The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Short Film Contest Celebrates Astoria's Moviemaking Industry

 The Sparrow Film Project gives participants 3 weeks to create a 3-minute film based on an assigned theme.
The Sparrow Film Project
View Full Caption

ASTORIA — Three weeks. Three minutes. One film.

A local film competition is giving Astoria residents, from amateurs to pros, a chance to try their hand at movie-making — giving them a scant three weeks to crank out their best short on an eclectic theme.

The Sparrow Film Project was launched in 2008 by Evangelos Roumeliotis, owner of the Sparrow Tavern at 24-01 29th St. in Astoria, from which the project got its name.

"With Kaufman Astoria and Silvercup Studios in our backyard, Astoria and Long Island City's cinematic roots are deep; the area's film industry has thrived for decades," Roumeliotis said in a statement.

"However, we noticed that there wasn’t a local outlet for enthusiastic artists to express themselves. The Sparrow Film Project invites local filmmakers — amateurs, professionals and the simply curious — to participate and celebrate the art of film."

The festival has grown over the years, organizers said, and is celebrating its 10th edition this time around. Films were once screened informally, with a projector at The Sparrow Tavern and other neighborhood bars.

But this year the contest will end with a gala at the Museum of the Moving Image on Dec. 5, and the short films will be played on the big screen in the museum's Sumner M. Redstone Theater.

"It just slowly got better and better," said Sal Milazzo, a creative producer for the contest. "We figured since this was the tenth one, we wanted to get pretty ambitious."

For the first few years of its inception, contestants had to craft their films based on a given title, genre and prop. Past titles included phrases like "I Like Pie," and "Moroccan Birdhouse. "

"People just wrote random things and we had to make those movies," Milazzo said. "This time we decided to make it a lot more scholastic."

This year's competition is centered around the ideas of Russian scholar Vladimir Propp, who theorized that every fairytale is made up of 31 different plot elements or functions — things like "trickery," "struggle" and "recognition."

Each Sparrow film-making team was assigned one of Propp's 31 functions to base their movie on, and all 31 independently-made films will be woven together in order for the night of the screening.

Milazzo said contestants range from professional filmmakers to amateurs; some use high-quality equpment while others shoot on a cell phone; some of the short films are animated.

Participants are encouraged to interpret their assigned theme in any way they want, with the ultimate goal of the project to allow contestants to flex their creative muscles.

"By doing this, they're forcing you to think on your toes, which is really cool and the whole challenge of it," Milazzo said. "It's really an exercise in creativity."

The gala on Dec. 5 will feature live music, drinks, cocktails oysters and hors d’oeuvres, and an awards ceremony following the film screenings. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased online here.