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The Oscar nominations were just announced this morning and the Sundance previews are starting to arrive, but we’ve got some even bigger news to drop on the world today… that’s right, it’s time to announce the winner and runner-up in HTN’s Winter ’15 Short Film Contest!

Speaking of Sundance, it just so happens that all of our judges this go ‘round are playing very vital roles at this year’s fest: filmmaker judge Sean Baker will be premiering his latest feature, Tangerine, in the festival’s beloved NEXT Section; industry judge John Von Thaden will be scouring the program for possible Magnolia Pictures-approved titles; and, perhaps most sweetly, Brian Bolster will be presenting his HTN Summer ’14 Short Film Contest winner, One Year Lease, in Documentary Shorts Program 1. How cool is that?!

We must also give a deep thank you to our participating festivals this go ‘round: LA Film Fest, IFFBoston, Maryland Film Festival, Nashville Film Festival, Riverrun International Film Festival, Montclair Film Festival, Sarasota Film Festival, Hamptons International Film Festival, Oak Cliff Film Fest, Sidewalk Film Festival, St. Cloud Film Fest. To remind you, this means that the winner and runner-up receive fee waivers to all eleven of these awesome fests.

Lastly, and the opposite of leastly, we are most deeply indebted to the filmmakers who busted their butts to make their movies and busted their wallets to submit them to our contest. I say it every time in this post, but I’m here to say it again: By submitting to the HTN Short Film Contest, you are keeping this site alive and supporting ambitious indie cinema so thank you-thank you-thank you!


(Bruce Smolanoff, 14:38)

Let’s start this off with a quote from judge John Von Thaden: “This fired on all cylinders, great lead performance and filmmaking.” While John is right about both of those things—our 2014 Silver Nail winner Sean Price Williams strikes yet again with his cinematographic skills (seriously, this guy is getting ridiculous)—it is without question the lead performance by Tallie Medel that sends Bruce Smolanoff’s blackly comic drama into the stratosphere. Many of us have been convinced of Medel’s talent from her indelible performances in Dan Sallitt’s The Unspeakable Act and Caleb Johnson’s Joy Kevin, but in this portrait of an aspiring Brooklyn standup, she widens her range even further. If movies like Frownland and Bad Fever are up your gritty alley, you’ve parked your hooptie in the right place!


TheImmaculateRecstilllargeThe Immaculate Reception
(Charlotte Glynn, 16:20)

Fellow juror Sean Baker had this to say about Charlotte Glynn’s freakishly authentic period piece: “The Immaculate Reception is a rich and inviting slice of Americana… spot-on cinematography and production design, subtle performances by the leads, and I’m in love with this script. You could do a carbon dating of this film and it would read 1972. Incredibly authentic and sincere.” Sean’s right too. This film really does feel like it could have been shot on the day that Franco Harris made that miraculous play. I have much more to say about this excellent short, so stay tuned for my full HTN review. But for now…


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Michael Tully is an award-winning writer/director whose films have garnered widespread critical acclaim, his projects having premiered at some of the most renowned film festivals across the globe. He is also the former (and founding) editor of this site. In 2006, Michael's first feature, COCAINE ANGEL, chronicling a tragic week in the life of a young drug addict, world premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. The film immediately solidified the director as one of Filmmaker Magazine’s "25 New Faces of Independent Film,” a reputation that was reinforced a year later when his follow-up feature, SILVER JEW, a documentary capturing the late David Berman's rare musical performances in Tel Aviv, world-premiered at SXSW and landed distribution with cult indie-music label Drag City. In 2011, Michael wrote, directed, and starred in his third feature, SEPTIEN, which debuted at the 27th annual Sundance Film Festival before being acquired by IFC Films' Sundance Selects banner. A few years later, in 2014, Michael returned to Sundance with the world premiere of his fourth feature, PING PONG SUMMER, an ‘80s set coming-of-age tale that was quickly picked up for theatrical distribution by Gravitas Ventures. In 2018, Michael wrote and directed the dread-inducing genre film DON'T LEAVE HOME, which has been described as "Get Out with Catholic guilt in the Irish countryside" (IndieWire). The film premiered at SXSW and was subsequently acquired by Cranked Up Films and Shudder.

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