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An "SNL" star takes supporting role and lesser-known artists shine at DC Shorts Film Festival

Steve Siddell and Horatio Sanz in "Me Time," a short film by Matt Schuman screened at the DC Shorts Film Festival (Courtesy of DC Shorts Film Festival)

The director of possibly the best short film screened Friday at the D.C. Shorts Film Festival sidled up to the director of arguably the night's second best short as their audience began to exit the theater.

"So how do you know Horatio Sanz?" Luke Matheny asked Matt Schuman -- and then noticed that the former "Saturday Night Live" star, a featured player in Schuman's 11-minute "Me Time," was sitting right there.

"Oh," said Matheny. "Wow."

It was an unlikely VIP cameo at the seventh annual festival, which -- by virtue of its under-20-minutes format -- celebrates the unknowns and strivers of the moviemaking biz. (The next biggest name at D.C. Shorts, which runs through Thursday, was Roger Ross Williams, Best Documentary Short Oscar winner this year for "Music by Prudence.") Sanz wasn't even the star but a supporting player in "Me Time," the story of a guy trying to break up with his friends. How did Schuman, a music-video director, manage to snag the nation's best Bill Richardson impersonator for such a little role in such a little movie?

"My girlfriend's friends with his girlfriend," Sanz said, "and we became friends."

Sanz (beard, dark-framed glasses, thinner in person) said the genre is, for most filmmakers, simply "a way to show your work" -- no one gets rich from shorts. Asked during a post-screening Q&A why they made their films, the directors gave varying answers: To complete my MFA . . . to call attention to the problems of women with uterus didelphys . . . to try to get into feature films.

"It was important to make this movie," answered Rob Parrish, D.C. director of "Snowpocalypse: Day 6" (a one-minute vignette of his daughter shooting rubber darts at his head), "because we'd been trapped in the house and needed something to do."

Most of the directors said they'd spent a couple of thousand dollars on their shorts. This made Matheny -- who won a Student Oscar for "God of Love," a Cupid-comes-to-Brooklyn comedy -- suddenly self-conscious. His film cost $25,000, he said: "But I received many grants!"

CORRECTION: This story has been corrected to reflect Matheny's cost of producing his movie.

By The Reliable Source  |  September 13, 2010; 1:03 AM ET
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