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Festival’s atmosphere attracts filmmakers

Updated February 7, 2019 - 7:21 am

The 15th annual Dam Short Film Festival starts today and with it comes more than 130 short films to be screened, including several with well-known Hollywood actors and screenwriters.

Among those to be shown is “Laboratory Conditions,” a 16-minute science fiction film written by Terry Rossio, who wrote “Aladdin” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”

Producer Joe Russell said the film tells the story of Dr. Emma Holloway, played by Academy Award winner Marisa Tomei, who is investigating a missing patient. Through her search, she disrupts an illegal experiment being done by Marjorie Cane, played by Minnie Driver. Cane and her team are recording people as they die to either prove or disprove the existence of the human soul.

Rossio had the idea for the film and started writing it more than 30 years ago after reading a story about a rich person offering money for someone to prove there was a human soul, according to Russell. He did not have the ending until about 10 years ago when he was walking the halls of Duke University medical school with the director of the film Jocelyn Stamat.

“They talked to me about partnering up,” Russell said.

The trio had met by chance when Russell was filming a low-budget science fiction movie at their home.

He said they decided to tell the story as a short film but treat it like a feature and for fun they decided to try to get celebrities to in it.

“We just wrote letters to all those famous people, and for whatever reason they said yes,” Russell said.

In addition to Tomei and Driver, the film stars Paulo Costanzo; composer Andrew Kawczynski at Hans Zimmer’s studio created the score.

“Laboratory Conditions” has already been screened at approximately 70 film festivals, including the Tribeca Film Festival, and won 25 awards.

“This is the very end of the festival run for us,” Russell said.

It’s also the first time he has been at the Dam Short Film Festival.

“I imagine it’s run by passionate people,” he said. “Everyone I’ve talked to seems really supportive.”

Actor, producer, director and writer David Marshall Silverman, who has starred in “The Walking Dead” television show, is attending his fifth Dam Short Film Festival this year and will be screening his film “The Producer.”

“I enjoy the people. … It’s rare that you find a festival that’s so engaging for the filmmaker,” he said.

Silverman’s film is about a producer who thinks he is having the biggest meeting of his life, but it turns out he’s being investigated for a crime and has been brought in for questioning.

He said he had the idea for it with when the #MeToo movement started and he was trying to respond in some way.

“I wrote the first script in October of 2017,” he said. “I thought it was funny.”

Silverman said after showing the script to some people he realized it wasn’t.

“All of a sudden I had this moral conscience that comedians (either) don’t have or don’t worry about,” he said.

Silverman rewrote it and created his “honest attempt to respond to the #MeToo” movement.

“I hope it’s thought provoking and will start a conversation,” he said.

The 15th annual Dam Short Film Festival starts at noon today, Feb. 7, and runs through Sunday, Feb. 10, at the Boulder Theatre. Festival passes and individual tickets are available for purchase at http://damshortfilm.org/.

Contact reporter Celia Shortt Goodyear at cgoodyear@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9401. Follow her on Twitter @csgoodyear.

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