Our intention with the Reopen Challenge was to bring some light back into the world. But, even we didn’t know how far-reaching this effect would be, or how many impactful films would be made. There’s no greater example of this than Kyndra Kennedy’s Black.Matters, our judges’ winning selection for this year.
When Ricky Staub, founder and director of Neighborhood Film Company, decided to make his first narrative short film, he went back to the oldest writing adage in the book: write what you know. And what did Ricky know? North Philly, that’s what. “It’s the most inspiring place I’ve ever lived,” he told us. “It’s a unique world that I don’t see explored a lot — a world I have tons of nuanced insight into.”
Eliot Rausch likes parables and has a habit of turning them into beautiful and thought-provoking, albeit highly ambiguous, short films. On the surface, the form might seem outdated. Parables aren’t data-driven. They’re not timely. They’re not easily retweetable, shareable, likeable, loveable, Snapchat-able. They don’t contain takeaways. All reasons why it would be easy to write them off. And all reasons why we need them now more than ever. “Our time is limited and our attention spans are really short,” Eliot told us. “There’s something incredibly beautiful about passing on these short parables to future generations.”
Dana Shaw is a hands-on type of guy. A film editor, stained-glass artist, and self-proclaimed bird charmer, Dana’s preferred method of editing documentaries is to lay out all his notes and stills on a large piece of butcher paper, so he can physically move the pieces around. “I’m really tactile,” Dana told us. “So being able to put those themes into categories and print out related quotes and put them on this ‘paper edit’ helps me organize my thoughts.”
The “based on a true story” trope is equal parts appealing and daunting for a filmmaker. An amazing story rooted in some sort of reality can feel like the perfect creative storm. But how do you do it justice — especially when it hits close to home for a community in the wake of a tragedy? That was the challenge facing Evan Ari Kelman, director and co-writer of Where There’s Smoke, when he set about exploring the transformative nature of the tragedy that occurred one night in 2005 when three FDNY firefighters lost their lives — otherwise known as “Black Sunday.”