To Live and Write in LA

Reviewing El Cid’s Monthly Short Film Night

(First published on

You’ve made your short film to show your mastery of story, directing, and editing. Now what?

tablesOne of the venues open to new LA filmmakers to strut their shorts happens monthly at the El Cid Restaurant (4212 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90029), in the historic artist neighborhood of Silverlake. The short film night has just entered its second year and typically fills the main room of this historic venue which on other nights is home to flamenco shows and other special events.

The evening begins with an hour of socializing, fueled by tapas and a full bar. The empanadas and the Spanish cheese plate that my wife and I shared were delicious, and I’m not normally a tapas fan. The staff is hip and helpful and the long beerfest-style tables in the main room facilitate connecting with fellow attendees.

The January fest included six films, encompassing genres from experimental to drama, to comedy, and farce.

yvonne.fwMy pick for the best film of the evening is Always Us, the evening’s only drama. It stars Doyle Brand and Yvonne Sayers as a couple whose unexpected pregnancy causes a crisis in their relationship. (Disclosure: Yvonne is in my film Effigy. I’m prejudiced.) The acting and direction quickly create empathy for the couple. My only critique: the ending is non-committal about the issues raised. I like films that make a statement, not just ask a question.

Another stand out film, and one on the opposite end of the serious scale, is One Day Stand, a comedy-of-errors farce, by writer/directorCameron Thrower, starring Brooke Griffin. Griffin plays Tammy, a charmingly delusional young woman whose cross-cultural failures to communicate lead to hilarious moments in bed and at the hardware store. Watch for this one online.

Heavy, another bedroom comedy, by writer/director Kim Noonan, plops us into bed with a Woody-Allen style looser and a strong young woman being treated for breast cancer. Sometimes, serious can be funny and heavy.

Ford76Also high on the funny-scale are Ford 76 andQuitters.   The former is by Joe Mitchell and puts us in the front seat of a 1976 Ford about to be used as the getaway car by two inept bank robbers.  The latter is a black-comedy by Michael Young and shows just how dangerous smoking can be to your health.

PremstarSantana.fwThe most experimental film presented is The Lady M. Monologues by Ben Gilbert, staring Premstar Santana. Lady M is Shakespeare’s crazy Lady Macbeth, perhaps one of the most over-psychoanalyzed of the Bard’s characters. Although this film may not provide any new insights into her madness, it does provide a vehicle for Santana to show off her acting chops as we listen to the classic ravings not in a Scots castle, but in a suburban environment.

I recommend getting on El Cid’s mailing list, even the building itself is an experience. Built on the side of a hill, it takes you into a unique environment, that is anything but cookie-cutter chain restaurant.

Besides the aforementioned flamenco and film shorts nights, their calendar includes a web series night, special movie screenings, rock bands and other edgy events.

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An exploration of film and filmmaking