While there’s still a gaping hole in Las Vegas film culture since the demise of CineVegas, Boulder City’s Dam Short Film Festival put on another quality fest this year. This year’s festival wrapped Feb. 11, but that leaves you plenty of time to get ready for next year. I’d recommend a stop at the Dillinger for the portobella burger before walking over to the old playhouse to settle in for the shorts.
On Feb. 10, I went to the Nevada Filmmakers Showcase to see what our Battle Born talent has to offer. As with many other short film programs, I noticed the same thing here: the technical quality continues to rise as sophisticated equipment becomes more widespread, but the storytelling still suffers. There’s an old film adage that good actors and a good crew can sometimes make a good script into a bad movie, but it’s impossible to make a bad script into a good movie.
That said, there were some definite highlights. My favorite short was Lady and the Chap, a silent film that paid tribute to Charlie Chaplin. Lead actor Spenser Dewees took Chaplin’s look, mannerisms and penchant for hijinks in Dean Pizzoferrato’s entry, which was shot for the 48-Hour Film Project.
The winner for Best of the Program was Just Like the Movies, directed by Stacy Adamski. The plot: Office workers win a Netflix-esque subscription and the more movies they watch, the more they act like movie character stereotypes. The woman looking for love wants to find a pair of heels that will break, because every time a woman breaks a heel in a movie, romance soon follows. Her friend has no idea what a voice-over was and continues to talk her thoughts quietly, making for some awkward fun. This was well-acted and enjoyable, but the one-joke premise (even if the joke is funny) certainly could be trimmed a few minutes with its multiple false endings and 14-minute run time.
Easily the best-looking film was Walter Was Here, a post-apocalyptic story shot in desolate areas throughout the state (and on Redondo Beach, Calif.). Director Adam Zielinski has a crisp eye for visuals and a knack for letting the environment speak for itself. As for the actual film, its similarities to The Road bring the viewer across too-trod ground.
Shot on an iPhone, The Magician is a broad yarn about the title character and the trick he’s able to play on a friend. At three mintues, Eric West’s piece might have looked the most homemade (each shot was a still photo from the phone), but it was pleasant and fun, perhaps making it the perfect film metaphor for the festival itself.