Thursday, May 23

L.A. Comedy Shorts Film Festival puts humorous theater in the spotlight at Downtown Independent

If there was a short comedy film made about a film festival, one of the panels at said festival would probably sound something like “Famous People Talking About S&*%.”

It’s only fitting that this panel is actually on the slate for the 2011 L.A. Comedy Shorts Film Festival, opening Thursday at the Downtown Independent theater.

Festival artistic director Gary Anthony Williams (“Boston Legal,” “The Boondocks”) and festival director Jeannie Roshar stressed the benefits of coming to the theater and seeing the shorts live, rather than on a laptop.

“There’s always value in coming together and watching something live in a theater with a group of people. Online, things tend to be about five minutes or less, but in a theater, longer definitely works, too,” Roshar said.

The 2 p.m. (“As Seen on TV”) and 4 p.m. (“Boys, Toys & Goys”) screening blocks on Friday will be free to UCLA students who show their BruinCard.

Submissions to the festival are judged on a number of criteria. Those entering the screenwriting portion of the festival are evaluated for story, dialogue, characters and originality. Although it may seem obvious, there is one overarching requirement that trumps all others: be funny.

Williams said that fulfilling this goal is something accomplished not only by people with diverse backgrounds, but also by people with varied financial means.

“We had one winner last year whose budget was $200 and another that was $30,000,” Williams said.

While belly laughing and knee-slapping in the theater are central to any comedy film festival, the L.A. Comedy Shorts Film Festival has post-screening events planned where filmmakers can network and interact with fellow funny people.

The festival’s opening night get-together is a Celebrity Karaoke Party hosted by Cedric Yarbrough (“Reno 911!”) and Mary Elizabeth Ellis (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”).

The festival culminates on Sunday night with the presentation of the Commie Award to Wendi McLendon-Covey, historically given to someone in the industry for career achievement and “excelling in achieving outstanding comedical achievements in the field of comedy excellence.”

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