Stepping Out

'Little’ films in the spotlight

The Short Film Concert offers up a peek at filmmaking creativity

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Short films are have hit it big. Some of the best can be screened on Friday, at the Madison Theatre in Rockville Centre, when Asbury Shorts’ Short Film Concert returns to Long Island with its latest edition.

This national touring showcase of films — including award-winners — brings cinematic gems to a wide audience on the big screen.

“We have certainly become the concert’s Long Island home,” says Angelo Fraboni, the Madison Theatre’s artistic director. “Storytelling is woven into the fabric of our culture. And, great short films are brilliant precise storytellers. I am amazed at the emotions that can be pulled from me in a three to five minute short film.”

“The audience is engaged in multiple journeys during these concerts that keeps them on a thrilling rollercoaster that have them coming back year after year.”

And come back, they do. The event maintains its loyal following, here and nationwide.

“We just keep growing,” says Doug LeClaire, Asbury Shorts’ director and founder. “Last year we did the most shows in our 40-year history. That means we are succeeding in our mission, which is to get indie shorts out to people who don’t normally go to film festivals.”

It’s a long way from Asbury Shorts’ start as an event LeClaire created to get college films noticed in the early ‘80s.

“We’ve evolved into a way to bring award-winning short films to an audience. These are films that deserve to be seen.”

Don’t call LeClaire’s event a festival however. He insists it’s a “concert.”

“We are not a festival, since this is not a competitive event,” he explains. “We combine shorts from past screenings with current film festival winners and first-time filmmakers. We are giving life to filmmaker’s projects. So it’s a mix of old hits and new hits, just like a concert. If you don’t like a certain film, hang on and you’ll like the next one.”

“I don’t expect everyone to like them all. It’s a successful night for me if audiences like five or six.”

The slate of films is designed to entertain across the genres — comedy, drama and animation (with the occasional documentary making an appearance) — from up-and-coming filmmakers, along with prominent directors.

Asbury Shorts had its start in 1981 (on Asbury Avenue in Westbury) as a showcase of student-produced shorts from local colleges, guided by LeClaire, who was then a recent graduate of New York Institute of Technology,

“It’s been a labor of love for those of us who work in the film business in New York,” he says. “Our show is like a trip to the best film festivals in the world where you sample the elite of the short film genre but without competition.”

LeClaire, who was a commercial producer for over two decades, remains passionate about giving filmmakers an audience for their creative efforts.

“Our number one priority is the enjoyment of our audience,” he says. “We’re proud to provide an outlet for the filmmakers’ product. “We give them the opportunity to experience great films on real theater screens the way they were meant to be seen. I guarantee that the majority of the audience hasn’t seen most of these films before.”

As always, all films shown are 20 minutes or less in length. The program includes selections from the film festival circuit and, of course, Academy Award-nominated titles. “It’s an eclectic lineup,” says LeClaire. “In true Asbury style, it’s a fast paced night in two acts. And all have an award pedigree of some kind.”

This year’s edition includes some “classics” that are audience favorites from previous shows, along with films making their New York area premieres.

Highlights include “Sac De Merde,” a new comedy from director Greg Chwerchak (who directed the 2007 coming-of-age feature “’Greetings From the Shore”). It tells of an unlucky-in-love yet irrationally optimistic New Yorker who thinks her luck has changed when she spends the night with the man of her dreams. But as it turns out, that’s not exactly so. Written by and starring Arielle Haller- Silverstone, it also features David Fumero, currently in the cast of the hit STARZ series: “Power.”

“It’s a bit risqué, but very well done,” says LeClaire, of the film, which runs 13 minutes. So we’ve put it in Act 2.”

Another selection “The Suitor,” from Australian TV commercial director Kate Riedl, tells a surreal tale of young courtship in the wilds of the Australian outback. The dark comedy has been a hit on the festival circuit. “It’s a cool little comedy,” says LeClaire.

He also touts “The Drive,” the poignant story of Evie, a loving daughter who struggles with role reversal as she drives her aging parents to an assisted living facility. “The subject is very relatable,” says LeClaire. “It’s nice story that provides an emotional impact — in seven minutes. The casting in this is really well done.”

Of course, there’s plenty more that LeClaire won’t share. “I can’t reveal the entire lineup,” he says. “We want to be theatrical.” That might even mean that there might even be some “surprises” added in. “You’ll just have to come and see for yourself,” he says. “We always like to surprise our audience.”

Short Film Concert

When: Friday, April 20, 7:30 p.m. $15.

Where: Madison Theatre, Molloy College, 1000 Hempstead Ave.,

Rockville Centre. (516) 323-4444 or www.madisontheatreny.org.