TORONTO — You can’t say Shane Smith aims low. The artistic director of the Canadian Film Center’s Worldwide Short Film Festival has some ambitious plans for the 11th annual confab in Toronto (June 14-19).
“Our ultimate goal is to be the premiere launching pad in the world for short films and short filmmakers,” he says.
In the five years since being taken over by the Norman Jewison’s Canadian Film Center, the fest has gone from being a modest affair for short film buffs in downtown Toronto to the largest short film market event in North America.
“We realized that no one is really taking care of short filmmakers in North America,” he says. “There’s an industry, and North America needs a real marketplace in shorts.”
Thus the CFC has been focusing on generating buzz and solid industry content for its event. “We’ve got the infrastructure to put energy, effort and resources behind the festival,” he says, “and it’s really starting to pay off.”
This year, fest leap-frogged over Palm Springs to become North America’s largest in both the number of entries and industry delegates. There was a huge jump in submissions, 3,000 from 80 countries, up from the 500 the fest usually receives. All submitted films will be available for screening by potential buyers.
Almost 300 delegates will be attending, including 100 industry delegates from Canada and the U.S., and increasingly the U.K. and Europe. Industry attendees include Air Canada, broadcasters the Sundance Channel, Al Gore’s Current TV and Comedy Central and companies such as L.A.-based the Hatchery, which is looking for emerging directing talent.
Last year’s slate featured five films that went on to receive Oscar noms, two of which, “Ryan” and “Wasp,” went on to bag the statuette. This year “Ryan” director Chris Landreth will be heavily involved, hosting An Evening With Chris Landreth, acting as a judge whose film will screen as part of the opening night package.
Other notables on the 230-film slate this year are the U.K. film “Milk,” directed by Peter Mackie Burns and starring Brenda Fricker; “Sons of War,” from Taika Waititi of New Zealand; “The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello,” directed by Australia’s Anthony Lucas; and “Sugar Mountain,” a U.S. film from 19-year-old director-thesp Aaron Himelstein.