about the film that I told him I was certain it would get into Sundance, and maybe he’d like to premiere it there instead of at our little festival. He chose to show with us, so we had our first World Premiere! And yes, the film went on to play at Sundance, too.

Tickets are only $10/screening ($12 at the door) to catch a wonderful group of films and, this year, available for your viewing pleasure is a festival subscription for $60 which grants you access to the entire year’s screenings. There are only 50 subscriptions available so get yours ASAP! January 16th tickets available here.
We hope to see you there! See this event and others play out on our twitter and instagram pages.
Article by Andrea Wrobel

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