There may be some of you, though I don’t understand how, who do not know about the Big Sur International Short Film Screening Series. Let me give you a taste of a summer Thursday evening at the Henry Miller Library:
It’ll be sundown, but there will still be some light in the sky, and you’ll enter the library which is lit at the this twilight hour by string lights guiding you down the path to the redwood grove, which is where I sit. You’ll find me sitting beneath the three massive redwoods in our front yard greeting visitors, handing out programs, encouraging people to make their ways to the popcorn table or perhaps to help themselves to a cup of tea or a burger from the fantastic guys at the Maiden Publick House (who have an annex kitchen on our front porch each Wednesday and Thursday night and cook the worlds best burgers for a mere 5 dollars). Then you’ll walk into the lawn and realize that what on any other day is a lawn has turned into a beautiful movie theatre with tables for large groups of people with candles, flowers, and brochures about upcoming events at the library. For those of you who are no-fuss theatre-goers and are more interested in a conventionally “good” movie seat, you might find yourself selecting a seat from the rows in front of the tables. Pick your pleasure. You might even decide to throw a blanket down on the ground anywhere you please and lay down for the movies – the sky’s the limit.
After you select your favorite seat, perhaps saving it with a coat you’ll need when the sun goes down for good, you will, I’m sure, make your way to Mary Lu’s popcorn table. Mary Lu Torén cooks up truly homemade popcorn each week, seasoning it to perfection with butter and salt in one bowl and butter, garlic, and salt in the next. The fact that the taste of the popcorn will send you back to the first time you had that perfect kernel is only part of the joy of the snacks at the short films. My favorite part is the fact that Mary Lu is one of the loveliest women in the world, and every hungry popcorn muncher is privy to a smile and a genuinely warm greeting from her heart. You can’t BEAT that. You just can’t.
Perhaps your hunger is a little more than a bag of popcorn could sate. Not to worry – on the other side of the deck you’ll find Shaun Biglin cooking up burgers grilled to order. These are not frozen patties from some wholesale club. These are delicious hamburgers hand formed with love at the Maiden Publick House in Big Sur and brought to us with a variety of toppings, condiments, chips and sodas. It’s basically the best barbeque you’ve ever been invited to. And those vegetarians out there – not to fear, tasty meat-free versions of these burgers are available for the same feels-like-you’re-stealing-price of 5 bucks!
If you’ve successfully made your way to each of these tables you undoubtedly ran into at least five friends or friendly people you’ve just met. Everyone is happy at the short film night – how could you NOT be based on my description? Everyone loves short films! Everyone loves popcorn! Everyone!
After you eat your food and browse in the bookstore, the sun’s gone down enough for the main event. Magnus then comes out to make sure you find your seat, are comfortable, and ready for some short films. You will be ready, trust me. After a brief introduction, the lights go out, the film goes up and you’re already enrapt in the show.
There will be between four and six short films, but the run time will always be a little over an hour – we know you value your sleep, and your opportunity to get more popcorn (and so we have occasional bathroom and popcorn-refill breaks!). After the last film winds down and the lights go up, before you leave, make sure you hand your program back to me with your scores on it – that’s right! Your scores! We ask for your input on several different aspects of each short film – direction, sound and score, and screenplay. Your votes go toward the “best of” which are featured in the gala finale at the end of the summer (an event which is so special and unique that it deserves its own blog post).
This year not only your votes but the votes of several guest judges will go toward the winners of the series:
Performance artist and composer (and friend of the library!) Laurie Anderson
Composer and three time Oscar nominee Philip Glass
Oscar nominated actor Woody Harrelson
Film editor Susan Littenberg,
Oscar award winning cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond
And film producer Lawrence Inglee
Can you believe it?! These incredibly busy people are kind enough to sign on to help out with our fifth year of the Big Sur International Short Film Screening Series to help us pick the winners. I can barely believe it myself.
Doesn’t that sound like the most perfect Thursday evening that could exist? I’m fairly certain that it is. I know that if I didn’t work here, I wouldn’t miss a single week. Perhaps I’m so happy to walk you through the evening because it’s my dream to attend the event. Not to worry – it’s generally my preference to get to talk to you all on your way in.
Which brings me to another of my favorite aspects of the Big Sur International Short Film Screening Series – the fact that there are people who rarely miss a week, yet I only see them on Thursdays (either because I work most every day and night in the summer or because they only come out for the movies). I have similar tastes in movies with Sharon and Jaci (our goddess-meets-accountant). I get my weekly hug from Toby and Linda. I always know when the Big Sur Bakery closes because that’s when Amanda and Carissa show up (sadly they generally only get to see the last movie or two). I look forward to seeing Joel, Nate, or Eric from the Pub come check on and help out with the burger sales. The long and short of it is that it’s a lovely community event – those of you who live here know that and those of you who visit Big Sur are lucky to have the local tip on Thursday nights!
I can’t wait for the movies to start, all this talking about it has got me excited. We have to wait till June 11th (which, happy birthday to me, happens to be a very special day!).
I don’t have to wait that long to see short films, though: I get to go home tonight and watch as many as I can before drifting off to sleep. Eric, Magnus and I each have a big CD binder stuffed to the gills with DVDs sent to us from all corners of the world. Some of them are great, some of them are not as great, and we will do the weeding out of the less-than-stellar ones for you so that when you come to the library on a Thursday night you won’t have to watch sub-par movies (this is the same idea behind our hand-selected bookstore – we go through all the crap so that we only offer you the best).
For more information about the short films, check out our short film website