Q & A with Doug LeClair of the Short Film Concert
By Katie Killman
After speaking with Doug LeClaire, the executive director of Asbury Shorts New York, his mission was clear. His priority is to offer the world's greatest short film concert. This sounds like a difficult task to most, but to Doug, it is his inherent ability.
The Madison Theatre at Molloy College is lucky to be hosting Doug's extraordinary event for the third time on March 6th. Asbury Shorts New York is a show unlike any other because it is a non-competitive, fast-paced, fun night out. This is a unique opportunity to experience the world's best short films on a big screen and with the electric energy of an audience. To understand Doug's event a little better, I asked him a few questions:
Q: You must receive many entries for your concert, how do you narrow down your choices of films? How do you make your final selections?
A: First off, Asbury Shorts is traveling entertainment event. It is not competitive and it is not a festival. Asbury Shorts is an event to try to get the general public to see short films. We have been around for 30 years. For the filmmakers that start in NY metro area, they gain a lot of exposure in this area. Filmmakers from Long island, NJ, and Manhattan all want to be in this shorts show. We receive 250-300 requests to submit film. We have a selection team which gets together once a month or once every two months. We try to choose the most entertaining short films in the world. Although we tend to gravitate toward award winners and we often seek out award winners from other festivals, we ultimately choose based on what will make a great night of short films for our audience.
Q: How did you decide on the host of this year's event, Paul Anthony?
A: When we do the show at the Madison Theatre at Molloy, we try to find someone who has a Long Island following to sell that ticket. We also look for someone who can be on stage and who has personality. Paul runs the LI Comedy Festival which is a popular event. He is a pretty cool comedian. Paul already runs a festival so he understands what we do at Asbury Shorts. We thought he would be the perfect choice. It really worked out for both of us because it gives him exposure and we have someone who can actually run a show.
Q: This is your third time at the Madison Theatre. Do you think the college environment brings a new level of excitement to the film festival?
A: We do the show about 30 times a year over the course of the year across the United States. We love the Madison Theatre. They are professional, courteous, and gracious hosts. They understand what we are doing and they are patient to build an audience. The Madison Theatre is also a fantastic venue, between the seating and the technical aspects. We would like to see more of a bigger presence of Molloy students and faculty this year. This is a fantastic opportunity to see short films that have won Sundance and Oscars. I will be on campus on Wednesday, February 26th to promote the show, to hand out flyers, and to do everything I can to convince students to come. This is an absolute a priority for students interested in film. We have a film this year called "Asad" directed by Bryan Buckle who is one of the world's greatest Super Bowl directors, directing over 50 commercials. These films come from all over the world. This is a must-see event.
Q: What are some the aspects about short films that appeal to you?
A: The talent of the filmmakers to write, produce, and direct them. It is an extremely difficult job to get story to make sense and to complete that story in a certain amount of time. Short films become their own digital business card to bigger things in the entertainment industry. In order to make short films and make them well, you have to have an interesting beginning, middle, and end and it has to be done in only 15 minutes. The successful ones that we put in the show make me happy. The problem is filmmakers don't have funds because making shorts is an expensive hobby. Although it is a financial drain, they (the director, writer, producer) hope the short will get them recognized, noticed, and have someone important in the industry knock on their door.
Q: Tell me a little about how Asbury Shorts New York got started.
A: It started in Westbury, Long Island in 1981. It was founded by 4 or 5 Brooklyn film students who basically wanted to continue public screening of local area college films all over the island. Over time, Asbury Shorts started to go with more independent films and we currently tour all over NYC, the United States and Europe.
Q: How does watching these short films on a big screen (as opposed to an Ipad or computer) effect their overall impact?
A: This a much better experience because it is one without interruption. We have a big screen and great projection. We are really getting filmmakers' thoughts and direction across. In this setting, there is no interruption, you can't stop and check an email like you do at home on your computer, and you lose the ultimate effect. At home there is no community response. In this environment, we have 70 people laugh at same time. This was the way films were meant to be seen, with an audience. These films are meant to thrive off that energy.
Q: Do you offer films from multiple genres (ie comedy, drama, animation, etc.)? How do you decide how many from each genre to offer? In what genre do you receive the most entries?
A: There is no specific number. Our goal is to program a 2 hour show that is an entertaining, eclectic mix. In every place, we try to present a fast-paced show. We have no equation for picking the films. We try to have wonderful comedy, documentary, and offer different things. We try to keep it as eclectic as possible.
Q: What should the audience at the Madison Theatre expect on March 6th?
A: There are not too many people doing a short films concert. This is a non-competitive, fun night out that presents new shorts and classic ones from the past. We have no competition and no long speeches. The audience will watch 11 or 12 short films, including a potpourri of award winners. We offer different genres over a 2 hour night. During most film festivals, the films are in competition and are not hand-picked for specific audience tastes. We gruelingly search for shorts that will entertain and we try to go for a little more swagger. We do offer major award winners and films that have been recognized with different awards. Don't forget the Asbury Shorts tagline: "We would rather have malaria then do Q&A"!