Rated: Not Rated

        It seems as though, as far as films go anyways, short films are where all of the real creativity happens these days. Not to say that there aren’t any good independent features coming out on a regular basis, because there are plenty. It’s just that, from my perspective, short films have much less pressure and stress behind them, allowing the filmmakers more freedom when it comes to what they want to do. Often times the filmmakers behind short films do everything from write, direct, act in, edit, produce and more. I’m sure it’s stressful to handle almost everything on your own, but it seems like there is far more freedom involved to ensure that the vision the filmmaker had before writing the first word of the script comes to fruition.
        It’s in this way that I like short films more than features. Not only is there a complete story rolled in to as little as 3 minutes, or as many as 40 to 50 minutes (based on who’s criteria you look at), but when watching shorts I get the sense that I’m seeing the film
exactly as the filmmakers intended. With feature films there’s always disparity between what the writer, director, producers and actors think the film should be, meaning that the end product may be very little, if at all, like what the original writer had in mind.
         Of course, the trouble, for most people, is that there’s no good way (that they know of) to see any of these terrific short films. There’s usually little, if any, press to go along with them, and if there is, it’s not usually main stream, national coverage. So what is an avid film lover to do? The solution, I’ve found, is simple: go to film festivals. There are countless film festivals around the country, and even more are popping up online-only. This gives more people the chance to see these terrific shorts, and it gives the filmmakers the chance at more exposure.
         One filmmaker who’s gaining more exposure and acclaim through film festivals is Bryan Stumpf, owner of Stumpf Farm Productions. Bryan entered his short horror/comedy film
Annulment in the 2015 SNOB Fest. Annulment is another entry into the growing genre of “zom-rom-coms,” or zombie romantic comedies. The film is about a recently divorced couple who must “make nice” as they try to survive a zombie-like pandemic. Being the only comedic light in an otherwise rather heavily loaded short film block about death and killing, Annulment certainly made an impression on me, and the rest of the audience at SNOB Fest. It made such an impression, in fact, that I decided afterwards I absolutely had to interview Bryan to find out more about this hilarious film. Here’s what he told me about it.

Mike Larose and Joseph C. Felece in Annulment Photo courtesy of Bryan Stumpf

Mike Larose and Joseph C. Felece in Annulment Photo courtesy of Bryan Stumpf

         I asked Bryan how he came up with the idea for Annulment, and what inspired him to take the project on. He said, “I’ve been writing screenplays for the last few years.  And while my screenplays have won awards, and I have one screenplay optioned, few seemed to be on the fast track to the big screen.  So in winter 2014, being a bit impatient to see my work on the big screen, and being recently laid off from my job, I figured it was time to write a short film that I would produce and direct.  All I needed was an idea.
        “At the time, I was recently divorced — but it was a very amicable divorce, and my ex-wife and I remained good friends.  Our divorce was so amicable, it was pretty common for her to stop by my Upstate NY house, just to say hello.  During one of her visits, a polar vortex descended upon all of Upstate NY, and we were snowbound together for a few days.  My ex-wife, observing the irony of being snowbound with me, her ex-husband, actually came up with the idea for Annulment — she said,
‘You know what would be a funny movie?  A recently divorced couple stuck in a house together during a zombie apocalypse.’”
The film’s caterer, your brother in law, Chef John Rork, Tweeted that he almost died during filming. Can you tell me that story?
  “To be honest, there’s really not much story to tell — John was being a little hyperbolic to drum up interest in the movie.  He was referring to a time when he was in the canoe and it tipped over.  He got wet and grumpy, but in no way did he ‘almost die.’”
It seems like a lot of your films contain at least some horror elements. What draws you to horror more than anything else?
 “My favorite movie is Jaws.  It’s the first film that made me recognize the craft of filmmaking and storytelling.  Also, I was riveted by the story’s central conflict of man vs. nature, and I feel horror is very much integral to any man vs. nature story.”

        Is there anything in particular you’d like audiences to take away from the film?

“Some might say Annulment is anti-marriage, but I don’t agree.  I just wanted to open the discussion of whether marriage is the best thing for all couples.  For many couples, marriage strengthens their relationship. But perhaps there are situations where marriage is not the best thing for the relationship.  Perhaps the relationship would have been stronger if the whole wedding and marriage vows never happened.  Maybe some relationships don’t quite fit into a traditional relationship category, and you might actually ruin the relationship if you try to manipulate it into a traditional relationship category.
        “I also want to point out that the divorced couple in
Annulment, Harold and Kerry, [the main characters] really have only one similarity to my ex-wife and me — they’re divorced. The characters are indeed fictional and very little of what Harold and Kerry do and say was based on real-life.”
One of the Infected in Annulment Photo courtesy of Bryan Stumpf

One of the Infected in Annulment Photo courtesy of Bryan Stumpf

        As you can see from Bryan’s answers, there is often just as much thought, feeling, emotion and deeper meaning in short films as there is in features. The only difference being that features take far longer to tell the story and get to the point of it all, whether they need to or not. The fact that so much can be conveyed in a matter of minutes in a short film will never cease to amaze me. I have far more respect for the makers of short films, who do everything on a shoe-string budget and usually for free, than I ever will for the makers of blockbusters in Hollywood.

Annulment is not rated, was written and directed by Bryan Stumpf and stars Mike Larose, Joseph C. Felece and Kat Scicluna. For more information about where and when to see this great short, go to