For would-be filmmakers there’s nothing harder than getting your foot in the door. The traditional festival circuit is always the most logical option for turning industry heads, but as with anything it has its pros and its cons. Luckily, there are so many short films out there vying for a coveted festival slot that there’s still plenty of room for new ideas, and one innovative new model brewing on New York’s Lower East Side has unsurprisingly come from a veteran filmmaker named Geoffrey Guerrero.
Trafficking exclusively in short films, the Katra Film Series features semi-annual screenings of curated selections that are then voted on by audience members in order to advance to a second round. After a year of screenings, a final selection of a dozen or so films ultimately go on to compete for the Grand Prize and Audience Film Award. But at Katra, winning filmmakers aren’t given glistening statuettes or fat checks signed by giant corporations, rather they’re invited to a one-on-one meeting with a top Hollywood producer — something that all the prize money in the world can’t necessarily guarantee.
In short, Katra is really pushing for the future of its filmmakers, and as January draws to a close the series is gearing up to crown a winner for its fourth annual grand finale. Out of 109 shorts screened over the course of 2015, the final pack has been weened down to an elite 12 of which only a few will take home a top prize. This year a mind-boggling five of the 12 finalists were directed by Latino filmmakers, and feature some of Hollywood’s most respected actors in starring roles. Here’s a rundown of those five films so New York area cinenerds can gear up for a January 23rd ceremony at Katra’s restaurant on the Lower East Side. Advanced tickets are available online.