'Hollywood, Elgin-style' short film fest on Saturday

Ten years in, the Elgin Short Film Festival continues to grow in quality and deliver its unique brand of "Hollywood, Elgin-style."

That's how festival co-chair Joe Vassallo described the upcoming 10th edition taking place Saturday, when six short films from the suburbs, California and even London will compete for the $1,000 prize at the Hemmens Cultural Center in downtown Elgin.

"The selection committee had a tough time this year ..." Vassallo said. He pointed to one of the film's special effects, saying, "I've never seen anything like that."

The festival is known for its "red carpet" extravaganza, during which filmmakers are dropped off by limousines and greeted by "paparazzi" and Jeff Myers, host of Elgin Today on local Channel 17. There will be dancers and music with a James Bond-type theme, Vassallo said.

Mike Toomey, a regular performer on WGN Morning News, will emcee the festival, whose finalists are three animated and three live action short films. The top three will be selected by a panel of "celebrity judges," including film professors from Elgin Community College and Columbia College Chicago. Audience members will vote for their favorite film as the seventh judge, Vassallo said.

Filmmakers these days can screen their short films on YouTube and Vimeo, but film festivals remain a great way to introduce shorts to audiences, said Kailyne Waters of North Aurora, who directed "The Go Cart."

"There's nothing like having that audience participation and having that immediate response to your film," she said.

The festival gets about 25 to 35 entries - all 20 minutes or less including credits - each year. Committee members selected four finalists and two more were chosen last week by audiences at the Elgin Fringe Festival.

One of those was "Bob and Edgar," directed by Bill Redding of Mount Prospect, who called the Elgin Short Film Festival a "hidden gem" with a great reputation. "I think (the partnership with Fringe) is a great concept," he said. "I got to go to the festival, brought a few people, and it was a great introduction to Elgin."

The other finalists are "Polaris" directed by Hikari Toriumi, "The Last Dance" directed by Chris Keller, "The Amazing Neckbeard" directed by Aaron Legg and "Margaret and the Moon" directed by Trevor Morgan, who as a teen appeared in the "The Sixth Sense," "The Patriot" and "Jurassic Park III."

The festival is sponsored by the city's cultural arts commission, which contributed about $6,000, said Vassallo, who also serves as commission chairman. Attendance is usually about 600 people; the Hemmens holds nearly 1,200.

"I would love to some day sell out the Hemmens," Vassallo said. "That would be the coolest thing ever."

The live action short film "Bob and Edgar," directed by Bill Redding of Mount Prospect, is among six finalists that will be shown Saturday at the Elgin Short Film Festival. Courtesy Bill Redding

Elgin Short Film Festival

When: Red carpet arrivals 6 p.m., film screenings 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Hemmens Cultural Center, 45 Symphony Way, Elgin

Extra: Full cash bar, popcorn from Mama Lee's Gourmet Popcorn, intermission performance by Chamber Music on the Fox and 1902 French silent short film "A Trip to the Moon."

Admission: $10

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