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Interview with Karl Mechem, Publisher of Short Film

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Columbus is home to many inspired creatures, engaged in multifaceted, often overlapping, worlds of creative production. I met Karl Mechem in 2006, as he was entering his second year publishing a quarterly collection of short films.

Karl’s inspiration came from, among many sources, a trip to Mali in 2004 while shooting a low-fi documentary film. Upon meeting another filmmaker doing much the same thing, he recognized the revolutionary access to the medium due largely to the falling cost of DV [digital video] production. Karl began wondering how audiences would ever see all of these new films.

Karl Mechem: Democratized film making really called for democratized distribution, so it wasn’t rocket science to start a DVD journal. But there was also a longstanding need for more distribution of short film, in general.

Oh wait, I also blame the 2004 election and the sick feelings afterward. Oh, and the fact that I just wanted to see more short film and how better to do so than to ask for submissions.

Plus I was bored and marginally employed. There’s never really just one origin to anything, is there?

DK: To what extent do the films on the Journal represent local talent?

KM: Including local talent has never been part of our mission, which is why it’s so remarkable that there have been many people from the area in the JSF. I won’t list any names lest I leave someone out, but every couple volumes someone from c-bus or central Ohio is included.

And, considering we’re publishing some of the best short films made worldwide, that’s an impressive ratio. It’s great proof that there is a lot of filmmaking talent in the area.

DK: Tell me about some of the collaborative volumes, in which the Journal has partnered with other organizations for “themed” content.

KM: Most recently, the JSF put out a volume of selections from the Art & Tech residency program at the Wexner Center (Vol.14). That was especially fun since it was curated by Jennifer Lange and Paul Hill who are at the Wexner and who have been a part of the journal from its beginning.

In 2007 we partnered with WITNESS.org to put together a volume of social issues documentaries (Vol.9). WITNESS helps people in hot spots like Burma and Chechnya make and share videos, so that collection was pretty moving and intense.

And in 2008 we put together a volume of films (Vol.11) from Portland, OR, with the help of filmmaker Karl Lind. That place has to be in the top 5 fecund filmmaking scenes in the U.S., and it was great to get a snapshot of it (via 26 films on one volume!).

Read full interview (with additional pointed questions and revealing answers!): here

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