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Vancouver's Short Film Makers Are Stars Abroad

Filmmaker Hang out in Clermont-Ferrand, France
In a little town in France, Vancouver is considered a hot bed of filmmaking. Short filmmaking, that is.Since 1979, the chilly first week of February is host to the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival, universally considered the most important short film festival in the world.
In 2009, out of 6,125 short films submitted from around the world, 178 were invited to compete. Of those films invited, only 3 were from English Canada.

All 3 were from Vancouver.
Jeff Chiba Stearns’ wildly popular animated film (and winner of the Audience Award in his category), “Yellow Sticky Notes”, Kevin Langdale’s NFB short “Engine 371” and the only English Canada live action short invited, “Awkward” by yours truly, Kellie Ann Benz.
In total, Canadian filmmakers, representing English Canada and French Canada combined submitted 367 short films and only 6 made the cut (the three French Canadian Films were from Quebec and Manitoba).

Why does this matter?

“Clermont-Ferrand is simply the largest international gathering for short films in the world,” explains Sue Biely, former Producer of CBC’s ZED and current short film Guru of Canada.

Jeff Chiba Stearns adds; “I regard Clermont-Ferrand as the most important international short film festival in the world and I’m sure I’m not alone, considering how hard it is to get accepted.”

“The whole town supports the event and kids are given time off school to come and watch films.” Biely continues, “It's quite amazing. The first year I was there I think my jaw was dropped for 99% of the time!”

Like event festivals such as Sundance and Cannes for feature length films, Clermont-Ferrand does more business in short films than any other festival. Buyers, festival programmers, distributors from every continent converge on Clermont-Ferrand for eight days of frenzied business.

Since my film was at Clermont-Ferrand, ‘Awkward’ has been invited to compete in festivals in Russia, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Austria. It was courted by four distributors from Toronto, Spain and the UK and I have been short listed as a finalist for the Canadian Screenwriting Awards in Toronto next week.

So...if we’re so big in France, how come you’ve never heard of these films?

“The representation (at the market in Clermont-Ferrand) is dominantly European, but it also draws professionals from the Middle East, Mexico, South America, New Zealand, Australia, The Nordic Countries, Asia and North America.” Biely explains, “This is where you find a world of people working in and supporting the short film sector (yes, I said sector!).”

That’s right, Canada simply doesn’t have an infrastructure to support the creation, development, production and distribution of short films in the same way other countries do. The National Film Board of Canada has a long history in making award winning animated films, but for the live action short film maker there are few options.

The Shorts Report offers a list of places to turn if you want to MAKE a short film, but when it comes to the business of short films, you’re pretty much on your own.

“In Canada, the number one short film event and market is the CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival in Toronto.” Adds Biely, “I believe it's the best 'marketplace' for shorts in North America. However, it is still a fraction of what you see in Clermont-Ferrand.”

So while we may as a country be behind the rest of the world when it comes to giving our short film makers the tools to develop their craft, the rest of the world is looking squarely at Vancouver to represent Canada’s voice.

As Chiba Stearns puts it; “If you make good films people will be excited to see your next one!”

All photos by Kellie Ann Benz
Kellie Ann Benz has been making shorts film in Vancouver since 1997. Her films have screened at festivals around the world and she has been the recipient of a Kickstart Grant for Emerging Filmmakers. “Awkward” is her third short film. She is the publisher of The Shorts Report and the owner of an electric bike.
Some of the Directors in AttendanceAudience waits for films to start at festival in Clermont-FerrandClermont-Ferrand Town Centre
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