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'Exquisite Shorts is the culmination of many conversations between other filmmakers and me, regarding possible alternatives to the current film industry landscape, particularly for short or emerging filmmakers,' says Canadian filmmaker Sophy Romvari, who launched the series.Cait MacIntosh/Handout

Short may be sweet, but the world of short-length filmmaking can leave a bitter taste in your mouth. Faced with little recognition, crippling costs and the sometimes futile attempts to win over traditional industry gatekeepers, short filmmakers have long had a rough go of it – and that was before the pandemic painted them into an even tighter corner.

To help ease the new (and old) burdens placed on emerging directors, Canadian filmmaker Sophy Romvari is launching Exquisite Shorts, a biweekly online series on Vimeo that aims to put the power of programming in the auteur’s hands. The concept for the online program, which riffs off the literary game known as Exquisite Corpse, goes like this: The first short will be selected by Romvari from a pool of submissions. The next will be chosen by the filmmaker of the first film selected. And on it goes throughout the rest of the year, with the model avoiding the singular perspective of festival programmers that can result in a sort of tunnel vision of sensibilities, while encouraging discovery and dialogue between artists at the same time.

“Exquisite Shorts is the culmination of many conversations between other filmmakers and me, regarding possible alternatives to the current film industry landscape, particularly for short or emerging filmmakers,” says the Toronto-based Romvari, whose shorts have previously premiered at TIFF, Hot Docs, Sheffield Doc Fest and the True/False documentary festival in Columbia, Mo. “It’s a small-scale attempt to address some of the most common concerns I’ve heard voiced, and which I have also experienced myself.”

This is why a core element of the program is fair compensation for participating filmmakers ($200 a short, covering both the screening fee and curation fee). To achieve this, Romvari, whose new short Still Processing will premiere at TIFF in September, is in the midst of a $10,000 Indiegogo campaign. The funds raised will also help cover first-year costs of the program and make the programming freely accessible to online audiences.

The concept for the online program goes like this: The first short will be selected by Romvari from a pool of submissions. The next will be chosen by the filmmaker of the first film selected. And on it goes throughout the rest of the year, with the model avoiding the singular perspective of festival programmers.Cait MacIntosh/Handout

Romvari, who has been developing the project for the past year, says that the idea evolved from the initial concept of an in-person screening series at Toronto’s Revue Cinema. Today, though, she feels the virtual landscape is a safer, more accessible forum.

“I had considered making the online screening series a pay-per-view scenario, or even a Patreon subscriber-based series, but ultimately I realized that two things were important to me: that the filmmakers get paid, and that the content is free for all to enjoy,” Romvari says. “It is quite uncommon, particularly as a short filmmaker, to be paid to exhibit your work. And [the fundraising campaign] will also allow the program to have a very accessible submission fee of just $5. Regular submission fees for film festivals usually hover around $35-80 per short film, so another priority is to maintain a low financial bar of entry, so artists don’t feel excluded due to their financial situations.”

And while the filmmaker is hoping to create an alternative to the traditional festival landscape, she doesn’t view Exquisite Shorts as a replacement.

“I absolutely love attending film festivals, and there is nothing quite like the experience of seeing your work on the big screen. It’s an experience I hope many filmmakers will continue to have once it’s safe to do so,” she says. “Regardless of the future of in-person film festivals, I see Exquisite Shorts as an alternative that functions alongside film festivals, and can even work in tandem quite nicely. For example, there will be far fewer restrictions on the kinds of films that can be submitted, ie: no premiere status. That means a film could not only have screened at other festivals, but it can also be something that was made years ago that has never been seen.

“It will be a home for filmmakers whose work does not meet industry regulations and who simply want their films to be considered for something a little different.”

For more information on Exquisite Shorts, visit indiegogo.com

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