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Oscar-Qualifying HollyShorts Film Festival Celebrates 15th Anniversary

The annual Oscar-qualifying HollyShorts Film Festival is celebrating its 15th anniversary. Running Aug. 8-17, the shorts film fest brings together premium story creators, top-flight industry leaders and dynamic companies, launching filmmakers into the next stages of their careers.

“We had submissions from 80 countries this year. The event has truly become an explosion of phenomenal short-form content,” says Theo Dumont, co-founder of HollyShorts.

Of a record 6,000 submissions, roughly 400 official selections have been made, spread out over three categories: short film, live action and animation. HollyShorts also engages the community and spotlights short films year-round through monthly screenings, panels and networking events.

“It’s been remarkable to see the exponential growth of the festival over the years as we’re always searching for the next wave of talented filmmakers,” says co-founder Daniel Sol.

The opening night red carpet celebration will be held at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Taking place concurrently with the festival is the HollyShorts Film + TV Conference, which features panels, workshops and think-tanks with industry leaders. 2019 official selection, “The Trap,” directed and written by Lena Headey (“Game of Thrones”) and starring Michelle Fairley (“Game of Thrones”), is set to play on opening night, with Headey in attendance.

“It makes me feel incredibly proud to be part of HollyShorts, as I’ve wanted to direct for such a long time,” Headey says. “It’s the most natural thing for me. I wrote this script for Michelle Fairley, as she’s one of my favorite actors.”

“Another great part of the festival is that so many alumni return to take part in the festivities,” says Dumont.

This year, producer Andrew Carlberg and writer-director Guy Nattiv from the 2018 short winner “Skin,” which then went on to win the Oscar for live-action short, will be in attendance.

“HollyShorts has been such a consistent and supportive aspect of my career,” says Carlberg. “My first professional short played HollyShorts in 2010, and they’ve been a driving force in featuring my short form work ever since that festival. I believe so much in their mission, and the importance of short films in our industry.”

Past HollyShorts Indie Maverick honorees Anthony Russo, Jennifer Morrison (“Once Upon a Time”) and Matthew Modine will make special guest appearances.

“Distribution is perhaps the most complicated obstacle for budding filmmakers,” Modine says. “Once you’ve made a film, how do you find your audience? HollyShorts has been a successful amplifier and distribution platform for these new, undiscovered talents to present their work.

“I’m honored to be a small part of their amazing efforts and legacy.”

The roster of new talent showcasing projects at this year’s shorts festival is loaded with potential, with buzzed-about titles including Janina Gavankar and Russo Schelling’s “Stucco.”

“My mission statement as an artist is to examine the parts of ourselves we’re least proud of,” Gavankar says. “This is a short about mental health, anxiety and guilt.”

Schelling adds: “This film is heavily autobiographical for both of us, in ways you may not expect. It’s an amalgam of emotional bits and pieces. There’s something to be said about what happens when you’re a clinically depressed person, and there’s a misconception that people rally around to support you. But in actuality you distance yourself from everyone. Then, it’s left to you to reclaim your life.”

Actress-turned-director Brittany Snow’s “Milkshake” is another film riding a strong wave of anticipation.

“I wanted to tell a personal story about how your life becomes shaped by the various sacrifices your parents make for you when you’re growing up,” says Snow. Helming her own project “was an experiment of sorts and extremely rewarding.”

Other notable entries include Dane Cook’s “American Typecast,” Sterling Milan’s “About the People” and Roger Guenveur Smith’s “My Father Belize.”

The Seattle Film Summit, which combines the art and business of filmmaking to advance the funding, creation and distribution of stories reflecting the thriving, socially aware film culture of the Pacific Northwest, returns as a partner.

“One of my first partnerships was with HollyShorts,” says Seattle Film Festival founder Ben Andrews. “We really want to give the Pacific Northwest the cinematic exposure that it deserves. And we’re proud to return for a fourth year as a provider of grants to the winner of the HollyShorts screenplay contest.”

Impossible Dream Entertainment is also getting on board this year.

“We’ll be giving a development deal to a short film that we feel has the most break-out potential,” says president Shaun Redick.

“We’ve been paying close attention to HollyShorts over the years, and we’re hoping that this becomes an annual partnership,” says Impossible Dream partner Yvette Yates. “We’re looking to support new voices from all backgrounds — that’s our company mandate.”

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