When I first called alumnus Michael Suglio, he was in a meeting for Short. Sweet. Film Fest., a festival scheduled for March 1-3, that he co-founded. “We just sold out of Friday tickets,” he exclaimed.
Suglio, who studied theater, psychology and political science at Case Western Reserve University, had an active presence on campus as a student. He served as the president of Model UN, directed musicals for Footlighters and drew political cartoons and wrote an advice column for “The Observer.”
He remembers his time at CWRU fondly, calling Robert Spadoni, Armington Professor of English, a “treasured mentor” and recommends students take a course with him. A professor himself, Suglio teaches part time at Cleveland State University and Cuyahoga Community College about screenwriting and film.
Suglio founded Short. Sweet. Film Fest. with Alex Pavloff in 2012. At the time, YouTube was not as prolific as it is today, only recently amassing popularity and was known as “the site with cat videos.”
“There was no real original content on YouTube then, so filmmakers would usually show their videos at the Cleveland International Film Festival [CIFF].” Suglio said.
However, Suglio envisioned a film festival with shorter films and a local focus. He wanted there to be more networking among filmmakers and patrons, an almost impossible feat at CIFF, with attendance in the thousands.
Short. Sweet. Film Fest.’s attendance is usually 400-500 people and is steadily shifting toward his vision. For the first time, half the films at this year’s festival have been produced by Cleveland filmmakers.
Filmmakers often learn about Short. Sweet. Film Fest. through word of mouth and submit their works through FilmFreeway. This year boasts the highest number of submissions: 448 films were submitted and 118 were chosen for the festival. Suglio attributes this to the ubiquity of technology, its accessibility allows more people to make films, creating a great film culture.
While submissions come from all over the world, Short. Sweet. Film Fest. is a more local festival and filmmakers take advantage of this to tap into the Midwest market.
Although Suglio watches all the submissions, a selection committee of three judges determines which films are displayed at Short. Sweet. Film Fest. Judges include David Tarbert, Cyprian Piroch and Alex Sherman.
Tarbet has won one Emmy Award and eight Telly Awards. His is a host and producer for Dave’s Big Fun on a Small Budget on FOX 8 and an executive producer of Tarbert Television.
Piroch is a writer and filmmaker who co-produced “A Tribute to the Fallen” with Suglio. The documentary follows Felix Constantino Cata-Al who dedicated his life to uncovering World War II relics. Since digging up a helmet at five years old, Cata-Al has returned the bodies of 28 Japanese soldiers to their families.
Sherman is a storyteller and producer and has helped produce shows like “Yo Gabba Gabba,” “Real Husbands of Hollywood” and “The Avengers.” He has also written for shows like “People of Earth,” “Final Space,” “Upload” and “Bless This Mess.”
Submissions are judged on artistic merit and narrative structure.
“A lot of films submitted don’t follow the beginning, middle and end process,” Suglio said. “Some experimental films work around the structure but with genres like romantic comedy, if there’s no structure, why watch it?”
Filmmakers vary from recent film school graduates and people who pick up film as a hobby.
“Some filmmakers resubmit the same film and I love being able to see their work grow over time,” Suglio said.
Regulars of the festival may notice free screenplay table readings and seminars have been added to the schedule. Suglio got the inspiration for screenplay table readings from South by Southwest, a film festival he attended in Austin, Texas.
“We have film seminars throughout the year for a small fee, but we thought it would be nice to appeal to people who may not necessarily want to just come and see films,” Suglio said.
Suglio hopes more CWRU students submit their work to the festival. He still maintains contact with several CWRU alumni, including Rebakah Camp who is the director of operations at Short. Sweet. Film Fest.
Another CWRU graduate is Liz Mercer who worked with Suglio at Short. Sweet. Film Fest. and currently runs her own music festival, Sophomore Slumpfest in North Carolina.
“CWRU isn’t just a science and engineering school, We have to celebrate arts and culture,” Suglio said. “Do we remember the Egyptians for their developments in science and engineering? No, we respect art, like the pyramids they built.”
The festival runs from March 1-3 at the Alex Theater.