By Daniel Borgen, PQ Monthly
At this point, you know the routine — or you should. It’s late autumn — November, to be precise — and your lazy, sunny Sundays on patios are long gone. Thanksgiving is a few short weeks away and you’re being hurled toward darker, damper days and full-blown seasonal affective disorder. (Unless you’re like me and winter has the opposite effect.) You spend Saturday nights staring down empty whiskey bottles, navigating the latest and greatest queer dance night, anything to counter the effects of the slew of family gatherings on the horizon.
Your service job gets busier and busier — throngs of suburban consumers want to spend wads of their sweet cash on all manner of landfill, their dead eyes showing the tiniest hints of life with the scan of each barcode. What could possibly stave off the bluest of winter blues?
Enter Shorty Shorts: you and a couple hundred of your closest friends nestled into one of the city’s coziest venues, Clinton Street Theater. It’s back! And all that art, energy, creativity, and community have breathed new life into your existence. Moviegoers arrive early, claim seats, and mingle like it’s a Sunday affair at Bridge Club or Control Top. Your hostess, Gula Delgatto — the architect of all things good and queer and short — exclaims, “Look at all these people mingling! I love it.” Over and over again, she implores, “Make art!”
Clinton is so full people have to stand in the back. Through each short film, they cheer, gasp, laugh, holler, moan — all their sounds add up to one certainty: engagement. The energy is infectious, and Gula’s standing up front with a microphone, playing the role of Oprah to her legions of followers. “You win a short!”
There were so many highlights in 2012, it’s genuinely difficult to choose even a few. Carla Rossi made an exceptionally hilarious workout video. David Fletcher taught us gay drunk history. Zach Banton beat his face (that’s drag talk) in a mirror while the audience admired his beauty. Melody Awesomazing, defending their mannequin-head life partner, proclaimed, “I think you’re body shaming him right now because he has no arms.” Andrew Barter narrated, from his bed, as we stared at his one-night stand’s back. He captured so perfectly the crazed moments we allow ourselves to have, when the butterflies in our stomach fly up into our throat, when we let ourselves imagine some kind of future with someone we’ve just met.
And that’s just the tip of the very gay iceberg.
Heart is what Shorty Shorts has in spades. Add in to the mix all the things: cleverness, humor, irony, and, sometimes, heartbreaking beauty. YouTube “Vag Land.” I dare you to watch it and not get weepy.
Shorty Shorts started in Eric Sellers’ (Gula Delgatto) kitchen over a bottle of whiskey, and it’s emerged as one of our community’s yearly highlights. Like Pride, but indoors. In a theater.
“We never expected this much support,” Sellers said. “The first year we were going to have Shorty Shorts at some random dive bar, but Q Center made it an event and we were thrilled by the turnout. The next year we moved to the Clinton Street Theater. We knew we had more of a following from the first year, but we never expected to completely pack the house. It was such an amazing feeling — so many facets of our community came together in one space. Shorty Shorts always surprises us, though. We are thinking — and hoping, praying, fingers crossed — that through word of mouth and promotion, we’ve reached a larger audience in the queer community. We really hope to see new people that we don’t normally see — on stage and the big screen, submitting shorts.”
“We have a humble little following outside of Portland, too — Chi Chi LaRue asked to submit something, and also Drew Droege of ‘Chloe’ fame will be creating something special just for us,” Sellers continued.
In addition to those celebrity contributions, Shorts organizers are adding a cocktail party to the menu. In an effort to maximize on the festival’s social vibe, they’ll have adult beverages available an hour before the show, making the mixing and mingling all that more pleasurable.
As the date approaches, Sellers gets more and more nervous. “Honestly, every year it comes down to the wire. We usually don’t get submissions until the last minute — however, the shorts that we make, we’re so excited about. And sometimes we make too many and have a hard time choosing between our babies. When all the submissions are in, it’s like Christmas.”
Gula and her army of organizers point to a variety of highlights coming this year, including “The Craft,” a remake of a movie trailer that features men in their 30s in the original girls’ roles. (I imagine that’ll be a crowd pleaser.) There’s also a horror short — never done before — and a spoof of several television shows, including “My Strange Addiction” and “E True Hollywood Story.” Hint: Amber Lynn.
“Again, we never anticipated this much support,” Sellers said. “People still approach me at random events and bars and say, ‘I loved the festival so much! It made me want to make my own film.’ Of course my reply is, ‘Do it! Make art.’ That is what Shorty Shorts is about — anyone can make a film. In the past year, I’ve heard Shorty Shorts used as a verb in the community. The term ‘make a Shorty Short’ has become part of our queer lingo.”
Indeed it has, Mr. Sellers/Ms. Delgatto — a part of our lingo and tradition.
The format is changing a bit from past years — most notably the opening hour cocktail soiree, where Gula plans to get up close and personal with fans and directors. She’ll be encouraging you to imbibe because, well, “a little booze makes a Short and Gula really entertaining.” During intermission, Ms. Delgatto will host a raffle and graciously provide snacks and food from some of her favorite local restaurants. And, at the very end, there will be a secret ballot and “People’s Choice” trophy awarded.
I was talking to a promoter friend of mine (Hi, Katey) recently about some events that happen to be going down the same night as Shorty Shorts. Her response: “Institutional queer art by local queer artist and contributors? No-brainer.” Precisely.
Have you cleared your calendar yet? The deadline for submissions is fast approaching — Oct. 25 — and the night in question is Nov. 7. Just plan on arriving at 7. Find more info at shortyshortsfilmfest.com/. Event information is right here. Bar opens at 7:30, show starts promptly at 9.