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Cover Story

Dam Short Film Festival
110+ Short Films

By John LaBonney

What’s the difference between a feature film and a short film? You might say that a short film is the same as a feature film, just shorter! The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences defines short films as films with a running time of forty minutes or less. Short films are often dramas, animations, documentaries, student works, comedies, science-fiction tales and horror stories.

Feature-length Hollywood productions often sport multi-million dollar budgets, but short films can be made on a budget of a few thousand, or even a few hundred dollars, leaving them within the grasp of enthusiasts, hobbyists, and those interested in pursuing the art of filmmaking. Unlike a feature, a short film usually has no financial goal, giving the filmmaker creative freedom and the ability to make whatever kind of film he desires. Concepts that wouldn’t be successful in a commercial production are creative fodder for the short filmmaker.

If there is very little, or more often no profit to be made, then why bother? Primarily, filmmakers make films because they are artists and desire to share their vision with the world. Short films provide the opportunity to hone filmmaking skills, network with industry professionals, and on occasion, a short film can even provide a stepping-stone to work in feature filmmaking.

While exhibiting short films on the Internet does provide some opportunity to find an audience, short films are rarely played in public, and many thousands of short films made each year go unseen. Film festivals are one of the best outlets for filmmakers to get their work seen by others, and The Dam Short Film Festival was founded for just this reason.

Co-founded in 2004 by Lee and Anita Lanier, the Dam Short Film Festival is entering its 9th year. Lee worked in Hollywood for a number of years, first in film production and then in digital visual effects and feature animation.

Last year the festival broke attendance records. Local restaurant The Dillinger, a new festival sponsor, also saw record business levels during the festival last year.

This season the festival runs February 6th through 9th, and will showcase approximately 120 unique films from all over the world.

The films are grouped into thematic programs running a total of sixty to seventy-five minutes, with individual short films ranging in length from two to thirty minutes. The subjects and styles of the films are extremely varied. The programs feature comedy, science-fiction, horror, crime, drama, romance, and more.

Traditionally, many of the filmmakers travel to the festival, and most programs include a question and answer session with the directors, producers, and/or actors. The Filmmaker Panel, an event at which filmmakers discuss their films and details about how they were made, has become a popular tradition at the Dam Short Film Festival, and gives attendees an additional opportunity to interact with the directors.

This year the festival will also screen two additional programs: a ninety-minute comedy program from the Found Footage Festival, and a selection of films from the Viscera Film Festival, a fest specializing in horror films directed or produced by women.

Other scheduled events include The Ninth Annual Dam Mixer, a Press Conference, and the Post-Awards Party.

Once again, the festival returns to the beautiful and historic Boulder Theatre. For those who have never had a chance to see a movie in the old Boulder Theatre, this is a unique opportunity.

The festival is organized by the Dam Short Film Society, a 501(c)3 non-profit Nevada corporation. Cash and in-kind donations are a critical piece of the puzzle. If you’d like become a festival sponsor (there are many different sponsor levels), please contact the Dam Short Film Festival at or (702) 509-4326.

Tickets are $7 per program and may be purchased at the door during the event. A 4-Day Pass, good for all screenings and special events, is available for $75. For details and a complete festival schedule, visit

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