Local film buffs have no shortage of outlets to get their fill of features throughout the year. Whether it’s the standby Seattle International Film Festival, to the various smaller fests that dot the calendar and theater screens throughout the Puget Sound region, two-hour motion pictures are often at the forefront of cinematic thought.
But for two days in November, flicks with a run time of 30 minutes or less get their moment on the big screen.
Now in its fifth year, the Seattle Shorts Film Festival has expanded to a weekend-long event at the SIFF Film Center (305 Harrison St.), featuring 31 films of a half-hour or less from around the world. That number, up from 17 last year, was reached after reviewing approximately 1,300 submissions, the most organizers have received thus far.
“My whole goal for the festival is to bring a little slice of Hollywood to Seattle,” said festival director Daniel Hoyos.
This year, that slice of Hollywood on Nov. 14 and 15 includes appearances from Lecy Goranson, best known as the original Becky Conner on “Roseanne,” and Shannon Maree Walsh, who most notably appeared in the musical comedy-drama “Begin Again.”
While special guests are an element of most festivals, Hoyos said one of the more unique aspects of his festival is the buy-in from filmmakers. At least 80 percent of those with films screening attend each year.
“To have the filmmakers in attendance,” Hoyos said, “it makes a world of difference.”
When films show without filmmakers on hand, Hoyos said, audience members are often left with unanswered questions about the creative decisions that were made during production. To have them in town for the festival adds a unique perspective that moviegoers don’t often get.
As for choosing what films make the cut, Hoyos mentioned the importance of the basics, like a good storyline or acting, as critical. Beyond that, Hoyos also noted the likelihood of whether the film will resonate with the Seattle audience, while also achieving a balance of genres: “We always like to have a general broad mix of comedies, dramas, documentaries — something for everyone.”
For Hoyos, himself a maker of short films, what makes the short so compelling is its accessibility. Compared to big-budget blockbusters, $10,000 to $20,000 can be enough to make a good short, with Hoyos noting that he’s even seen ones made with just $1,000 come out looking highly professional.
Now, he said, even Hollywood is taking notice of the medium, with notable actors taking roles not for the paycheck but for the chance to polish their skills and add a line to their resume.
“I’m always really impressed by the quality of submissions that we get,” Hoyos said. “‘Oh, that’s an instantly recognizable face, this is pretty cool.’ And maybe 10 years ago, you wouldn’t have seen that.”
Some of that star power is on display in this year’s festival, with the likes of Bailey Nobel and Molly C. Quinn (“The Haircut”), Peri Gilpin (“Election Night”) and Jonathan Bennett (“The Out and Outs”) all in the lineup.
There’s also a decidedly local flair, with nearly a third of the films coming from Northwest filmmakers.
Moving forward, the festival is looking at a potential move to SIFF Cinema Uptown (511 Queen Anne Ave. N.) to accommodate growing crowds. Last year, every session in the 94-seat SIFF Film Center was sold out, and that’s a possibility again, even with the expanded offerings. Further lengthening the span of the festival to three or even four days also isn’t out of the question and “isn’t something we would shy away from,” if the demand is there.
“It was always my aspiration to grow the festival, and I’ve always wanted to make it the best two-day festival in the United States,” Hoyos said.
But for now, the weekend event is “perfect and healthy” for organizers. Hoyos said seeing the end result last year was a phenomenal feeling: “It was one of those wow moments for me.”
For more information or tickets to the Seattle Shorts Film Festival, visit www.seattleshort.org.