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When I was approached to head out to Aspen to cover the 20th annual Aspen Shortsfest, my heart skipped a beat. For an aspiring filmmaker, the chance to attend screenings of the some of the finest up and coming filmmakers at the “elusive, exclusive” Aspen Shortsfest is a personal jackpot. I have never been to Aspen, so my opinion of this relatively small, secluded mountain town was based on hearsay. From glitz and glamour to an exasperated Donald Trump yelling at first wife Ivana on its prestigious slopes, the stories of Aspen left me puzzled about what to expect. But I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived in one of the most calm, beautiful and tranquil towns I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. Aspen Shortsfest came about thanks to Aspen Film – a tight knit community of heartfelt artists and filmmakers who welcome everyone with the same kindness and sincerity you would expect at any independent gathering of the arts.
Aesthetically, there isn’t much that needs to be done when holding a festival in Aspen. Thanks in no small part to being surrounded by gorgeous mountains, slopes and late 1800’s architecture, any one would be left in awe of their surroundings while at the weeklong festival. Unlike most other film festivals that screen movies all day, every day, Shortsfest splits their screenings into two blocks of different shorts each day – one from roughly 5:30 – 7pm, the other at 8:30pm. Shortsfest Artistic Director Laura Thielen perfectly stated the reasoning behind this, “In each program we like to give you a meal, a little bit of documentary, a little bit of animation, a little bit of comedy, a little bit of drama and we take you for a ride.” Each program has been beautifully timed and balanced so that when the audience leaves the fabulously constructed Wheeler Opera House, they’re left completely satiated. Somehow, each program becomes a film unto itself, but no individual film is ever forgotten because each stands out in it’s own right. At the end of each screening, it’s very apparent that plenty of time and effort was put into picking the best of the 2500 entries this year.
As I spoke with George Eldred, Shortsfest Program Director, at the filmmaker “meet and greet,” we discussed this year’s eclectic group of filmmakers who hail from places as far off as Africa, Europe and Australia. Along with artistic and racial diversity, one of the main missions of the festival was to ditch the normally intense atmosphere of other festivals in favor of something far more tranquil and congenial. After I expressed my sheer amazement and appreciation for the events of the first day, George happily shared that there was much more to come.
Stay tuned to the Cool Material homepage for daily updates about Kevin’s trip to someplace warm. A place where the beer flows like wine. Where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. A little place called Aspen Shortsfest.