Toronto Screen Shots co-founder and hardcore film enthusiast James McNally is launching a short film series in the new year that is sure to entertain and please Toronto film fans looking for something out of the norm. Appropriately titled Shorts That Are Not Pants, the series is a true labour of love for the fellow film blogger, who is ambitiously spending his free time to curate and promote the January 13 launch at the NFB Mediatheque with hopes he can continue to share his love of the short film medium throughout the rest of the year.
Criticize This! spoke with McNally about how he came up with the idea behind Shorts That Are Not Pants and why he feels short films are important viewing. Read our Q&A below.
James McNally: I’ve been a big fan of shorts for a long time, but have always been disappointed with the “feast or famine” situation for seeing these films theatrically. By that, I mean we are fortunate to be able to feast during the incredible Worldwide Short Film Festival each June, but then it’s difficult to find short films on our screens for the rest of the year.
Back in 2005, I discovered Wholphin, which is a DVD magazine of short films from the people who publish McSweeney’s and The Believer magazines, and I realized that what I enjoyed most about it was the curation aspect. It was like a mixtape of short films from someone whose taste I respected. I suppose by using the word “mixtape” I’m showing my age, but I’ve always liked picking things out that I think others will enjoy. It’s what got me started as a blogger more than a decade ago.
So I ran a few shorts screenings for friends over the past two years, and I thought it was finally time I found out if anyone else was interested. I’m crossing my fingers.
JM: Well, it’s definitely not set in stone yet, since this will be our first public screening. For this edition, we’ve partnered with a UK-based organization called Future Shorts, who are doing some really incredible things, both in the UK (Secret Cinema, for one) and around the world. They have a “pop up festival” slate of films that we are showing, but we’re also adding a few homegrown titles, two animated films from the National Film Board of Canada.
For future screenings, I have lots of ideas. I’d like to work together with Wholphin, maybe doing a launch party for their new issues. And there are a number of celebrated Toronto short filmmakers I’d like to invite to show their films and talk about them afterward. As we grow a dedicated community of short film lovers, I’ll be more confident tracking down stuff that doesn’t already come with someone else’s stamp of approval.
JM: It’s too soon to tell, but I do hope that we’ll have a reasonably full house and that we’ll be able to share our enthusiasm with them after the screening.
JM: Well, I think for this first screening, most of the support has been coming from my group of friends in the film blogging community. Whether we have 20 people there or 50, what will make me happiest will be seeing people who are complete strangers to me. That way I’ll know they’re there for the films.
JM: I’m careful not to call this a festival. It’s going to be a regular screening series, and hopefully we’ll build up a community of people who will look forward to each event and put it into their calendars months in advance.
I think right now the ideal will be to screen quarterly. That’s just enough time for me to organize everything and be able to publicize the screening adequately. The aim of each screening will be to leave people wanting more.
JM: For me, short films are like short stories. There’s something really elegant about being able to tell a story in a compressed amount of time. And, it often leads to experimentation. It’s also where most filmmakers begin, and that sense of discovering a new talent is always exciting to me.
JM: Well, I’m just learning the ropes and so I still need to figure out what I can and can’t show, but there are just so many great short films that get shown once at a festival and then disappear forever. That breaks my heart. So I guess I’ll be showing a mixture of newer and older films that have something unique to say.
If I’m dreaming big, I’d love to show some early short films from directors who have gone on to fame making features. It would be even better if I could coordinate it so that they could join us in person to talk about the films. But having said that, I’m also hoping to champion the work of filmmakers who choose only to work in “non-feature” length. I’m puzzled by the notion that film stories need to be a predetermined length to get exposure.
JM: Well, I’ve stepped back a bit from trying to drink from the firehose of new releases, but if I’m honest, I’d have to say I’m looking forward to seeing Wes Anderson’s new film, Moonrise Kingdom. Another big event for me personally will be the reopening of the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. I’m a huge documentary fan so am looking forward to seeing more documentary programming there. It will also be the first year for Hot Docs’ new director of programming Charlotte Cook, so I’m eager to see how she puts her stamp on my favourite local film festival.
Tickets to the January 13 Shorts That Are Not Pants event are currently on sale for $8 at guestlistapp.com. You can also purchase tickets at the door for $5 if you’re wearing shorts ($10 if you’re not). For more information on the series, visit shortsnotpants.wordpress.com or follow them on Twitter @shortsnotpants.