I thought the shorts that worked best this year came from directors who trusted their actors and gave them proper breathing room to flesh out the stories. Toronto Youth Shorts alumni, Jevon Boreland, created one such example in To Kill A Secret, starring Mark Taylor of Flashpoint and Student Bodies fame. The short doesn't explore new territory narratively but audiences are drawn into this world because of the strong performances, which also includes those by Glenn Cashin and Melissa Cultraro. Same can be said about Zac Pinto-Lobo's Where Monsters Live, a short that again doesn't tread any new waters and potentially could've been very hammy but it works because of its cast, in particular child actor Jonah Vogel. Stephanie Brister carries What Memories Hold directed by Ryan Doyle with a performance that make audiences empathetic and frustrated at the same time.
I was even more impressed overall with the slate of Portfolio Screening films. Despite bigger constraints that included a limited run time (everything is under 8 minutes), a max of only two days to shoot, and must feature students in lead roles so they couldn't rely on experienced ACTRA performers to take the reign, the end result worked for the most part. Writer and actor, Robert Ryan Reyes, showed off his physical comedic chops in the hilarious Landed Citizen by Lara Cordiano. Matt Takatsch's Oscar did very well in creating atmosphere and building tension, scaring the theatre audiences to a point where many of them were screaming. Diego Perez Del Rio enhanced Simone DaSilva's wordless performance with his score in Staccato, which he also directed.
With an industry that is trying to more and more to satiate a young audience with over the top action pieces, it's nice to see the next generation of filmmaking talent recognize the small moments that can be cinematically compelling.