Hollywood discovered Aspen, Colorado, back in the 1940s, when Gary Cooper bought property there. A-listers like Jack Nicholson, Kevin Costner, and Leo DiCaprio have haunted the place ever since, along with execs from Disney, Paramount, Miramax, and other studios.
That’s what sets the Aspen Shortsfest apart from similar resort-town film festivals: Half the audience are members of the Motion Picture Academy. Getting your film onto the Shortsfest program is a huge deal, because it means your work will be seen by the two most important types of people in the industry—those with money, and those with talent.
Such is the opportunity that’s knocking for Australian director Adam Bowes, who we introduced you to last summer. His short comedy Diving In makes its North American premiere next Tuesday at the Shortsfest, which runs online through April 11. Of the 80 entries from around the world, Diving In is the only one co-written by, co-directed by, and starring a bilateral leg amputee—and it’s almost surely the first such film these Hollywood muckety-mucks will ever have seen before. Let’s hope it opens some eyes as well as some doors.
We wish it were possible to buy a single-movie ticket, but this is Aspen. Nothing’s cheap. The most affordable pass is $60, which gets you access to about 35 shorts. It’s not an unreasonable price if you’re the type of celluloid junkie who would enjoy, over the course of a week, viewing 35 short films by some of the planet’s most dynamic screen artists. But if you’re really only interested in the one 12-minute film that features limb difference, $60 is just a tad on the high side.
Fortunately, the budget-minded viewer of amputee-produced short cinema is not without options. The Easterseals Disability Film Challenge (Home Edition 2.0), which opened on Saturday and continues through next Monday, April 5, includes six amputee-written and -directed movies, and you can watch them all for free on YouTube. They run about five minutes apiece, and all are in the genre of mockumentaries (i.e., fake documentaries such as This Is Spinal Tap or Best In Show). Here’s a quick introduction:
So You Wanna Be an Actor
Filmmaker: Rachel Handler, a three-time award winner in the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge
Summary: A veteran actor schools a young limb-different performer on the four types of roles that disabled people are allowed to play. Featuring former Amplitude cover subject Michaela Metz.
Filmmaker: Melanie Waldman, a Disability Film Challenge award winner in 2019
Summary: Couples bicker over flossing habits, bobby pins and word associations while their therapist asks the tough question: swipe left or swipe right?
Nexa, Talk to Me
Filmmaker: Stella Zwart
Summary: Is this young, single woman actually being trolled by her virtual assistant? Or just suffering the inevitable effects of 30+ days of quarantine? Featuring Emily Hopper of Amy Poehler’s Moxie.
Be My Inspiration
Filmmaker: Oscar Loreto, Jr.
Summary: A limb-different skateboarder from another world makes easy money as a hired “inspirational support person” to a hopelessly uninspired able-bodied dude. And he does not feel the least bit guilty about it.
Disability News Network
Filmmaker: John Lawson
Summary: A billionaire space entrepreneur offers to give a disabled person a ride into orbit. Cue the scammers, who fake all sorts of disabilities in an attempt to get in on the action.
Filmmakers: Nickolas Main and Patrick Forest
Summary: Ten years after losing his limb, an arm amputee tests the theory that you never forget how to ride a bike once you’ve learned how.