A couple of years ago, Michael Suglio and Alex Pavloff were watching a few bands play at Now That's Class when they realized that hosting a film festival in an informal, club-like atmosphere was a good idea.
"We were thinking about that element of bands playing to other bands and thought there was no niche like that for filmmakers," says Pavloff one recent afternoon over a few beers at Bar Cento in Ohio City. "It dawned on us that we should have a film festival at a bar."
Last year, the two successfully launched their Sweet.Short.Film Festival at Ohio City's Market Garden Brewery.
"My favorite part of last year was having the filmmakers come in and speak about the movies," says Suglio. "We try to focus on that. You have a chance to have a beer and then ask them all the questions you want. It's great."
Suglio and Pavloff estimate that about one third of the filmmakers who showed films at their festival were local, so getting those directors to participate in the festival and field questions after their films screen wasn't difficult. On Saturday, Feb. 23 and Sunday, Feb. 24, they return to the same venue this year with 40 fresh new shorts that they'll screen over a two-day period (you can find a complete schedule at shortsweetfilmfest.com). Once again, many of the directors will be on hand to answer questions after their films screen.
"We try to give the [directors] 5 to 10 minutes to take questions and talk about the process of making the film they show," says Pavloff. "A lot of the filmmakers have taken a similar path. It's cool to have everybody in the room comparing notes. The first question is always, 'What camera did you use?' It's like the bands playing to bands but this is filmmakers showing their films to filmmakers."
Judges rate the movies and hand out prizes for the best films in a variety of categories, ranging from "best local film" to "best student film."
"We screen the film and say thumbs up or down," says Suglio of the process by which they select the films. "In terms of judging, we want to be objective so we have a filmmaker and a film professor do that."
Suglio and Pavloff screened over 80 films and picked 40 to show at the festival. One highlight is Fusion, a documentary about bringing different dance troupes from around the world to perform in Cleveland.
"It's awesome," Suglio says of the film. "It's by a local filmmaker named Travis Pollert who did a music video for Attack Cat for their song called 'Remarkable.'"
Akron-based Jake Kostelnik contributed Delivery in 29, a short film about pizza delivery people who have to deliver pizzas in 29 minutes or less. "It's really funny," says Pavloff.
The festival will feature a couple of animated flicks, too. Alex Strader's The Bird is about a guy who won't stop talking. "It's really weird but it's cool," says Pavloff. "His drawings are always captivating. He has a really unique style."
Pavloff and Suglio have recruited local businesses to sponsor the festival and offset some of the costs. Though Market Garden Brewery doesn't normally show films, it serves as the perfect venue for a fun, informal fest.
"We're striving to be casual," says Suglio. "You're watching movies and having a beer and having a good time. We want to make a unique film festival for local filmmakers, but we want to make a film festival that's different from everything else throughout the area."