DC Shorts Mini-Review: Enter the Beard

By no means did I see all 97 films at the DC Shorts Film Festival. But I saw a lot and got to meet to some of the filmmakers as well.

I’ll be posting “mini-reviews” of what I liked, from what I saw.

One of my favorite films was Enter the Beard. Audiences enjoyed it too – this documentary won Filmmaker’s Favorite and Audience Choice awards.

Enter the Beard is a very funny look at an odd American subculture – men who grow elaborate and enormous beards and then compete against other men in the World Beard and Mustache Championships. (One of the few women in the film pointed out how odd it was that men would groom themselves and then walk down catwalks, like hirsute supermodels.)

It would be easy to just present these men and their oversized facial hair as freaks yet the documentary is empathetic and amusing. Much of this humor comes from Charles Parker Newton, our guide to this world of beards and mustaches. He’s engaging and funny, with the charisma of a cult leader.

I talked to him for a bit at DC Shorts, outlining my inability to grow the Grizzly Adams beard of my dreams. He faulted my lack of commitment and, with a roaring speech, convinced me that I should spend the next six months growing a kickass beard. It made sense at the time.

After all, what’s more American than following your dream? Even if your dream involves doing nothing, of just deciding not to shave anymore.

ENTER THE BEARD, THE TEASER from Matt Lawrence on Vimeo.

DC Shorts: Showcase 1 – My Review

Jenn Harris, Matthew Wilkas in Gayby
Jenn Harris, Matthew Wilkas in Gayby

I attended Showcase 1 of the DC Shorts Film Festival last night. For the festival, the films are divided into nine different showcases, including a ribald late-night collection of shorts as well as a family-appropriate slate. Each showcase contains around ten short films.

Here’s my take on the films in Showcase 1:

Sunday Punch – It’s a film noir that’s a little predictable but sexy and gorgeously shot.

Shovel Ready – A darkly comic 48 Hour Film about getting rid of the troublesome people in your life.

Prayers for Peace – Heartbreaking, beautiful and personal. Probably the film I’ll remember most.

Somewhere Never Traveled – One of those mysterious films that you’re entranced by, but don’t know what’s going on – like something by Sofia Coppola.

Hipster Job – A retelling of the story of Job, but with hipsters. Deliberately crude and stupid.

Quartering Act – A WWII drama that’s a little too long. Tries to get the historical details right but feels awfully American for a story set in France.

Just About Famous – A wry, funny and sympathetic look at the bizarre world of celebrity impersonators.

El Cortejo (The Cortege) – A Spanish film about finding love in the most unlikely of places.

Banana Bread – Hyper-violent and you can see the punchline coming from a mile away.

Gayby – My favorite. It’s like a modern Woody Allen movie, with a neurotic woman who wants to make a baby the old-fashioned way with her gay best friend.

They’re all interesting and entertaining films. See Showcase 1:

Saturday, September 11 @ 9:00pm @ U.S. Navy Memorial Heritage Center
(followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers)
Sunday, September 12 @ 1:00pm @ Landmark’s E Street Cinema
Tuesday, September 14 @ 9:00pm @ Landmark’s E Street Cinema

DC Shorts – My Picks

This year, I’ve been more involved with the DC Shorts Screenplay Competition (coming in October) than the actual film festival. Still, as an Executive Judge for the festival, I did get to see some of the films that were selected for inclusion in DC Shorts. I’m also familiar with a couple of the directors or heard about the buzz. So, these are my picks – the films that I am looking forward to seeing:

Expiration – Are you one of those people who doesn’t worry about expiration dates on food? You should.

Sunday Punch – The trailer is sexy and it looks beautifully shot.

L1feline – I’ve read scripts by the writer of this short, Anthony Greene, and really liked them – he’s got a great ear for how people really speak.

Snowpocalypse: Day 6 – A one-minute long film about the big DC snowstorm? I’m intrigued.

Bagged – Is this comedy about a woman who falls in love with a purse stereotypical or way too honest? There was a lot of discussion about this one among the judges.

Easy Made Hard – The script for this urban drama was a finalist in last year’s DC Shorts Screenplay Competition. I saw it read during the DC Shorts live screenplay reading. It’s riveting and I can’t wait to see the film.

Manual Practico del Amigo Imaginario (The Imaginary Friend Practical Manual) – A nearly twenty-minute long comedy from Spain about a 27 year-old and his imaginary friend. Unusual films like this are why I love DC Shorts.

Each of these shorts is part of a longer showcase of films – two hours worth of short films from around the world. You’re bound to find something you like.

DC Shorts Tickets on Sale

I wrote a brief story for the Pink Line Project mentioning that tickets are now on sale for the DC Shorts Film Festival.

It’s a festival that I’ve been involved with for years and is definitely worth attending. The films are interesting, you can meet the filmmakers, and the parties are awesome. Plus, it all happens downtown, in the Penn Quarter. I’ve had a blast over the years – I’ve met incredibly creative people in a casual atmosphere.

Reel Lessons in Marketing

Check out my article, Reel Lessons in Marketing on FlackRabbit. It was inspired by my experience working for the DC Shorts Film Festival. I’ve been involved with this annual event for several years and have done almost everything – I’ve judged screenplays and films, taken pictures, sold t-shirts, moderated discussions and, of course, attended numerous parties. With my front row seat at this festival, I’ve learned a lot about marketing – lessons for anyone promoting an event, product or cause.

2009 Highlights


It’s the end of the year, and the end of a decade. What were my favorite projects of 2009? What did I have the most fun working on?

Murder in Ocean Hall

I can’t help myself, I like to write fiction. People have asked me how I could leave my job and then spend countless hours alone, in a coffee shop, writing a novel. I’ve offered advice on setting a schedule and being committed, but the truth is that writing a book is a huge sacrifice and something that you must really, really want to do. And something that you must enjoy doing more then anything else. Continue reading “2009 Highlights”

Funky Prairie Boy – My Favorite Film of DC Shorts

Go see the best of DC Shorts on Thursday night at E Street Cinema.

It was a great festival again. I’ve volunteered with DC Shorts for more than four years now and each year it gets better and better.

My personal favorite film in the festival was Funky Prairie Boy. It won the Diversity Award (presented by Verizon). This short Canadian film is about:

A young boy living in a small prairie town during the early 1980s, befriends the only black kid at his school and soon discovers the prejudice that exists within his friends, his family and even in himself.

It’s got the most well-developed story of all the films I saw at DC Shorts. The characters seem real, all of them a mix of good and bad impulses. The short film captures the awkwardness of children dealing with adult issues of race and prejudice. Yet, it’s not an afterschool special, where the plot is driven by social points to be made. Instead, it’s a messy and funny look at kids trying to be kids. While they’re trapped in a rigid world that they didn’t create, they just want to dance and hangout.

Funky Prairie Boy
Funky Prairie Boy

Continue reading “Funky Prairie Boy – My Favorite Film of DC Shorts”

Behind the Scenes at a Screenplay Reading

Now in it’s sixth year, DC Shorts has been named by MovieMaker Magazine as “one of the nation’s leading short film festivals.” The festival features 100 films from across the country and around the world. What’s unique about DC Shorts is its focus on the filmmaker, many of whom will be in attendance this year.

I’ve been involved in DC Shorts almost since the beginning. I volunteered with Jon Gann, founder of the festival, and  was a film judge for a couple years. Me and other volunteers watched and rated the hundreds of submissions that came in. We used a clever online system to do so. One key trait about DC Shorts is how professional and well organized it is, from top to bottom. Continue reading “Behind the Scenes at a Screenplay Reading”