Though they specialize in stand-up, the guys at Laughing Devil hold a special place in their heart for films. The venue, located in Long Island City, already hosts movie nights, screening some of the biggest comedies in recent years, but it is also home to the annual Laughing Devil Short Film Festival.
The decision to show shorts as opposed to full-length features is — at least in jest — so that the audience will stay interested.
“These films are approximately five minutes long,” owner Steve Hoffstetter said. “We’ll show five or so a night, that’s five times the average person’s attention span.”
“My background is in documentary film and I’ve done the film festival circuit,” Daniel Reynolds, director of the festival, said. “When we opened our own theater pub, I knew I wanted to do a short film festival but one that was a little more intimate and allowed for more interaction between filmmakers and audiences.”
To that end, Reynolds and the rest of the Laughing Devil crew decided to have a festival that would run on a rolling basis, showing a handful of films every month before culminating the best of the best into a more traditional four-day festival in December.
“We accept all genres and above all are looking for quality and voice,” Reynolds said of the festival’s standards. “Although we lean towards comedy films, we want to represent all types of film, from non-narrative art-house to edgy documentary.”
He cited “Ivan’s House,” which will be showing at the first screening on Jan. 19, as one of the dramas. The movie is based on the Chekhov play “Uncle Vanya,” which portrays the visit to the countryside of an elderly professor and his glamorous and younger second wife, Yelena, who gets the attention of Vanya and Astrov.
The Laughing Devil will also award films for excellence, something Reynolds said was not originally going to be implemented.
“Originally, we were only going to do the monthly screenings, without awards, but Steve Hoffstetter, one of the owners of Laughing Devil, felt it was important to have some sort of payoff at the end of the year, so we committed to doing a four-day festival which would be judged by a jury panel in December.”
Hoffstetter said the inspiration came from his experience in the stand-up world where stand-out comedians are acknowledged for their work at festivals.
So far, the Laugh Devil Short Film Fest has gotten more than 50 submissions. Reynolds recently got the festival listed on Withoutabox.com, the world’s largest film festival submission site. The festival director expects to have more than a thousand by the cut-off date in October.
Like many film festivals, the Laughing Devil will host a series of Q & As with the film creators throughout the year.
“People currently have access to a mind-blowing amount of media,” Reynolds said. “From established films and television on streaming services like Netflix to independent work on YouTube, there is no end to the amount of film they can passively experience.
“By having filmmakers there to talk about their films, people cannot only experience the film, but delve into it, getting a deeper understanding of what the filmmakers were going for and gaining an appreciation of how films are made.”
Reynolds added that these sessions can be beneficial to the filmmakers as well, giving them valuable feedback.
What sets the Laughing Devil Short Film Fest apart, though, is the amount of mingling and discussion the festival encourages.
“We block off time after the films for a cocktail party where the audience cannot only interact with the filmmakers, but with other film lovers as well, hopefully making some new friends and some great conversations,” Reynolds said.
“In addition, one of the great things about Laughing Devil Movie Pub is the intimate space; we only seat 50,” he continued. “That way, even in a Q & A or at the cocktail party, people won’t feel like they’re part of a massive crowd.”