By Linita Masters
The 12th HollyShorts Film Festival kicked off Thursday, August 11, with a star studded opening night lineup and Ben Lyons and Alicia Malone hosting the evening.
The opening night lineup included the woman of the evening, Jennifer Morrison who was honored with the 2016 HollyShorts Trailblazer Award presented by Women in Film’s Jane Fleming.
Morrison, who starred in “House,” now stars in ABC’s “Once Upon a Time,” screened her latest short film, “Wild Wild Horses,” which stars herself, Rose McIver (“iZombie”), and Geoff Stults (“Enlisted”).
Morrison premiered her first short film, “Warning Labels,” at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival. She also filmed and co-produced the fantasy epic “Albion: The Enchanted Stallion” in Bulgaria, which will see release this summer. She has launched her own film production company, Apartment 3C, where she produced and directed indie film “Sun Dogs,”which just wrapped. . It stars Melissa Benoist (“Supergirl”), Allison Janney, and Ed O’Neill.
The Hollywood 360 had the opportunity to speak with Jane Fleming prior to the screening:
The Hollywood 360: Tell us about the Trailblazer Award and why you chose Jennifer as it’s recipient.
Jane Fleming: I’m so excited that Hollyshorts contacted us and asked us if we would give the trailblazer award to Jennifer. The award is for people that are constantly reinventing themselves and breaking down new ground and as the President Emeritus of Women in Film, we were excited, because it’s our job to train trailblazers. There is no better way to trail blaze than do the work. Jennifer is out there acting, producing and directing, and we are going to get a chance to see a little bit of her work tonight.”
“For women in the entertainment business it’s so important to have women who are as high profile as Jennifer breaking down new barriers in her own career and showing women everywhere that it can be done.”-Jane Fleming
Jennifer Morrison also gave us a bit of her time.
The Hollywood 360: Tell us about your film screening here at Hollyshorts tonight.
Jennifer: It’s actually a series of music videos that plays as one film. The original concept was from Wild Wild Horses, the band. They wanted a film that could pull apart into 4 videos or play as one. Tonight the screening is the one long film scored with their music. The concept is of a couple that is very happy with each other, but their fears of intimacy was getting in the way of them giving themselves over to the relationship. So, the girl is very paranoid thinking that there could be another woman in his life or still has feelings for an ex and he is feeding this by allowing her to think that he has secrets or has things to hide because they are both trying to protect themselves. To me it was an exploration of how hard it is to be intimate or give yourself over to another person. The ending is left somewhat ambiguous, letting the viewer decide if the couple decided to take that leap to really open up and be together or if they hang on to their fears and insecurities and end up self-destructing the relationship.
The Hollywood 360: What attracted you to doing this indie short film?
Jennifer: My first short film was “Warning Labels” was here last year and that was my first passion project as a director. It was a story I really wanted to tell and believed it. And this project came out of that one. The Bands manager had seen that film and really loved it and then he took it to the band and they really loved it. That was the beginning of the relationship with the band. They asked me to come up with a project and I pitched the concept to them and to the label. It gave me a chance to explore the band’s music and make what was really a silent film with music instead of a fully narrative story. It was something new for me to explore as a director. There were a lot of technical elements and storytelling elements that were different from what I’ve done before. It was a chance to grow artistically and work with a band that I really believed in.
“It’s not all about this product that you’re making but it’s really about the journey that you have to take to make the product.”-Jennifer Morrison on Independent Film
With the independent films and the short films that I’ve made. There is some is something really rewarding about diving in and building something from scratch and figure out how to tell the whole story. I always feel that there is a community about independent films. I think that independent films are a team sport where everyone has to pick up more than their weight. It’s really fun, but insane and fun. You have this fast and furious intimate experience where you get it done and then move on. You get really close to people in a short time, and you really have to rely on each other and really trust each other. There is something really beautiful about that.
The Hollywood 360: How is it different to play a character like Emma Swan, which you’ve had years to develop, and playing a character that you’ve only had a short amount of time to get to know?
Jennifer: One of the things I love about television is that when you pay a character for that amount of time. 5.5 years, you really get to know them in a very immediate and intimate way. I know Emma better than I know myself.
When you are doing something more independent, in may last a month or two, there is more adrenaline involved. You have to really be prepared, you have to do all your work to get to know the character before you even get to set or have the camera rolling. You get that feeling that everything is on the line at every moment and there’s a bit of adventure involved.
The Hollywood 360: What has the transition from actress to director been like for you?
Jennifer: I really love directing. I’ve always loved acting and I will always love acting. But I think directing is going to take the forefront for the next little while for me. I feel like it’s a really natural part of my life and it feels very fulfilling right now.
Below is film short “WILD WILD HORSES”
Directed by: Jennifer Morrison.
Starring: Jennifer Morrison, Rose McIver & Geoff Stults.
Besides Jennifer’s “Wild Wild Horses”, we were treated to some funny, heartfelt and thought provoking shorts along with some red carpet glitz and glamour.
Prior to the opening shorts program, Kenneth Kokin’s directorial debut BLOOD MOON written by Oscar Nominated Nicholas Kazan and produced by Tim Williams (In The Bedroom) opened the festival. The feature stars Maya Kazan (The Knick), Frank Medrano (The Shawshank Redemption) and James Callis (Battle Star Galactica, Bridget Jones’s Diary).
The following shorts were also featured on opening night.
Cuddle Party, a dark comedy Executive Produced by Golden Globe and Emmy-winner Jill Soloway, creator of Amazon’s hit series Transparent. Directed by Matthew Irving Epstein, Cuddle Party stars Yvette Nicole Brown (Community), Michaela Watkins (Casual, Saturday Night Live), and Rob Huebel (Children’s Hospital, Despicable Me).
Episodes of Comedy Central’s new digital series, Junketeers, produced with Lexus’ L-Studio branded-content arm and production firm Kids at Play with cameos by Josh Duhamel, Kristen Bell, Gillian Jacobs, Chloe Grace Moretz, Eli Roth, Emily Ratajkowski, Tom Felton and Matt Bomer.
Drama/Comedy Mildred & The Dying Parlor by Alexander H. Gayner. The film stars Zosia Mamet (The Kids Are Alright), Jane Krakowski (30 Rock), Steve Buscemi, Evan Jonigkeit (X-Men: Days of Future Past). In the short, Mildred’s parents run a dying parlor out of their home. Today’s client is not who she expects.
Out of the Village by Jonathan Stein. Shot in West Africa with a local cast and crew, Out of the Village explores the social and cultural impact of the Ebola epidemic from the perspective of an orphaned brother and his sister. It stars Abraham Attah (Beasts of No Nation) and is Executive Produced by Bryan Singer (X-Men).
So Good To See You by Duke Merriman is a dark comedy starring Sienna Miller, Janie Brookshire (So Good to See You), Patrick Kennedy (Atonement), George Merrick (The Intern). The short tells the story of a dinner party that goes painfully sour in this darkly comic take on the dual realities of friendship.
Daniel Kaminsky’s supernatural thriller short film The Deal is set to premiere on opening night. Written and directed by Kaminsky who began his career as Joss Whedon’s assistant on Marvel’s The Avengers, The Deal stars Jake Weary (It Follows, Animal Kingdom), Alexandra Shipp (X-Men Apocalypse), Michelle DeFraites, Daniel Amerman, and Bobby Soto. The film was produced by Michael Klein, Brett Young-Fountain and executive produced by Joss Whedon.
Connect with Wild Wild Horses: