Local Industry

Boston Shorts Screen at Coolidge

1 Feb , 1999  

Written by Steve Abrams, with Keith Wagner and Julie Wolf | Posted by:

A new spin on an old idea--the Coolidge screens local indie shorts before feature films.

"Not all filmmakers make feature films."

So says local animator Karen Aqua. She’s not trying to be cryptic; she is merely stating a fact: While feature-length films may be where the money and the mainstream audience are, many filmmakers produce short films, often shown–and hailed–in film festivals. But if you go to your local movieplex to try to see one, well, you’re out of luck. "I’ll be the first to admit," Aqua says, "getting shorts out into the world is a problem."

Unless you go to Boston’s Coolidge Corner Theatre. The only nonprofit theater in Boston, the Coolidge began a series called "Boston Shorts" in December 1998, in which local short films are paired with full-length features and shown immediately prior to the feature, on the same screen.

What was initially conceived as an attempt to revive the practice of showing newsreels and cartoons before features has turned into a one-of-a-kind series, as well as a unique opportunity for local filmmakers to show their shorts to feature-size audiences. Sue Stein, executive director of the Theatre, believes the series is "a good way to marry the Coolidge’s history as an old cinema with current and local films."

Stein obtained funding for the "Boston Shorts" series from the LEF Foundation, a supporter of media arts in the area. Stacy Iovino, producer of the Mass. Ave. Film Festival, helped solicit works from the local film community, and a series showcasing local shorts was born. Among the films shown during the series: Susan Woll’s "Rites of Passage"; Ellie Lee’s "Repetition Compulsion"; Pooh Kaye’s "Wakeup Call"; and Joey Kolbe’s "Merlin’s Day."

Aqua, whose animated short "Perpetual Motion" is currently showing with Roberto Benigni’s Holocaust comedy "Life Is Beautiful," is thrilled about the program. "It’s such a wonderful opportunity to see the films as they’re meant to be, on the big screen instead of on video or someone’s TV."

According to Stein, for the moment the shorts are not thematically connected to the features they are shown with; but, she says, the Coolidge aims to couple films that are linked by either theme or content as the series expands. Aqua, however, is pleased with the pairing of her film with Benigni’s, stating that both films deal with dark subject matter unconventionally, in a light way. And, more pragmatically, she says, "[‘Life Is Beautiful’] was playing to good-sized crowds, and the thought of my short playing to a big audience was really exciting."

For the most part, Aqua says, people who see shorts now are festival goers and, of course, other filmmakers. "Boston Shorts" seeks to expand this audience to a larger, more mainstream one by using the window prior to the feature to promote something other than the theater’s concession stand, as so many large chains do. Aqua commends the Coolidge for its commitment to short films. "It takes a place that’s willing to take some risks," she says, "to realize that the bottom line is not the most important goal."

For more information, check out the Coolidge Corner Theatre’s web site at http://www.coolidge.org/index.html