BOXOFFICE had the chance to speak to some of the directors behind this year's batch of Oscar nominated shorts.

Short and Sweet

on February 13, 2009 by Phil Contrino

While Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are making their way into the Kodak Theatre for the Oscar ceremony amid a flurry of flashing bulbs, another group of artists will be quietly taking everything in as they find their seats.

Every year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Science nominates a handful of short films in three categories: Live Action, Animated and Best Documentary (Short Subject). By doing so, they're able to shine the spotlight, if only for a brief moment, on some very deserving filmmakers.

B OXOFFICE had the chance to speak with some of those filmmakers about being nominated for an Oscar. While many movie stars share the same stories about being called by their agents after the nominations are announced, the experience feels differently for shorts directors.

"I was not, like the stars say, asleep and my agent called me. My mother called me ... I think she loves that she is the one that told me, so it was fun and I sort of screamed for a couple of minutes and I went back to sleep," New Boy writer/director Steph Green told B OXOFFICE. Green's film, which is based on a short story by Roddy Doyle about a nine-year-old African boy who is forced to adjust to a new school, has been nominated in the Best Short Film (Live Action) category along with Auf Der Strecke (On The Line), Manon on the Asphalt, New Boy, The Pig and Spielzeugland (Toyland).

"It's funny actually, we didn't get the phone calls. I guess my friends back East were courteous enough to just leave voice mails and let us actually sleep, which was nice," said Presto director Doug Sweetland. Presto, which mainstream audiences will remember as the short that played in front of WALL-E, has been nominated in the Best Short Film (Animated) category along with La Maison En Petits Cubes, Lavatory - Lovestory, Oktapodi and This Way Up.

Even though Pixar was planning to play Presto before their latest hit collaboration with Disney, Sweetland said that decision didn't effect his film.

"They are really only thinking about what they respond to on a gut level. So there is no heady decision making as far as crafting the perfect appetizer, if you will, for the main course being WALL-E," said Sweetland.

While Presto is a light-hearted film, some of the other nominees are considerably more dramatic and dark. Jochen Alexander Freydank's short Spielzeugland (Toyland) is about a group of children whose parents attempt to hide the Holocaust from them. The idea for the film came to Freydank when he was watching a particularly dreary news broadcast and his little son started watching it as well, which caused him to turn the television off.

While some short films are ultimately turned into features, most filmmakers use them as a stepping stone or as an opportunity to learn their craft. Either way, they give a bunch of humble filmmakers the chance to hang out with movie stars.

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