Steve AlldredgeSpecial to the SunSnowmass Village, CO Colorado

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April 11, 2012
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Aspen Shortsfest turns 20

Shortsfest was launched 20 years ago by Ellen Hunt, Gail Holstein and the enthusiastic volunteers of Aspen Film. After seeing that the shorts program at Filmfest was selling out each year, they decided to create a film festival devoted to short films, a rarity at that time. Within a few years, Aspen Shortsfest was gaining international attention. Now, it is an acclaimed festival with a competition jury that will make awards in multiple categories. Some of these awards will make the filmmaker eligible for an Academy Award at next year's event. Shortsfest 2012 features 79 competition finalists, with more than 60 filmmakers from 30 countries appearing in Aspen and Carbondale along with their films.Behind the scenes, Shortsfest is an amazing amount of hard work. More than 3,300 short films were submitted this year and viewed by Shortstfest's artistic director Laura Thielen, program director George Eldred, staff, and the screening committees.The final product is 11 programs of short films, each averaging about 90 minutes. For most of the local audience, Shortsfest will be the only opportunity to see these films."Easily 80 percent of what will screen at Shortsfest is not available unless they go to another film festival," noted Thielen.According to Aspen Film founder Ellen Hunt, short films have been shown in Aspen since a 1976 arts festival. In the early days of Aspen Shortsfest, many short films were made by filmmakers who were interested in creating a "calling card," or a film that showcased their directing and writing talent so that they could get feature film job offers. Short filmmakers (some who were quite tall) who appeared at Aspen Shortsfest went on to direct films and television hits such as "Shrek," "Ice Age," and "South Park."Has the short film genre changed over the years?"What hasn't changed is that what appeals to us and what appeals to the Aspen audience are films that have a human connection, stories from the heart," said Eldred.Thielen adds: "The dynamic between the artist and audience is something unique about Shortsfest. It's value-added. It's not just a screening. You can see films by this real cross-section of talent, whether it's emerging filmmakers or commercial filmmakers who want to make a short film."Seven new films by Colorado filmmakers will be shown this Shortsfest including two world premieres. And, as always, an important part of Shortsfest is the dialogue after the film with the filmmakers."I love the fact that we are able to transform the Wheeler into a hub of intense, creative conversation," said Thielen.Eldred adds: "This is a rare opportunity for people to experience what is a unique and interesting art form."For a complete online program of this year's Shortsfest and all of its programs and special events go to: Tickets for this year's Shortsfest are available at the Wheeler Box Office, 970-920-5770, Aspen Show Tickets,, or in Carbondale at The Blend, 970-510-5048.Steve Alldredge is a former president of the board of directors of Aspen Film and a member of the Aspen Shortsfest screening committee

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The Aspen Times Updated Apr 11, 2012 07:44AM Published Apr 11, 2012 07:42AM Copyright 2012 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.