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Short Film Contest Winner/Runner-Up: Fall ’16

This time of year is a particularly cold one for filmmakers. It’s no secret a wide swath of us have worked hard over the past year to create a film that might grace the screens of the Sundance Film Festival or SXSW…or both. By now, filmmakers have either seen this short term goal come true or joined the huddled masses who have faced rejection. It’s a tough time of year full of anxiety and existential dilemma. But it’s also a time of hope as many filmmakers, having felt the sting of major fest rejection, are now even more galvanized to get their art into the world.

As I emailed those who didn’t win the Fall Short Film Contest, I do what I always do which is try to let them down easy but also offer support by way of spreading the word on social media when their films find a home at the fests that will surely see great potential for their audiences. And I’m confident every film that was entered in this quarters competition will get programmed widely. But one thing that came back was a very solid resolve to not give up on their short film. I love this!

In the past I’ve had filmmakers who didn’t make the cut come back at me with snappy responses, accusing our judges of nepotism or of even not watching their films. And, I get it. We’re by no means a major league outlet and to not be anointed with the glory of being a Hammer to Nail Short Film Contest Winner might sting a little more than getting a rejection from a major fest with thousands of entries. But without a doubt the most frequent response I got from those who didn’t win this contest was disappointment followed by a request for advice on where to submit (which I always try to help with) and finally, a sentence or two about believing in their work and knowing it will find a home. In such trying – and yes, cold – times, that’s a truly inspiring thing to hear. One should never let any kind of rejection of their art, particularly in contest form, sway them from their journey.

All that being said, there were of course winners this go around and I’m extremely happy to announce them as well as allow you to watch them below for one week. But first, let’s re-meet our jurors!

Fall ’16 Jurors

Zach Clark is no stranger to Hammer to Nail. He wrote for us back in 2012-2013 and his writing/directing skills have created such HtN faves as White Reindeer and Modern Love is Automatic. His latest film Little Sister premiered at the 2016 SXSW Film Festival and is available right this very moment in limited release and on VOD.

Frank Mosley is another HtN stalwart who’s beautiful short film Casa de mi Madre (My Mother’s House) won our Summer 2016 shorts contest. Keep an eye out for that film in heavy rotation at film festivals worldwide this year and next.

Jennifer Lafleur is a writer, actor and director who you’ve undoubtedly seen in countless indie films. Her latest performances include starring roles in Sarah Adina Smith’s The Midnight Swim as well as Mark and Jay Duplass’s The Do-Deca-Pentathlon. You can catch her right this very minute in Robert G. Putka’s pitch-black comedy Mad which just dropped on Netflix Instant this week.

I’d also like to name drop all our amazing Film Fests who offered up a fee waiver as well as our continues sponsor Fandor…

IFFBostonMaryland Film FestivalNashville Film FestivalMontclair Film FestivalOak Cliff Film FestSt. Cloud Film Fest, Sun Valley Film Fest Julien Dubuque International Film Festival,  Oxford Film Fest, Indie Memphis, Sarasota Film Festival, Denver Film FestivalDallas Video Fest, Atlanta Film Festival and San Diego International Film Festival  

The Winner of the Fall Shorts Contest also get a ONE YEAR SUBSCRIPTION TO FANDOR!!! Runners up will each receive a 6 month subscription!

Fandor makes it easy for you to find the right film to watch. With the biggest handpicked collection of the most-talked-about independent films from around the world, there’s always something great to watch, whatever your mood, on almost any device. But they’re more than just a destination for exceptional films. They’re also building a community of film lovers and makers and developing industry-leading initiatives, including FIX and Fandor edu.

And now, for our winners…



The Family

(Written by Tom Swinburn, directed by Jayden Stevens; 15 mins)

Just in time for the holidays comes Jayden Stevens’ creepy yet very sad short film The Family. In the film we meet a lonely man who’s living a lonely life. So he does what most people would do and tries to recreate a family to share the holidays with him. The thing is, the way he does it is downright strange. As Stevens said so eloquently about his film “in the world we live in, we are constantly surrounded by the idea of ‘a perfect family’. We wanted to see how far would someone go to have what everyone else takes for granted. The idea of what can happen behind closed doors of ordinary homes in ordinary streets is fascinating. Behind the curtains, there are worlds that none of us get to see.” The Family is indeed a well made and deeply layered short film that we’re proud to name our Fall 2016 Short Film Contest Runner-Up.



(Written and Directed by Joseph Sackett; 9 mins, 30 seconds)

It goes without saying that unprotected sex – even in a monogamous relationship – can have some difficult side effects. However aside from the Danny DeVito/Arnold Schwarzenegger comedy hit Twins we rarely see the kind of post-coital madness that takes place in Pregnant. Joeseph Sackett manages to make a funny, sad and strange film all in under ten minutes which is no small feat. Plus, for as funny and offbeat as Pregnant is, it’s also incredibly insightful in terms of the human condition, especially when it comes to parenting. Also surprising (and also, hilarious) is the fact Sackett and Co. shot the short on the RED but then dialed down the aspect rations to 1:1 so it looks like a badly shot iPhone video. All in all Pregnant is insightful, delightful and really weird.

Congrats to not only our winners but also to our entrants! All of the films in this round were solid and choosing a winner and runner-up was not easy! We’ll be back in January with our Winter Short Film Contest so, stay tuned….

– Don R. Lewis (@HammertoNail)

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Don R. Lewis is a filmmaker and writer from Northern California. He was a film critic for Film Threat before becoming Editor-in-Chief of Hammer to Nail in 2014. He holds a BA in screenwriting from California State Northridge and is an MA candidate in Cinema Studies at San Francisco State.

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