A chat with HollyShorts Co-Founder/Co-Director Daniel Sol

(l-r: Theo Dumont, Nicole Castro, Daniel Sol CREDIT: Dylan Lujano)

As we all know, last year was a bitch. We had a pandemic. We had quarantine. We had a pandemic. We had quarantine. Again. Mask on. Mask off. It was terrible. It was especially depressing if you’re a fan of independent films, which I am, and an even bigger fan of amazing film festivals that promote up-and-coming artists. It’s no secret that the Reel 360 team is a big fan of Oscar-qualifying HollyShorts, now in its 17th year.

We were devastated last year when the annual festival, like others, had to go virtual. As useful as a virtual festival is in discovering the next generation of storytellers, a big something is still missing – namely the networking. Make no mistake, writers talking with directors, actors talking with actors and so on is a big part of every film festival. It’s where projects are born.

Aside from a few other fests in Los Angeles such as the AFI, there’s no better festival to network and get inspired than at HollyShorts. That excitement and anticipation can be directly attributed to co-founder and co-director Theo Dumont, Managing Director Nicole Castro and co-founder and co-director Daniel Sol.

Before the 17th annual Oscar-qualifying festival returns as a hybrid of live and virtual, we had a chance to speak with Daniel about the upcoming fest.

Congratulations on being live again! What did you miss most last year after being completely virtual? 

Thanks!  Excited!  We missed the interaction and connection with the filmmakers and audience.  Without that the festival misses the essence at the core of what we do, connecting with filmmakers in person   

How has HollyShorts adapted since last year? 

We have focused more energy on virtual experiences (zoom meet-ups, recorded panels, live chats) on our platform Bitpix.  The use of Bitpix has changed the landscape for us as we can reach a global audience with Films and panels online and via the app.  Our entire 2020 festival was basically virtual and we pulled that pivot off well with a nice opening night QA live stream and pre-recorded produced awards show.

Two Distant Strangers, If Anything Happens I Love You. The track record of short films selected by HollyShorts going onto Oscar nominations is amazing. What is it about the judges that has them in synch with the Academy?  

It’s a product of years of experience in the short film space.  Theo and I have been personally watching short films for 18 years.  We have seen the quality and quantity in submissions increase all of these years and with that our finger is on the pulse of the shelf film Oscars landscape.

It’s a mixture of great jury members, our good eye and sense of the films that can make run at the Oscars, and the benefit of top filmmakers and distribution/ sales companies from all over the world submitting their films to us  

Are there any particular films you’re looking forward to this year?  

I love them all!  I don’t like to name any favorites as I am impartial and enjoy all the films we select!  I can say I do enjoy fun genre films and we have lots covered from Sci-fi, horror, comedy, action, and midnight madness! 

There are a lot of known names now making shorts, and many are in HollyShorts.  How does an unknown filmmaker compete against that?  

We have in our program over 300 movies and many vying for awards that have no known celebrity talent.  I would say great films, stories and filmmaking still rise to the top.  Of the films in the fest probably 25-35 or so have “names” give or take out of over 300 films.  

Is there any new technology HollyShorts is using this year? 

We are utilizing more live stream and live interaction on our app Bitpix for the online global audience that may not be able to attend with covid protocol issues   

With so many outlets desiring content, how needed are film festivals? 

Festivals continue to be a discovery ground or gatekeepers of quality of content.  So many outlets means so many places to find content but who’s to say any of it is any good?  Festivals are at the middle of that interaction we shine a light on what needs to be seen ie “look over here this is what you should be watching”   

REELated: Over 300 films selected for 17th annual Oscar-qualifying HollyShorts

What is the future for a short film after its festival run? 

Shorts can go on platforms a like Vuulr and look to get sold to a global market.  Short film apps like Dust and Alter and Revry are looking for niche Genre shorts and many other platforms looking to distribute shorts including our own Bitpix app

What other festivals do you admire?  

Evolution fest in Spain, Clermont Feraud in France, Indy shorts, Cleveland FF, newfilmmakers, and inter film in Berlin are all great!  To name a few   Plenty of fests I could go on but that’s a good list!

HollyShorts will take place in-person September 23-October 1, 2021 at the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres in Hollywood, Japan House Los Angeles, and Harmony Gold. The festival will offer a streaming option for fans around the world via its proprietary platform Bitpix.

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Colin Costello is the West Coast Editor of Reel 360. Contact him at colin@reel360.com or follow him on Twitter at @colinthewriter1