Thirteen is lucky for Love Your Shorts

Sanford festival embraces international and local films

Exclusive to MeierMovies, February 7, 2023

Some would say the Love Your Shorts Film Festival, now in its 13th year, is lucky. After all, the festival started on a wing and a prayer in the Chamber of Commerce building in Sanford, Florida, and has since grown into arguably the second-best movie fest in the Orlando area, trailing only the Oscar-qualifying Florida Film Festival.

Not discounting luck entirely, festival organizers would likely paraphrase actor John Houseman when describing their success: They earned it.

“In the beginning, we had a core group of people that did everything,” co-founder Nelson Beverly once told me. “At our inaugural film festival in 2011, we created a theater from the ground up at our Chamber of Commerce. We had to rent a screen, borrow a projector, bring in chairs and even bring our own popcorn machine.”

How times have changed. Now firmly ensconced in the Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center’s 100-year-old Ritz Theater, the festival draws submissions from around the world. This year’s event, scheduled for February 9-12, will feature 75 short movies (30 minutes or less) from 12 countries, including Uprooted, by Ukrainian filmmakers Andzej Gavriss and Konstantin Koval. The fest will also see another movie by Sabine Crossen, a Parisian filmmaker with roots not just in France but also New Zealand and the United States.

“Love Your Shorts is my favorite festival because they make it special,” says Crossen.

Crossen’s last appearance at the festival, in 2020, was indeed special, as her Resurrection won the “Best of the Fest” award. Her Bievenue chez Candy (Welcome to Candy’s) will screen in this year’s Sci-Fi/Horror block.

But the event still embraces its local roots. A handful of this year’s films have UCF ties, and the fest’s Education Day, on Thursday, will feature seven locally produced shorts and a panel discussion with local moviemakers, in partnership with the Organization of Independent Filmmakers. Plus, as usual, the fest’s Florida Flavor section of shorts will screen on Sunday.

In addition, Orlando filmmaker Derek Ziegler’s film, A Murder Most Trivial, which he created for the Orlando 48 Hour Film Project last year, will screen in the Opening Night block on Friday at 7 p.m.

“I’ve been coming to the Love Your Shorts Film Festival for many years, but this is the first time having one of our own projects accepted into the fest,” Ziegler says. “It’s an absolute honor to be selected to screen during the Opening Night block. This block kicks off the event and sets the tone for the whole weekend, and it feels great to be a part of that.

“I look forward to Love Your Shorts every year. Not only do you get to spend the weekend watching great films from around the world, but you also get to meet and network with other talented filmmakers. It’s an entire weekend where we get to nerd-out on filmmaking. What’s not to love?”

It’s not just filmmakers who attend the festival, though, as is common with many other small fests. It’s the general public too. Indeed, the event typically draws 2,000-3,000 people each year from all over Central Florida but especially Sanford, a city of 61,000 that retains a noticeably small-town vibe.

“I love this fest because it is the culmination of a community’s dream into reality,” says festival director and Sanford champion Christina Holllerbach. “We have a dedicated life force of residents that want to make their town better, especially for the arts. Honoring filmmakers through sincere hospitality and connection to true film fans is essential to our festival’s philosophy.”

As usual, films are divided into 10 blocks, not including the Thursday group of local films. After the Opening Night block on Friday, movies are organized into E for Everyone (family friendly), Animation (intermittently family friendly), Documentary, International, Comedy and Sci-Fi/Horror (definitely not family friendly) on Saturday. Drama, Florida Favor and Best of the Fest follow on Sunday. That latter group will consist of the most popular film of each previous block, as selected by the audience, plus one additional pick from the selection committee (if that pick hasn’t already been selected by the audience). Then a group of judges will choose the best overall film.

Speaking of judges, Tracy Frenkel has offered his critical eye since the festival started.

“LYSFF and the town of Sanford consistently, genuinely welcomes and encourages filmmakers internationally,” Frenkel, a local actor, casting director and producer says. “The attention to detail at all levels of fest organization is exceptional. [It’s a] fest in an amazing venue that creates a true sense of family and support for the attending filmmakers and audience alike. Consistently, every year I am happy to be included as part of the LYSFF family and the reenergization that it brings to our local film community.”

Board member and festival co-founder Gene Kruckemyer echoes Frenkel’s comments.

“We’re feeling pretty good about this being the 13th year of the festival because it’s coming after two complicated years of lockdowns and quarantines,” Kruckemyer says. “The festival is a lot of work for our board throughout the year, but we’ve been fortunate since the beginning to have generous sponsors, dedicated volunteers and creative filmmakers who have learned about us and want to submit films. Many of the filmmakers come from around the country and even abroad.

“From the beginning, our volunteer board has been made up of friends, which helps overcome hurdles that come up when putting together something like this. The first year of the festival when we didn’t know what kind of turnout to expect, we had to construct a scaffolding for our screen in a Chamber of Commerce meeting room, which held about 115 folding chairs. We may not have to build scaffolding any more since we partnered with downtown Sanford’s Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center, but our growth has meant there’s more time needed for organizing the event, pre-screening more films, managing our box office, promoting the festival, decorating and overseeing all the other components. It’s a lot of work, but also a lot of fun that we think benefits Sanford.”

A ticket to a single block of films costs $12 (except $5 for E for Everyone) while a weekend pass is $85. See for more information.

© 2023 MeierMovies, LLC


Opening Night blog

The Love Your Shorts Film Festival got off to a good start in Sanford on Friday night. The party theme was lumberjacks. It was more than OK. And the winning film was Steve Oen’s Sucker, from the Netherlands. (It was one of my top two films from the seven-film block, along with Niels Bourgonje’s Shut, also from the Netherlands. Kudos also to the Ukrainian Uprooted for its political message, cinematography and special effects.)


Wrap-Up Blog

Congratulations to Dana Caitlin Reilly and her documentary, Favorite Daughter, which the judges deemed “best of the fest.” My top film, however, was All That Glitters, a British Twilight Zone-inspired drama from Dan Bronzite, to whom festival organizers gave the award for best director (along with Garrett Martin, for Eulogy.) Kudos also to Heesoo Choi’s The Dark Room and Niels Bourgonje’s Shut, which did not win the audience awards for their respective blocks and were, therefore, not included among the “best of the fest” screening on Sunday night.