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New Panels, Roundtables, and Tech Day to be Held for Palm Springs ShortFest

By Crystal Harrell

(Schedule Courtesy of Palm Springs International ShortFest)

The Palm Springs International ShortFest recently announced its schedule of industry panels, roundtables, and New Tech Day. Now in its 22nd year, the renowned ShortFest will showcase 328 short films from 54 countries lasting through June 21-27.

Each year, the Festival also hosts a long guest list of filmmakers and industry professionals for the ShortFest forums of panels and roundtables. The Forums are in partnership with UC-Riverside, focusing on VR, online streaming, video game development, and more new media. 

Thursday, June 23 (Tech Day)

10:00 a.m. Tech Day Keynote Speaker - Peter Samuelson 

Producer and pro-social entrepreneur Peter Samuelson served on the founding Board of Participant Media Inc. and is President of ASPIRE, the Academy for Social Purpose in Responsible Education. He has produced a wide range of films, from Revenge of the Nerds to Arlington Road, and, along with Steven Spielberg, co-founded Starbright World, an online social network and virtual playground for ill children around the world.

11:15 a.m. Panel - VR Production, A How to Guide

For audiences looking for new experiences Virtual Reality is the new frontier. The medium allows audiences to not only see the depth and detail of every frame, but to feel like they are at the center of it. This panel explores the accessibility of Virtual Reality and the secrets to making it work.

Guests: Eve Cohen, Cinematographer, The Visitor, Cinematographer at Large and Co-Founder, Seed&Spark; James Kaelen, Director, The Visitor, Editor-in-Chief and Co-founder, Seed&Spark; and Blessing Yen, Chief Creative Officer, Seed&Spark.

Moderator: Sheritalyn Solis, Manager, Story & Creative Platforms, Paramount Pictures

1:00 p.m. Panel - California Streaming, Changing the Way We Watch Content  With the plethora of short-form digital content online, how can filmmakers find the best platform for showcasing their work and stand out from the masses? These experienced industry professionals navigate through this digital maze.

Guests: Ian Durkin, Curator, Vimeo; DeShuna Spencer, Founder, kweliTV; and Moises Velez, Warner Bros.;

Moderator: Tod Goldberg, Director of the Low Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts at the UCR

3:00 p.m. Panel - The Creative Process of Video Game Development

Video games tell stories though each character, plot twist, and environment in which they take place, much like a film. The overlap in the creative development of both films and participant-driven video games may seem forced, but the true and various parallels can be surprising.  

Guests: John Schimmel, script development, Cloud Imperium; David Chontos, creator of Kismet/filmmaker; and Micah Wright, WGA Videogame Writer’s Caucus

Moderator: Natalie Zfat, Writer/Social Media Influencer

Friday, June 24

11:00 a.m. Panel - Understanding Crowdfunding

The crowdfunding model is going from strength to strength, and every year we see more crowdsourced films premiering at major festivals and theaters. Whether it's Charlie Kaufman or a first-time filmmaker, this production model allows filmmakers to not only take control of financing their production, but also build a supportive community and generate buzz even before production starts. 

Guests: Emily Best, CEO & Founder, Seed&Spark; and Marc Hofstatter, Head of Film and Creative, Indiegogo

Moderator: Anne Thompson, Indiewire

1:00 p.m. Panel - Mumblecore and Beyond with Sophia Takal & Larry Levine

Partners in life and business, multi-hyphenate filmmakers Sophia Takal and Lawrence Levine hail from Mumblecore origins and have since expanded that model to fit their amorphic approach to filmmaking. They'll share experiences about how they maintain creative integrity on a shoestring budget. 

Guests: Sophia Takal, Producer and Director, Little Teeth Pictures, Always Shine and Green; Lawrence Levine, Producer and Director, Little Teeth Pictures, Wild Canaries and Gabi on the Roof in July

3:30 p.m. Panel – The Sweet Spot: How Shorts and Webisodes become TV Shows

ABC's new sitcom “Downward Dog” is about a struggling millennial, Nan (Emmy-nominated Allison Tolman, “Fargo”), from the point of view of her lonely and philosophical dog, Martin. As unconventional as that sounds, the story behind "Downward Dog's" evolution into a TV show is just as interesting. Series creators Samm Hodges and Michael Killen, recount how "Downward Dog" began life as a web series, and the process that went with it being adapted into a primetime sitcom.

Guests: Samm Hodges and Michael Killen, creators and executive producers

Moderator: Michael Schneider, Executive Editor, Indiewire and Editor-at-Large, Variety

Saturday, June 25

11:00 a.m. Panel - Creating Tension à la Hitchcock

When it comes to manipulating the audience into a state of frenzy, Alfred Hitchcock is the master. Just exactly how did he do it? Hitchcock scholar Jeffrey Michael Bays has made this his life’s study, and will share his top tips, illustrated with clips, for escalating tension and leaving the audience jonesing for more. Not just for genre filmmakers, these tips will enhance everyone's films. 

Guests: Jeffrey Michael Bays, founder the Borgus Network, contributor Moviemaker Magazine

1:00 p.m. Panel - The Short Route to Longform

Once filmmakers have mastered the short-form, moving into long-form drama can be a daunting undertaking. Award-winning director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, will share how to navigate through the many obstacles on the road to a feature debut.

Guest: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, The Town that Dreaded Sundown, American Horror Story, Glee)

3:30 p.m. Panel - Meet the Programmers

Navigating the festival circuit can be challenging, but with a cool head and a strategic plan, filmmakers can maximize their film's visibility, make amazing connections and drive their career forward. A group of programmers from top U.S. festivals will provide candid insights into the programming process, advice on deciding which festivals are best suited for a project, and making sure you make the most of your festival experience.

Guests: Landon Zakheim, Sundance & Los Angeles Film Festivals; Sharon Badal, Tribeca Film Festival; Clint Bowie, New Orleans Film Festival; Dan Brawley, Cucalorus

Moderator: Laura Theilen, Festival Program Consultant

Panel only tickets are available to the public for $13 each. A student pass is available to those currently enrolled in an accredited college/university or high school and grants access to regular film screenings and the ShortFest Forums for $100. All ShortFest Forums are free to accredited filmmakers participating in ShortFest. For more information and tickets, call (760) 778-8979 or (800) 898-7526 or visit the website: