Just a week following the Oscar buzz, CSU film professor, Mike Suglio, hosted his Short. Sweet. Film Fest for the 8th year in a row. Instead of creating a standard film festival that shows feature-length films, Suglio wanted to focus on short films. Interested in the ins and outs of the film festival world, I jumped at the opportunity to interview someone who’s an expert on the topic.
How long have you been involved with this film festival? Are you involved with any other film festivals as well?
I'm the creator, so I've been with it now since 2011. And yes, actually, I'm involved in all of them! I'm the assistant manager of Perspectives. That's the virtual reality center for the Cleveland International Film Festival. I'm also on the board of directors for Independent Pictures. Independent Pictures runs the Ohio Independent Film Festival. I also volunteer at a couple of other ones, but those are the main ones I work on.
What is your personal favorite category to watch? And why is that?
To watch, the local ones for sure. Because I'm from Cleveland! I'm from Cleveland and I enjoy watching what other people are doing here. I mean, I also really enjoy watching all the student films and getting to see how people are growing and getting better over time. But, yeah, I would say local or student, definitely.
Are all of the films made by students?
No, we have one category for student films. We're showing films from all over the world, too. Yeah, a good deal are student films, but not all of them are.
How many of the films are made by CSU students?
That's a great question. I don't have an exact number, but it's probably around 20. 20 of the 118 are from CSU. There's a decent amount, for sure.
What advice would you give to students who are making short films?
Tell a good story. At this point a lot of us have the same gear, it's all pretty good, but story, character, production design - all of those are what's gonna make you different than the rest and what's going to make your film really come to life.
Do you think it's more difficult or easier to make a short film versus a feature-length film?
A feature-length film takes more time, of course, but it's two different things, really. It's basically, what it comes down to is: are you able to tell the right story or that story in a short amount of time? Is that a story that should be only 5 minutes, 15 minutes? Or is that a story that should be 90 minutes to 100 minutes? If you were going to base it off of being hard or not, based off of time, yeah, it certainly is easier. They're two really different things.
I see there's a couple of the table readings scattered throughout the weekend of the festival. What are those like as an audience member?
I don't know because it's the first year we're doing it! What I imagine, what we're going to do here is, and it's free and open to the public, we're going to have a long table in a conference room and people can come sit and watch, or stand and watch, and just listen to these trained actors read these scripts. And analyze these scripts. There will be Q&As for us to talk about, "Well, how did you choose to approach this role this way?" and such. In many ways, the table readings themselves are like a workshop. You watch, you experience it, then you talk about it.
It says on the description of the film festival that you wanted to focus on short films because they're underappreciated, are there any other reasons?
I think honestly, just from the communal experience of having a festival, having a shorts-only festival, it allows to bring in tons of shorts and tons of filmmakers to become involved in this process and share in each other's work and then that allows the viewer to watch a ton of films. Let's say they're really not into their block, well then they can just go to another block. That just gives strength and ownership over the viewer to really pick their path of what they want to see. If they're not happy with the film that's playing, it's like well, in 10 minutes you'll have another one, it'll be ok.
Why would you recommend going to a film festival?
Keep in mind, we've now grown used to watching movies or TV at home in a private setting. If you think about it, film is an evolution of live theater and live performance and all of those experiences were live, communal experiences. So it's one thing to just simply watch films or Netflix at home, but it's a whole other aspect, being in an active role, with you as a viewer, to see it with others and to then ultimately meet the filmmakers or just meet filmmakers in general. And just talk to them. When do you get that chance to watch something, and go "oh, that's cool, I have a question about that, let me ask the guy who did it!"