by Rob Lopresti
My nephew Chris Messineo is a filmmaker. That’s not what puts dinner on the table, but it is his passion. He started OffStage Films four years ago with two friends and this month they premiered their lucky thirteenth film.
Thirteen films in four years? How do they manage it, you ask. Well, here’s the secret.
These are short films. And many are made for contests that boggle my mind. For example: they give you a theme. You have twenty-four hours to write a movie script with that theme, cast it, film it, and bring back the results.
You can see the amazing results here. For fans of the mystery genre I recommend Riverbank, Piggy Bank, andLost and Found. But my favorite is the comedy The Bad Cat. Like several others, it stars his daughter Joanna. Click on the icons at the bottom of the screen to see the films.
A word with the maestro
So, as someone with a deep interest in short narrative I wondered what makes Chris want to make short flicks. Here are my Qs and his As.
How would you describe what Off Stage Films does?
Off Stage Films is an independent production company located in New Jersey that creates original short films, often with a dark and somewhat twisted view of the world.
Are there a lot of companies doing similar work? Is there one place to find them?
There are far too many people creating short films. Like most of the arts, there seem to be more artists than audience. There are many web sites that show short films, from atom.com to youtube.com, but they all seem to prefer humor. If your tastes are dramatic (like ours) it is much harder to get your film seen. Our latest film, "Letters to Penthouse", a drama about a struggling writer will be trying to find an audience on the independent festival circuit.
Tell us about the contest aspect.
As filmmakers, we have entered several timed contests. These challenge filmmakers to write, film, and edit their movie in anywhere from 12 hours to 2 weeks. These are a lot of fun and a great way to hone your craft.
As a screenwriter, I felt like there was not enough opportunity for writers to create short films. So, I started a free web site and monthly contest called MoviePoet.com. Each month we select a new theme and writers are challenged to enter a 5 page script on that subject. Each script receives dozens of reviews and filmmakers are encouraged to come to our site to find new writers and scripts to work with. To date, we already have over three dozen of our scripts in production.
(Inevitable question #1). Is there any money in it?
Unfortunately, no. There is simply no money in short films. However, they are a wonderful way to network and get your stories read or seen.
What’s the most fun aspect? The most frustrating?
My favorite part of filmmaking is casting, followed closely by the frenzy that is the actual filming. There is a camaraderie and bond that occurs on set that is hard to describe, but the feeling is addictive.
How, if at all, does short film relate to short stories?
I strongly believe that short stories and novellas make the best movies. The short films that I make are typically 5 to 10 page scripts, often no more than 1,000 words. Typically, these short films work best when they focus on intimate stories and the details of a moment in time. In a way, it is almost like poetry. For example, one of our recent challenges from MoviePoet.com had writers adapting the short stories and poems of Edgar Allen Poe for the screen and it was one of our most interesting months.
(Inevitable question #2) Is there any role for authors of published short fiction?
Absolutely. Even though we are talking about film, it all begins with a story. Most filmmakers, even those who want to make feature length films, are looking to cut their teeth and make their mark with unique and challenging short films. If you have a short story that you think would be perfect for a short film, taking the time to adapt it to the screen is a great way to give your tale a new life and an opportunity to reach a whole new audience.