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

While it’s been pretty hard to tell from the funky weather across the United States these days, spring is here and is actually almost gone. That means our quarterly short film contest has also come and gone and while there’s been a delay on announcing the winners (completely my fault, I won’t bore you with the details) we did have another great group of entries and a lively selection process for both the semi-finalists as well as the eventual winners.

Before I get down to the nitty gritty, I wanted to ask you all a quick question: do you think we should highlight ALL of the short films that go to the second round or just keep it the way it’s always been which is to just announce and briefly talk about the winners? I ask because on one hand, I feel like the films that get to the finals are really the standouts and while they may not win the fee waivers and Fandor subscriptions, maybe a mention that they were in the mix can help? But on the flipside, maybe the filmmakers will feel like that’s a bit of a diss to say they were in there and didn’t win plus, it adds insult to injury to those who didn’t make the second round. Maybe I’m overthinking it but let us know in the comments section or on our Facebook page. Enough about me and my mental issues, let’s get to the good stuff!

First, let me re-introduce our jury!

Megan Griffiths is a Seattle based filmmaker who writes, directs and produces. Films she’s written and directed include The Off Hours, Eden and the forthcoming feature on Richard Ramirez, The Night Stalker which is premiering at the Seattle International Film Fest on June 4th and on the LMN network on June 12th:

Myrsini Aristidou is a Cyprus born filmmaker living in New York where she’s receiving her MFA in Film Production at NYU Tisch School of the Arts with a Tisch Department Full Scholarship. Her short film Semele won our Winter 2016 Shorts Contest.

John Magary  is a New York based filmmaker who’s film The Mend made it onto many, many film reviewers “Best Of” lists for 2015, including oursThe Mend is streaming now on Netflix.

Also, special thanks to Fandor who are always so gracious in offering a one-year subscription to our winner and a 6-month subscription to our runner-up. Too kind! I also want to give a shout out to Melanie Addington, Executive Director of the Oxford Film Festival (which is accepting submissions NOW) who offered up 2 fee waivers to filmmakers who submitted on a certain day as well as Claudette Godfrey and Janet Pierson of SXSW for their fee waiver for our winner. You ladies rock! Now, for the winners…


Chopping Onions

(Written, Directed and Edited by Adinah Dancyger, 15:34)

 Chopping Onions speaks quietly but carries a big emotional kick by the time it ends. In the film Soli, a young Korean girl, is sent to stay with her old-school grandmother (Dancyger’s actual grandmother) while her mother is away on business. World’s collide as Soli, who loves her grandmother dearly, runs up against an existential cultural dilemma brought on by “weird” homemade Korean lunches and other old world customs that American kids just don’t get.

Every child eventually must break free from the adults in their life in order to realize their independence but those feelings are often tinged with guilt and remorse which is something Dancyger touches upon as well. Chopping Onions is a sweet slice-of-life in America short but it’s also one of those films where you wonder where these “fictional” characters are today off in fantasy cinema land. The film already has an impressive list of festival acceptance internationally and it’s a definite “must-see” when it’s at a festival near you.




(Directed by Lance Edmands, written by Edmands and Sarah Tihany, 15:05)

In less time than the film’s opening one-minute, Lance EdmondsStrays lays out the struggle between two characters in a brilliantly economical yet fairly harsh way. Upon discovering she’s pregnant, a young woman (Sarah Tihany) summarily bails on her understanding boyfriend to finally get around to cleaning up her grandparents long empty house in upstate New York. Yet when she arrives she finds an unexpected squatter who scatters to the wind leaving his dog behind. With nowhere else to go girl and dog form an uneasy bond while the girls feelings about the squatter meander between anger, jealousy and possibly attraction.

Strays is at first glance heavy on the parallels between the woman, the transient squatter and yes, the abandoned dog, but the overall quietness of the film allows viewers to make connections and develop a personal connection that arises out of feelings shown onscreen rather than spoken aloud. Tihany fully embodies her character and we get to know her through quiet moments, eye movements and reactions rather than speaking. In fact aside from some short bursts of interactive dialogue, the film is nearly silent save a well done score and sound design by Mark Henry Phillips (A Teacher, Cutie and the Boxer) that slyly embellishes feelings as they emerge. Gorgeously shot on 16mm by Adam Newport Berra (Creative Control) and produced by Kyle Martin (Bluebird, Donald Cried) and Craig Butta, Strays has yet to even had it’s color correction so, we can’t show it quite yet. However I assure you it’ll be hitting the festival circuit hard over the next few years so keep an eye out.

STRAYS / Teaser from Lance Edmands on Vimeo.

So, that’s a wrap on the 2016 spring shorts contest! Thanks to all who entered and special thanks to the pre-screening committee as well. Keep your eyes on HtN for news about our summer shorts contest which will be coming soon.


– 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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