Filmmakers at Short Fest’s opening night. Image Courtesy of Nitehawk Cinema

On Tuesday evening, Nitehawk Cinema (136 Metropolitan Avenue), kicked off its Fifth Annual Shorts Festival, and film fans packed into the theater to celebrate the art of short filmmaking. Shorts Fest grows every year, and this year’s programming will span 6 days, until Sunday, November 12th. The exciting and eclectic offerings include programs devoted to horror films, music videos, and the relationship between art and pop culture. Also on tap are free parties, panel discussions, gatherings and workshops designed for the film community and open to the public.

Caryn Coleman introducing the Fest’s opening night program. Courtesy of Nitehawk

Tuesday’s program screened 8 films, and many of the directors, producers, editors, art directors were on hand to talk about their work after the screening. It was a pleasure to hear how these tightly focused, moving pieces came to be. While several of the films were made in New York, the program transported viewers as far as Florida, Puerto Rico and Belarus.

Caryn Coleman, Greenpoint resident and Director of Programming/Special Projects at Nitehawk, who has helmed Shorts Fest since its inception, explained that for this year’s Festival, she chose pieces in conversation with one another, rather than grouped around a specific theme. As a result, the Opening Night films, covering topics as diverse as narcolepsy and national politics, all engaged with universal issues of culture, family, identity and love, often in the face of uncertainty or absurdity. 

Image courtesy of Nitehawk

The vast majority of films included in this year’s Fest reached Nitehawk through an open submission process. The theater has an open submission platform on filmfreeway. Caryn said that in past years, more of the films have been solicited by invitation, but this year, 95% of films were submitted. When evaluating the submitted work, Caryn looked for films that told a complete story in a short timeframe. And that’s a tall order at Nitehawk, since the theater’s short film limit is 20 minutes. Other short film festivals set the limit at 30 or 40 minutes.

Image Courtesy of Nitehawk

The submitted films then inform the way each program is curated. Caryn explains, “you can see the threads. You can see what films work well together in different programs…It’s like magic. They just formulate themselves in terms of what’s going to be good.” While the programs might come together by magic, the Festival is eclectic by design. Caryn says, “when I get those films, for our Opening Night and our two Matinee programs, I try not to do too many of the same things. We try to have an even keel of documentary, and animation or drama. I don’t want to do too much of the same thing so that each one kind of is an individual within the greater whole.”


The individual as part of a greater whole also describes the way the Festival sees its filmmakers. Caryn explains that, “one of the goals we are trying to do with Nitehawk is to create a community of these independent filmmakers.” She continues, “we want to make them feel like they’re really a part of this weird thing that we’re trying to do, and I want everybody to have their own voice heard within the greater whole of what this festival is. Because it really is about them. It’s not about us, or me, it’s about what they’re doing. So the goal is for them to have a platform for their short films in a cinema setting, and then meet each other, and then meet other people, and for us to kind of grow this family as we go along.”

If you’d like to join Nitehawk’s film family, check out the Shorts Festival’s full schedule here.

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