LAist: Zachary Sluser’s Short Film “Path Lights”

Short Films: More Than the Art of the Calling Card?


We are certainly in a sea change when it comes to media, but for every time someone has cried that the end is nigh, books, newspaper, film–whatever is on its deathbed in a given news cycle–continues to push ahead, continues to march on. In the case of Hollywood, YouTube, Netflix and OnDemad have continued to pull film out of the theater, a process that began with VHS and video rental, and deeper into the home. These media and formats may seem better suited for shorter work, yet feature-length films still reign supreme. But with studios tightening their purse strings and the budget needed for a feature film almost always far beyond the bank balance and fund raising prowess of up-and-coming filmmakers, directors without studio backing have to find other ways to show their vision. So short films–which find their way through world by playing at film festivals and in any variety of online platforms–are the go to, if not most desirable, format for directors looking for that big feature film break.

LAist spoke to one such LA-based director, Zachary Sluser, who’s latest short film, “Path Lights” is making its Los Angeles debut tonight at the AFI Mark Goodson Theater after having played at a number of film festivals around the country, including the Woodstock Film Festival in upstate New York. Based on a short story by author Tom Drury published by The New Yorker in 2005, “Path Lights” was shot in Los Angeles in the spring of this year.

“I think that short films are primarily made as calling cards, either as truncated versions of a feature length or as stand-alone pieces that showcase the director’s style and capabilities. I do think that no matter what the intention is for making the film, once it is being made, it should stand alone as it’s own piece of art,” Sluser said about the role of short film in Hollywood. Considering all of the calling card shorts that must be floating around Los Angeles and remembering those that managed to become something much more–Tod Haynes’ “Superstar,” the all-Barbie cast Karen Carpenter biopic, is a stand out that comes to mind–it seems strange that our city, so synonymous with film, doesn’t have much in the way of outlets for screening and viewing shorts. New York City, so strongly associated with book publishing, offers much more for authors writing short fiction–the short story and novel being analogous to the short and feature film in many ways–with its glut of reading series and various print outlets, including The New Yorker, where Drury’s story was published.

Described as a “thought-provoking, comedy-noir that puts a human spin on the tradition of detective hero films,” the plot follows Bobby (John Hawkes)–who makes his living doing voiceovers for serial detective pulps–as he makes his way through a mystery that appears in his own life. An avid film buff, Sluser kept the noir history, both in film and literature, of LA in mind in shooting the film. “Because Bobby is the voice for these detective serials on tape, and he himself is very much the opposite of the classic “Sam Spade” detective, we chose to use the film noir grammar in ways that show how out of his element Bobby is,” in dealing with mystery outside of the sound studio, Sluser said. “So I think it makes sense that the film is set in the quiet neighborhoods of Pasadena. Close enough to the film noir history in LA, and at the same time quite removed.”

“Path Lights” is screening tonight at 8:00 PM at AFI Mark Goodson Theater in the Mayer Library Building (2021 N. Western Ave.).

By Willy Blackmore in Arts & Events on October 27, 2009 10:00 AM

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One Response to “LAist: Zachary Sluser’s Short Film “Path Lights””

  1.   Book Festivals In Los Angeles  by In the News Events Says:

    […] h LAist: Zachary Sluser’s Short Film “Path Lights” · … who’s latest short film, “Path Lights” is making its Los Angeles debut […]


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