Every artform has its local ”scene.” Local bands put on concerts, poets organize readings, actors and directors write and stage plays, all in order to support one another and build a local audience to promote their craft.
But what about local filmmakers? That’s exactly what Mike Suglio, founder of the “Short. Sweet. Film Fest” asked back in 2011, while he was watching a band perform with some friends at Now That’s Class.
“We look around and we go, ‘Oh man, this is crazy! This whole audience is other musicians in other bands in Cleveland!’” he recalls. “They’re helping each other out, everyone’s drinking and having a good time. That’s awesome.”
He then started thinking about the Cleveland film scene, and realized that this sort of environment didn’t really exist for local filmmakers like himself. There was the Cleveland International Film Festival, of course, but there was very little time allotted for local films. All across Ohio, he noted, there were very few places for an aspiring filmmaker to show their work to an audience.
So, Suglio set out to change that. He held the first Short. Sweet. Film Fest in 2012 in the back room of Market Garden Brewery on West 25th Street in Ohio City, where he screened films from Cleveland and around the world for about 50 people. It was a great success. The next year, due to increased attendance, they had to hold the festival in the basement of the brewery. The year after that, the basement was too small to hold the audience.
To accommodate the growing attendance numbers, the festival was moved to the Alex Theater, part of the Metropolitan at The 9, right in the heart of downtown Cleveland. This will be the third year that the festival is being held there, and Suglio is excited for what this year’s festival has in store.
In the six years of its existence, the festival has continued to grow in popularity and prestige. He received over 200 submissions, up from around 150 in 2016. Suglio is proud to be screening Madaran, an American film that takes place in Iran that was almost nominated for an Oscar this past year, and holding a Q&A with Mehrdad Sarlak, an actor in the film.
True to his original vision, the festival is a great place for local filmmakers to meet one another, share their work, and celebrate their craft. “I’m always looking forward to the Friday’s local film night,” he says. “Both last year and this year we had so many local submissions, we were able to make one night just local films. There’s always high energy, high excitement, positive vibes—it’s a fun party.’
Personally, Suglio gets a lot out of the experience. “What’s really cool is when I get to finally meet the directors. I’ve learned something very, very personal about them,” he explains. “Filmmaking is a very personal thing. Unless you’ve seen their film, you don’t know how they see things.”
This is all made even more special by the overall collective experience of watching a film in a crowded theater of excited moviegoers. “We’ve gotten used to film being a solo experience,” Suglio laments, pointing out the cinematic experience, once a valued and unique event, is slowly disappearing. The Short. Sweet. Film Fest helps keep this tradition alive.
Nowhere else in Cleveland is there a place for filmmakers to share their work in this way, a point of pride for Suglio and everyone involved with the festival. “Not only am I passionate about the festival,” Suglio points out, “but so many Cleveland filmmakers are passionate about their film, Cleveland film, and the idea of having a festival.”
The Short. Sweet. Film Fest is happening Friday through Sunday, March 3-5. Go to shortsweetfilmfest.com for tickets and a complete schedule of screenings.