From Birthday Clowns to Teen Pregnancy Tests

So far, the signature aspect of LA’s Collaboration Filmmakers Challenge (CFC) is that the audience and judges agree.

At the 2012 inaugural edition of this short film competition, which gives paired filmmakers two weeks to crank out works based on a “theme” quote, Bethany Orr’s Winner was, yes, the winner of both the Audience and First Place awards. This weekend, at a May 4 event featuring Orr as one of the judges, the Audience-First Place winner was A Simple Test.

During Saturday night’s Q&A at Harmony Gold with judges Orr, actor Matthew Lillard, Reason Online critic Kurt Loder, producer-talent manager Andrew Wilson and StyleHaul head of production Melody Hammer (fellow judge and Slamdance co-founder Peter Baxter, who was unable to attend, announced the winners via taped video message), one of the key pieces of advice offered was that it is best for entrants to not try to literally include the theme quote as spoken dialogue. Sure enough, A Simple Test, written and directed by Jonathan Smith with collaborative help from Mike Carrier, never has either one of its principal characters parrot the Emiliano Zapata words, “It is better to die on your feet than live on on your knees.” Rather, it cleverly embodies the Mexican revolutionary’s advice by means of a teenage girl (Lucy Tarquinio), her MIT-bound suitor (Bill Kottkamp) and an imminent pregnancy test.

Lillard was hugely entertaining during the Q&A, joking about the varying quality of Hollywood movies he has appeared in and proselytizing the importance of being true to an artistic vision. Orr meanwhile offered a vivid reminder of that artist’s life in Hollywood by pointing out that a year after playing a kids birthday party clown in Winner, she had worked as one just a few hours before Saturday night’s event.

Watch the judges’ picks for top three 2013 CFC shorts here.