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The Long and Short of It

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"I never thought I would wrangle cockroaches," international award-winning filmmaker Michael Goldburg humbly admits to moviegoers of the 2015 Indy Film Fest.

Saturday at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, following the first screening of his film What's Eating Dad?, Goldburg and other creators and directors of short films stood before an audience for a candid Q&A session.

Goldburg spoke of an unexpected insect incident he encountered while making his comedy-horror short. In the absurdly funny exploration of denial, family dynamics ... and fathers who are anything but the life of the party, Goldburg employed cockroaches who missed their cues and skittered across the set.

Michael Goldburg poses for a quick pic in his Happy Place -- at the DeBoest Theater in the IMA. His short will be screened there Thursday night. Creator of short films, commercials and web series, Goldburg is in his element when making or watching films. - PHOTO BY JAMI STALL
  • Photo by Jami Stall
  • Michael Goldburg poses for a quick pic in his Happy Place -- at the DeBoest Theater in the IMA. His short will be screened there Thursday night. Creator of short films, commercials and web series, Goldburg is in his element when making or watching films.

With the camera rolling and no time to dash out to buy backup bugs, the writer and director of What's Eating Dad? proved fast on his feet -- far beyond filmmaking. Such zany mishaps sound common among the cast and crew members sharing the floor, even though Goldburg's film is most uncommon.

His is among five other shorts in the "Hoosier Reels" category, which screens Thursday, July 23rd. (The Indy Film Fest continues through this Saturday, July 25th). The short films in "Hoosier Reels" range in duration from eight to 20 minutes, and each has an Indiana tie-in. In this case, it's Goldburg himself.

The movie poster for What's Eating Dad? depicts the snappy dressed father in a deeply disturbing, albeit funny, disguise. - COURTESY OF MICHAEL GOLDBURG
  • Courtesy of Michael Goldburg
  • The movie poster for What's Eating Dad? depicts the snappy dressed father in a deeply disturbing, albeit funny, disguise.

A graduate of the University of Michigan film studies and of the NYU Graduate Film Program, the Brooklyn-based filmmaker grew up in Marion, Indiana, where his parents still live. Though his acclaimed short had its original Indiana premiere in April at the River Bend Film Festival in South Bend, being selected to participate for the first time in the Indy Film Fest is special to him for several reasons.

Lauding the festival's many talented participants and its reputation, Goldburg also says, "It affords me the opportunity to screen What's Eating Dad? for family and friends in the area who otherwise wouldn't have a chance to see it on the big screen at a festival; it's sort of a homecoming for me."

He says it's great coming for Indy Film Fest, because he gets to visit with family and friends and connect with all the local and global filmmakers in town, including others with Indiana roots.

What's Eating Dad? continues to enjoy an extensive festival run that began last October. In fact, Goldburg just returned from Paris last month, where his hilariously absurd film was one of nine in the American Short Film competition of the Champs-Élysées Film Festival.

Saturday evening after the screening of the "Hoosier Reels," when Goldburg stood in the DeBoest Theater with the other filmmakers for the panel discussion, he fielded questions as easily as if chatting with neighbors on a porch.

"I wanted to do a comical film about denial," he says to the moviegoers. He explained that a lot times shorts are made as a sort of calling card for filmmakers. This one, for example, originated when he was directing some episodes of a darkly comic anthology web series that had been created by writers from The Onion and Comedy Central.

Goldburg returned last month from Paris, where his work was selected as one of nine American shorts to compete in the Champs-Élysées Film Festival. - COURTESY OF MICHAEL GOLDBURG
  • Courtesy of Michael Goldburg
  • Goldburg returned last month from Paris, where his work was selected as one of nine American shorts to compete in the Champs-Élysées Film Festival.

"I was inspired by directing the show and wanted to write my own piece about denial and the lengths some people will go to stay in denial," he says. "I thought a funny, absurd idea would be if someone was in denial that one of their own family members was literally some kind of monster. Thus the horror-comedy of What's Eating Dad? was born."

Goldburg says its script ended up too long to include in the web series, so he shot it on his own as a stand-alone short film. His instincts were dead-on, as it garnered a pile of awards across the country and abroad. But he's quick to share the credit with the cast and crew.

"It's been great to receive recognition for everyone's work on the film," Goldburg says. "Its success has been the culmination of so much talent coming together to tell a good, scary-funny story in a unique way with just the right absurd tone."

Praise has been given for all aspects of its production -- including the script, acting, directing, cinematography, music, sound design, editing, makeup and visual effects, production design, etc.

"It's truly a team effort," Goldburg says. "I felt we had a lot of great collaborators working together toward the same vision, and it really paid off."

Denial is the main course served during this darkly comic dinner in the short film What's Eating Dad?. The Indy Film Fest selection was written and directed by Hoosier native Michael Goldburg.  - COURTESY OF MICHAEL GOLDBURG
  • Courtesy of Michael Goldburg
  • Denial is the main course served during this darkly comic dinner in the short film What's Eating Dad?. The Indy Film Fest selection was written and directed by Hoosier native Michael Goldburg.

Named one of the Top 10 Horror Shorts of 2014, What's Eating Dad? also earned the following accolades (among many others): Winner of Best Comedy-Horror Short at the 2014 International Film Festival, and an Official Selection at the Cleveland International Film Festival, Chattanooga Film Festival, River Bend Film Festival, WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival and the New York City Horror Film Festival.

When he returns to the Big Apple, Goldburg will work on his first feature film, which goes into production this fall. Also set in New York, it's a con-man comedy called Sure-Fire.

"This independent film is in the vein of Woody Allen, and we're going after some bigger-name cast members for the lead roles," he says. As for any other hints about the film, "Stay tuned!" he says.

To see, What's eating Dad? or any of the other screenings today and tomorrow, go to Indyfilmfest.org for more details.

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