On a cold December night, a handful of people ride a freight elevator to access a darkened room in a downtown building. As they settle into seats, one man shuffles through a stack of DVDs. He selects one, offers an introduction and reminds the group they're looking for "the best of the best."
A stream of images springs to life on the wall. Over the next couple of hours, the room fills with laughter, gasps, an occasional groan. The lights come up, and spirited discussion ensues.
There's definitely a secret-society vibe to the gathering, but that's exactly what the people in this room want to change. In fact, the man with the DVDs, Chris Loud, says he's looking forward to creating a similar scene with a bigger crowd at the inaugural Greater Colorado Short Circuit film series event.
"It's always a blast when we're showing a film and the audience is reacting," says Loud, one of the event's organizers from the Independent Film Society of Colorado. "Having people get together and not only interact, but experience the films together — that's a much different thing than watching films in the movie theater or watching them at home."
The locals who gathered on this evening helped select two local films, four national films and a pair of international shorts for the event. People who attended last year's Indie Spirit Film Festival may recognize one of the international picks: Gone Fishing, a U.K. film about the relationship forged between an old man and young boy after a funeral. But most films in the series will be screening here for the first time.
The lineup includes two animated comedies: Horn Dog, from illustrator Bill Plympton, and a second film that event organizers arranged by special permission and are calling "a surprise." But Loud says, the tone of the evening's films will range from light-hearted comedy to thought-provoking commentary to tense drama.
"We have a film called On the Road to Tel Aviv that touches more on political, cultural and religious issues ... in Israel and Palestine," says Loud. "We also have The Job, which is a little more satirical take on the economy. And then we range from the The Last Bogatyr, a World War II story, to Dillon Novak's music video."
The Last Bogatyr by Sarah Lotfi, and Novak's video "She Said," featuring the band Everfound, are both local shorts made by student filmmakers — Lotfi at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and Novak at Cheyenne Mountain High School. The two will field audience questions after the screening, then join local director Pete Schuermann in a forum about making short films.
Schuermann encourages others to keep submitting their work for consideration, and says organizers have already lined up a few Colorado films for future screenings, which they hope to hold three or four times a year.
"We're going to be talking about what it's like to make a short film in the digital age, and give some insight into how tough or easy it can be to pull some of these films off," says Schuermann. "We'll give some tips and say, 'Hey, if you think you'd love to do this — this is what it took.'"