Short Com Creative Director Chris Aitken aspires to be the leading international feature and shorts comedy film festival in the world

Aside from the obvious time deferential, can you tell us how being a Short Film Festival sets you apart from other festivals?
I wouldn’t quite call Short Com a festival in it’s own right yet. It is the intention and it is part of the wider Glasgow Short Film Festival. It’s existed as a touring programme the last three years, screening in Edinburgh, Manchester, Bristol and London. My experience of film festivals are limited to the London Film Festival and Edinburgh Film Festival, but I suppose the main difference between a feature film festival and most short festivals are the people they attract. The larger film festivals attract bigger sponsors and delegates, visitors thus a bit of kudos and many are established with a lot of history. Short Film Festivals do attract the industry and the delegates are mainly new filmmakers, students. Whilst it’s quite exciting seeing established stars at the big film festivals, I’ve always been more excited about the stars of tomorrow, which has largely what Short Com has been about.

Comedy can be relative, do you find that audiences enjoy a majority of the shorts screened at your festival?
I wouldn’t be doing Short Com if audiences weren’t enjoying the films. I curate a quite eclectic mix so there is usually something for everyone. Quite frankly if someone came to see Short Com and didn’t like anything, then they don’t like comedy. One of the great things I like and champion about Short Com is that we are looking for the quality of the content. Unlike broadcasted comedy content in the UK, independent filmmakers don’t have editorial influence or more appropriately, intrusion, so we get to see a real voice so to speak. From the array of voices we screen, I always ask audiences for feedback and engage with them what their favourite films are?

Do you have a favorite film or films that has showcased at your Festival?
I don’t think I have a singular favourite film, there’s been so many and will continue to be so. I had such a good best of programme for the 2014 GSFF and didn’t think I’d might be able to top it but I actually think this year’s programme might be the best so far. But here is last year’s programme so you can get an idea what we screen. http://shortcom.co.uk/Shortcom/2013_2014_Programme.html

Is there something in particular that you look for in submissions? Or are there multiple factors?
A lot. Pacing, performance, originality of the idea, execution and production values. As I said production is one of the least important factors but if a film is not quite put together right, image or sound etc, then I can’t really screen it. One of the most important things I say is that a film has to make me or an audience laugh in around the first minute or build up to a big laugh in just over a minute.

What is your goal for your festival?
To eventually be the leading international feature and shorts comedy film festival in the world. I might have ideas above my station but I do think that filmmakers, producers and distributors would have an interest in their film being shown in a festival that is dedicated to comedy, as that is somewhat a stamp of approval that a film is funny or genuinely good. I think comedy is rather overlooked at major film festivals, award ceremonies. Some of the filmmakers who have submitted to Short Com say they feel their film

Do you have an interesting story that has taken place during a past festival?
Hmm not that I can think of, but we got a mention in one of the biggest newspapers circulated in London, The Metro, listed Short Com’s London event as one of the top things to go and see. Which was pretty cool and big for us. Actually, when we did the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival, as part of the free fringe, we had a bit of a nightmare with our venue. We were told that there was a screen, but it was a wall with what looked like a massive jizz stain on it. So me and the venue tech manufactured a pop up screen with some white drapes in the building. Then on the first day we had a fire so we had to postpone and in the last week the place was flooded because of a leaky pipe from the venue above. It was a case of if anything could go wrong it probably could. I turned into a bit of an alcoholic that month, but I was able to see the comedy from the tragedy and I learned a lot from the process.

How is your festival received locally?
On the streets, people spit in my face for the damage I’ve done. No, well in terms of physical ‘locality’ I don’t really qualify since Short Com has been here and there and where I want to eventually be settled is in my home city of Edinburgh during the largest international and comedy festival in the world. It’s an already overcrowded festival as it is but I think Short Com would compliment it rather than be an extra burden. It’s been said to me countless times that people miss the Edinburgh Film Festival during the International Festival and that the film festival has lost a lot of it’s kudos because so. Apparently less important people, or key industry people, are coming to the film festival and even the August festivals. A few people used to come to Edinburgh for both the film festival and August festivals but have stopped coming since they don’t coincide with one another.

Where do you see or would like to see your Festival in 5 years?
Well I think it might be operating under a different name as Short Com doesn’t really sound like a name for feature films, but I would love it if we were a fully formed, highly reputable international comedy feature and short film festival, one that champions films on merit with a solid programme and not governed by commercial pressures. Oh and I still get to kind of have my own sense of authorship over it whereby were not too serious, I’ve been to a few comedy film festivals where it feels a bit serious or run by people that are not funny. Which happens to be the problem with a lot of commissioning these days.

Do you have any advice for filmmakers with goals to excel in the Comedic genre?
Collaborate. When I see a film whereby there is seemingly one name governing director, writer, editor producer and even performer that kind of sends alarm bells to me. If your key skill is in writing, find a good director or up coming director, the same goes for directors. I also believe comedians, or solid comedic actors are best at delivering comedy on screen. That sounds obvious but they tend to have the extra edge over actors for delivering lines and nuances. They might also be able to make the script funnier. Comedians are also most likely up for being in short films as they’d be looking for showreel material to take to broadcasters and they’re usually free during the day.

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