Short Films Get Their Own Festival At Heartland

Maybe you can’t name a single short right now. But that’s changing fast.
Chalk it up to the shorter attention spans we’re always being told we have. Or maybe enough filmmakers just came to the realization that you don’t always need hours and hours to tell a powerful story.

Whatever the case, short films—movies under 40 minutes—have become a hot genre. Submissions of them to the Heartland Film Festival have soared over the years, says events manager Christiana Beasley, as audiences discover that, just like features, they can be “truly moving pictures.”

Now, Heartland is introducing its Indy Shorts International Film Festival from July 26–29 at the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields. Entries for all short-film categories and awards will now get screened there, with winners slated for encore screenings in October at the 27-year-old Heartland Film Festival.

“There are countless opportunities where shorts are gaining higher recognition than just online,” says Beasley. “The winning short films for Best Documentary and Best Narrative will automatically qualify for the Academy Awards. It’s quite a big deal that we’re very proud of at Heartland.”

Indy Shorts gives young contenders the opportunity to visit workshops, panels, and one-on-one meetings with world-renowned producers. It’s Heartland’s goal to provide those opportunities in the hopes that a new generation of filmmakers will take advantage of them, continuing to grow as powerful storytellers.

Short films shown at Heartland in the past have included 17 Academy Award nominees and six winners. Most recently, the 2016 short film Sing won the Academy Award for Short Film (Live Action) in 2017. The Heartland family hopes for even more nominees after the Indy Shorts debut. This festival has awards of its own, with more than $25,000 in cash prizes for winners.

Some 100 short films are on the docket, including Left Hand, based on a true story. Director Skyler Lawson, who hails from Wabash, takes viewers on an emotional journey as his film follows WWII soldier George Price fighting to make a name for himself in the raging war. Lawson believes this festival is a way to put beginning filmmakers on the map. “I often get asked why I don’t live in Los Angeles or New York, as I am chasing a film career, and the answer is multi-layered,” he says. “I think you can be a filmmaker anywhere. The question is: How do you create work that rises to the top in the ocean of media that is being created every day? The Indy Shorts Fest helps us rise.”

As Indy Shorts hits theaters this weekend, hundreds of keen filmmakers are prepping for their shot. Heartland president Craig Prater is eager to see the new festival evolve. “Heartland is breaking down the walls to reach out to a younger demographic of filmmakers and audiences,” he says. “We have over 3,000 short-film submissions each year, and this allows us to support our mission of inspiring young filmmakers and helping them get their start in this industry.”