The Gotta Minute Film Festival brings silent shorts to CTrain screens for the enjoyment of Calgary transit commuters

As the debate over public art in this city continues to rage, we’re about to get more.

Except your taxes don’t pay for it. It isn’t controversial. It won’t be permanent.

And all you have to do is look up.

It’s the Gotta Minute Film Festival, which takes place Monday, Sept. 24 to Sunday, Sept. 30, and will be shown on screens and free to commuters at CTrain stations around the city.

This is the first true year for the event in Calgary after four successful years in Edmonton, and it’s a collaboration between the Film and Video Arts Society of Alberta (FAVA) and Pattison Onestop.

It features public screenings of family-friendly works of exactly one minute in length (live action, stop-motion, animated, etc.) submitted by filmmakers from this province and around the world.

Prior to the inaugural event in this city — previously and this year as well, some selections are shown on screens at the airport — theYYSCENE spoke with Heather Noel, director of programming for the fest.

Q: What is the Gotta Minute Film Festival?

A: In a nutshell the Gotta Minute Film Festival screens one-minute, silent, short films in public spaces.

Q: How did it come about?

A: It’s actually modelled off of a festival that ran in Toronto for quite awhile called TUFF — the Toronto Underground Film Festival. And that festival was made possible by Pattison Onestop, who put advertising screens in the subway system there, and the founder of our festival, Beth Wishart MacKenzie, who is based out of Edmonton, she saw it there and, as a filmmaker herself, was really thrilled by this idea and wanted to see if we could do something similar out here …

Q: How many submissions did you get this year?

A: This year we got around 70, and the festival ultimately screens 36 films so we have to cut about half of them out. It has varied from year to year, so some years we’ve had over 100 submissions. I think because of the design of the festival, where you make a one-minute silent short, a lot of filmmakers will take up this project between bigger things. If they don’t have anything else going on right now it’s a fun, little challenge and it gets you to think about the visual medium in a different way. When you can’t rely on sound and just narrative and storytelling, it challenges you to figure out how to condense an idea into a minute, which is, I think, a really healthy exercise for an artist.

Q: Why are you bringing it to Calgary? Was there a demand for it?

A: Definitely — we have submissions from all over Alberta, including Calgary. But I think mainly (it’s) because of our relationship with Pattison. We have been screening at the Calgary airport for a several years, because they have a screen there, and so when they told us they were putting screens in the CTrain stations it just made sense to expand the festival there and hopefully make the festival even more regional in its focus.

Because we’ve been based out of Edmonton and most of our venues have been in Edmonton, we’ve done a Spirit of Edmonton award and although we’re just dipping our toes in the Calgary market at this point, we’d like to start doing something like that in the future, recognizing films that come from a specific place.

Q: There are other prizes for this though, aren’t there?

A: Yeah, there are. The prizes are really good for this festival, so we do give a first-place prize for one film and they win $1,000 plus other prizes, $500 for second place and then there’s a bunch of other $250 prizes — there’s third place, we do best animation, we do best non-fiction, we do a best short by a youth filmmaker and a few others as well including audience favourite …

The festival runs in public spaces from Monday until Sunday and then on Sunday, Sept. 30 we also do an awards show in Edmonton where we announce the awards, and then the winners get screened with a live musical performance, where a musician has composed a piece of music specifically for that (film). The filmmakers don’t get to hear that and they don’t know, too, they’re going to win before … so it’s very exciting for the filmmakers to see how the musician has interpreted their piece.

Q: Has anyone ever missed a train because of the festival?

A: (Laughs) I hope so. I don’t know, but I would hope so. I am not a driver myself so I love when I’m taking the LRT in Edmonton when the festival is on. And even though I’ve seen them so many times, I don’t know, there’s something about seeing them in this way — they screen once a minute every five minutes (six different films each day, with the award winners showing on Sunday), so you don’t know which one is going to show up — there’s something really exciting about when it comes on. We see so much advertising in public spaces, but to just see something that is there to be appreciated on an artistic level, it’s just so exciting.

(Image is a screen capture from filmmaker b.h. Yael’s entry No Lies.)

The Gotta Minute Film Festival takes place Monday, Sept. 24 to 30 at CTrain stations around the city. Non-transit users can also screen all of the films beginning Monday at