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Stepping Out

In the spotlight

The Short Film Concert highlights filmmaking creativity


f you’re looking for the latest ‘slam, wham’ superhero movie, then Hollywood’s got you covered. But if you crave movies with a bit more heart and soul that strike an emotional chord, then look no further than the 38th Asbury Short Film Concert.

The latest edition of the national touring showcase returns to Molloy College’s Madison Theatre on Friday, April 5. With a lineup of classic shorts from Asbury’s past combined with international festival winners currently on the circuit — and in many cases featuring up-and-coming filmmakers — audiences can get a look at these “smaller” films that don’t often get a big screen showing.

“The program presents the best in comedy, drama, animation and the occasional documentary,” says Doug LeClaire, Asbury Shorts’ founder and director. “We call it a concert rather than a festival because there are no awards or panel discussions, it’s all about entertainment value for the audience.”

This year, like every year, Asbury Shorts presents an eclectic mix of films.

“The Caption” is a new short comedy from L.A. that’s sure to delight audiences, according to LeClaire. “It’s about a frustrated cartoon writer whose work is rejected like 657 times and it’s starting to have a negative affect on his marriage,” he explains. “But in a humorous twist, he finds an unexpected source of material that completely changes everything.” The film was directed by Jonny Swick and Nick Miller.

“Another film that will probably wow audiences is “Pickle,” directed by Amy Nicholson,” says LeClaire. “It’s about her parents who live on a Maryland farm. Their mission in life and their marriage is to rescue and take care of animals who are injured or sick. But here’s the caveat, they’re not any good at it. It’s really hysterical.”

“Pickle” runs 16 minutes and combines live action and animation. “We rarely show documentaries but this one is special,” he notes.

Yet another film close to LeClaire’s heart is also a documentary, in this case by Veena Rao. a young millennial filmmaker out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

“The “Honeys & Bears” is about a group of elderly African-American women aged 60 to 90 who meet once a week at a Harlem pool to perform synchronized swimming,” says LeClaire. “It’s a cool, super low-budget independent film with a heart of gold.”

It’s a mere 3/12 minutes long. Yet in that short time, Rao manages to tug at the heartstrings of audiences with a joyous, emotionally moving story.

“I always say the creators of these short films have a tough job,” says LeClaire, “They have just three, five, maybe 10 minutes to make audiences believe their story. Whereas feature film directors have the luxury of 80, 90, 100 minutes to tell a story.”

But today’s independent filmmakers have an advantage as well. “The availability of really great small digital cameras allows a director to pare down the process,” says LeClaire. “In the case of a documentary like Rao’s, it can make the subjects more at ease.”

When selecting new films for the Asbury Shorts showcase, the main goal, according to LeClaire, is that they be entertaining. “We look for audience choice award winners from other festivals because we know they will have an entertainment value,” he says.

Another way LeClaire guarantees an enjoyable program is by presenting some of the most popular films from Asbury’s past. It’s been 38 years since he started Asbury Shorts from a church basement in Carle Place, so LeClaire has literally thousands of shorts to choose from.

One is particularly memorable one is on this year’s program. “We’re re-showing the 2002 dark comedy “The Quality of Mercy,” starring Emmy winner Mary-Louise Parker,” says LeClaire, “It’s directed by Stephen Marro who lives in Lido Beach. And in fact, this year we’re inducting it into the Asbury Hall of Fame.”

LeClaire, who was a commercial producer for over two decades, is devoted to giving filmmakers an audience for their creative efforts.

“Some are motivated purely for the art of it, like a painter and sculptor,” he says, explaining the dedication of these filmmakers to their craft. “Bust most independent filmmakers make short films to hopefully advance their careers. If their film is seen on the festival circuit, they hope it will attract the attention of a Netflix or an investor who will give them money to make a feature-length film.”

“That’s what’s cool about Stephen’s success with “The Quality of Mercy.” It gained him investor money for his first feature, which he directed in 2010.”

This is the Madison Theatre’s eighth year hosting the festival and LeClaire is grateful to have found his festival’s Long Island home. “We love this venue and get 200-300 folks coming out to see us every year,” he says. “Long Island audiences are very loyal, they “get” what we’re trying to do.”

From the looks of it, a lot of other places “get it” as well. The Asbury Short Film Concert has traveled from Long Island to Los Angeles, Florida, Boston and even Berlin.

“We just keep growing,” he says. “That means we are succeeding in our mission, which is to get indie shorts out to people who don’t normally go to film festivals.”

That’s significant exposure for a passionate young filmmaker who wants the world to see their short film and hopes that maybe, just maybe, it’ll lead to their first big break on the road to Hollywood. Shazam!

Short Film Concert

When: Friday, April 5, 7:30 p.m. $18.

Where: Madison Theatre, Molloy College, 1000 Hempstead Ave., Rockville Centre. 516) 323-4444 or www.madisontheatreny.org.