Maricopa actor Isabella "Izzy" Watts stars in Belly Flop, which will be shown during the Copa Shorts Film Fest.

Comedies, dramas, documentaries, animations, horror, sci-fi – a little bit of everything is the goal of a typical film festival. In short films, a little bit is the operative phrase.

Copa Shorts Film Fest
Feb. 17-19
Friday, VIP Party, 8 p.m.
Saturday, films, noon-10:30 p.m.
Sunday, noon-10 p.m.
UltraStar Multi-tainment Center

Purchase tickets on the website or at the box office.

The inaugural Copa Shorts Film Fest runs Feb. 17-19 at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center. All films are 20 minutes or less. The shortest is 2 minutes and 4 seconds.

Festival co-founder Shelley Gillespie said 56 films will be screened in seven blocks. Most blocks are about an hour and a half long. The festival will end with an eighth block of around eight films that are deemed the “Best of Fest.”

Besides the established judges, filmgoers also rate the films. Those votes will be totaled for the “Audience Award.”

There is a touch of Maricopa in the proceedings. The comedy Belly Flop stars local child actor Isabella “Izzy” Watts. Another is the brainchild by local filmmaker Joe Gruberman (see related story).

Three films were created by Ak-Chin students for the Native American block, and another three were made by Maricopa middle school students (see related story).

As newbies to launching a film festival, Gillespie and her husband Roger traveled around the state and country to take in other festivals and see how they ran. But they were still blindly throwing out the welcome mat to filmmakers and inviting them to send in their creations.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” Shelley Gillespie said. “We discovered people are big procrastinators.”

Many films came in the final days of the entry period. They pulled in films from Norway, Sweden, Australia, China, Canada and Germany. They even received films from Los Angeles.

The festival program cover was designed by Mai A. Tallwing of Maricopa
The festival program cover was designed by Mai A. Tallwing of Maricopa

The Gillespies chose ASU film students and local film buffs to help sort through the entries and score them. Those with the best overall ratings made it into the festival.

Copa Shorts Film Fest reached out to students, hosting workshops at Maricopa Unified School District and Central Arizona College.

“Our mission to educate and inform means we want people to talk about it, even the kids,” Shelley Gillespie said.

After every film block, there will be a Q&A session with some of the filmmakers.

Besides the films on screen, they requested screenplays. The four top screenplays will be given a table read with local actors at a session Sunday afternoon.

There will be workshops Saturday morning. One with Brent Michael Davids will discuss “Film Scoring for Filmmakers.” That is preceded by a workshop with Julia Swift, “Charging Your Creative Spark.” Both are free at Elements Event Center. Register at

Gillespie said it has been very challenging financially to get the festival off the ground. Copa Shorts Film Fest is a nonprofit.

Gruberman said he wanted to be involved to show support for Maricopa creativity. “The fact that it’s short films means it’s a little bit of everything and something for everybody to like,” he said. “I hope it gets a large turnout and is very well received.”

An invitation-only VIP party kicks off the festival Friday night at 8 p.m. at Elements Event Center, where award-winning Celtic/Native American musician Arvel Bird will perform.

Saturday, the films start rolling at noon.

This story appears in the February issue of InMaricopa.

160 Characters
The Addiction
Art of Circus
Belly Flop
The Bus Trip
Care for Me
Chateau Sauvignon: Terroir
Close Encounter with an Alien
Dear George
Dr. Elevator
Driver’s Ed
The Fault
A Fire in All of Us
Focus (honorable mention)
Flight Fright
Four-Day Weekend
The Gift
Heather’s Painting
I Hate the Color Red
In the Hands of God
Iroquois Creation Story
Kanu Belong Keram
A King’s Betrayal
Lego Animation
A Light On
The Lockdown
Maria Fernanda in Time
The Matchstick House
Mother Tongue
Non-Smoking Section
Once Upon a Time in Space
Piper in the Woods
Proverbial Luck
Quiet on the Set
Run Cat Run
Stuck in Time
Student Class President
The Tenor
The Thunderbird Over the Whale
To Bee or Not to Bee
Tobi & Matt
Tom the Knife Salesman
True Colours
Uncle Albert
West Side Swordy
The Wild Wonderous West

Screenplays for Table Reeds
Hell to Pay: Legend of Robert Johnson
Holding Hands
Kitsune Mask


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