Blog: NYTVF- NBCUniversal's Short Cuts Festival
The 2011 New York Television Festival’s second day treated attendees to many notable highlights- a sneak preview of NBC’s newest drama series “Prime Suspect” starring Maria Bello, a red carpet premiere of the Logo channel’s latest show A-List: Dallas, and “Short Cuts,” a two hour short film festival created as part of the NBCUniversal Diversity Initiative Program. The eight semi-finalists were gathered at the School of Visual Arts in Chelsea on this night to screen their short films in front of a live audience, before the winner is announced next month in Los Angeles. Prizes include an NBC Holding Contract, $60,000 of camera equipment from Panavision, and a blank script deal from Universal Media Studios, all going to some of the top performers from the festival. While the event revolved around the talented actors and directors on screen, it was the host and emcee of the evening that brought LocalBozo.com to the dance.
JB Smoove has been a successful stand up and comedy writer for years. However his 2007 casting as “Leon Black,” a Hurricane Katrina survivor on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is the role that transcended his career and brought Smoove into the spotlight. Announced as the guest host for “Short Cuts,” Smoove graciously walked the red carpet prior to the Festival’s commencement, briefly pausing for interviews and press photos, while inside the theater, the free open bar sponsored by Stella Artois was wrapping up.
As an African American who, after years of working in bit parts, seems to have truly found his comedic voice, Smoove proved an ideal guest for the role of host- often improvising banter with each of the directors between short films. Some of them had a “deer in the headlights look,” uncertain how to respond to his antics, while others clowned around onstage as if they’d been long time friends. But Smoove was comfortable as ever, marveling at each short work presented, and weaving in on-the-fly jokes about something that struck him in each film.
Smoove may have been the proverbial drawing card, but the films themselves showed an incredibly talented and culturally diverse group of young directors that appear headed for stardom. Highlights like Gina Atwater’s “Crossing,” a depiction of a black teenager in 1960′s Georgia coming to grips with the harsh effects of segregation, when he defiantly walks into his white employer’s home, was both heart-pounding and captivating. Al Thompson’s “Odessa,” was a sci-fi look at a father and daughter on the run, both of which share superhero like psychokinetic abilities, and was very well made, especially considering the effects produced with a small budget. “Blackstone,” was the terrifying horror entry, starring Sasha Grey (Entourage and…well, you know) and J.K. Simmons (Juno), about a family getting killed in Manson-esque fashion.
The three comedy entries were each funny in different ways- “Celebrity Costume Party” revolved around two guys trying to get into a party dressed like Denzel Washington and Wesley Snipes, “Blind” tackled the anxiety of a blind date and the trepidation therein, and “Couples Therapy,” showed a gay couple marred by a repetition that all couples seem destined to experience in one way or another. Our favorite had to be the powerful “Crossing,” but arguments could legitimately be made for each of the semi-finalists. Their ideas and scripts were both creative and inspirational, and their successes to this point have been justified. The true crime is that there can only be one winner in the competition, and while we came to see JB Smoove, the amount of creativity in the building was genuinely eye-opening. NBCUniversal should have no shortage of a talent pool from which to select.
For more information on the New York Television Festival and to secure tickets for the remaining events, check out NYTVF.com.
- Jane Van Arsdale