Battle of the shorts
Local filmmakers launch a cinema showcase - not for fame, but for the fun
By Kevin Capp
Courtesy of Las Vegas CityLife
Original publication date: 10.20.05
If your first reaction upon hearing the words "underground" and "Las Vegas" in the same sentence is to scoff, roll your eyes or erupt into a mad-scientist cackle, you're not alone. Hell, you're probably not even wrong to do it.
Your denunciation of pairing anything remotely avant-garde with the neon dustbowl as a marketing gimmick, let alone as an earnest statement of fact, comes from knowing what passes for "underground" in Vegas is what other cities call "culture." Employing the term "underground" usually amounts to little more than a ploy at luring the artsy crowd with the bread crumbs of their rarely fulfilled desire in Vegas: something different.
While it's unclear what the "underground" in the "Vegas Underground Cinema Showcase" means other than acting as a synonym for "low budget," it is clear the aspiring Spielbergs putting this screening of shorts together are serious about drawing the public into their subculture's tight-knit fold.
Local filmmaker and the showcase's founder Aaron Ross says the reason for wanting to attract the public is simple: "As a storyteller, if you don't know if you're reaching your audience, then what are you telling stories for?" In other words, the nascent showcase and the filmmaking itself are designed, in part, as a means by which all involved can learn whether their films are any good.
If you're thinking you already know the answer to that question, then you probably haven't seen a Roger Tinch short film. Made on a shoestring budget with little equipment other than a digital video camera, his thriller DWELLING has the polished look and feel of a professional-quality picture. While this film and others have yet to earn Tinch a shot at the big time, if the showcase features work on this level, the event will amount to much more than just back-slapping by local filmmakers and their friends and family – it could result in such treatment from the public at large.
Actually, Tinch would be the last to say DWELLING is perfect. Indeed, he views his short films less as an end, and more as a means. "To me it's like this great little scrapbook" to show potential investors "what we've done in the past with nothing." And when Tinch says "we," he means virtually every local producing films who gladly lends a hand to other filmmakers' projects.
One such person is Eddie Deirmenjian. A senior at UNLV's film program, Deirmenjian previously starred in Tinch's CLEANING UP MATTERS as a mentally unbalanced crime-scene cleaner, and has just completed producing and acting in another short on tap for the showcase. Says Deirmenjian of the give-and-take inherent to the local filmmaking scene: "There's a definite friendly competition and it's healthy. That's part of what's making the film community grow."
UNLV film professor David Schmoeller, who, as a member of the showcase's commission, is charged with screening submissions, says it's no surprise that filmmakers are staying put in the valley and organizing their own events, like the showcase, together. "There's a community here. There's a pool of really good actors and a whole lot of talent," he says.
Ross says the support from the filmmaking community for the showcase has been "massive," but bristles at the notion that such an event – which he hopes to make a twice-annual affair -- could turn Vegas into another Los Angeles or New York City. "I think it's too early to really care," he says. "The artists should get together and start evolving because they've got a public viewing. Let's have some fun."
And if showcase organizers maintain such an attitude and avoid unreal notions of their city's place in the filmmaking world, respect and recognition may come soon enough.
Vegas Underground Cinema Showcase
Fri., Oct. 21, 6:30 p.m.
CCSN's West Charleston campus, theater D-125
6375 W. Charleston Blvd.
Vegasindies.com/uvf or 809-4831