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Michelle Nolden is a true renaissance woman. Not only is she a steadily working actress (you might recognize her from the three TV shows she currently has on the go – Saving Hope , Republic of Doyle and Nikita or from movies like Men With Brooms ) and filmmaker, she also somehow found the time to co-found Lakeshorts International Short Film Festival with film and television producer (and husband) Chris Szarka.

The festival, which runs May 3 and 4, features two evenings of some of the best short films from around the world. On May 3, the focus will be on “Loved and Local” films while the Gala on May 4 will showcase international and award-winning shorts.

Both evenings will be hosted by local celebrities (acting celebrity duo Gabe Hogan and Inga Cadranel on Friday and Film Critic Richard Crouse on Saturday) and will kick off with with Blue Carpet arrivals and a pre-performance reception featuring refreshments, appetizers and live music – a.k.a. an excellent way to both support local emerging filmmakers  and enjoy the gorgeous spring weather down by the water!

Toronto Film Scene was able to catch a few moments out of Nolden’s very busy schedule for a chat about Lakeshorts.

Describe the festival in 10 words or less:

A grassroots community Festival that celebrates short and independent film!

How did Lakeshorts come to be?

It has always been a dream of Chris and I. The seed of Lakeshorts was a program at Lakeshore Arts called “My Neighbour Is an Artist. As an actor and aspiring filmmaker I organized a night of short films from and for people in the Mimico area. It was a success and then Chris (producer, Fifth Ground Entertainment) did his magic and brought it to the next level.

What makes Lakeshorts stand out from the other film fests happening in Toronto?

It is a small, intimate festival but with all the bells and whistles. It celebrates film in every way from a signature cocktail, to one of a kind art created for the winning film, to local food and beverages, to film education and mentorship, to amazing prizes for the filmmakers. Every dollar goes back into the Festival.

What can audiences look forward to in this year’s installment?

Films from around the world including Bulgaria, Germany, England and Afghanistan. Canadian shorts include “Issues” by Enrico Colantoni and Hugh Dillon, “Flutter” by Phillip Riccio, “A Man’s World” by Michelle Nolden, “S Is For Bird” by Matt Sadowski. This year we will feature the short “Flaked” completed by the “Lakeshorts Future Filmmakers Intensive.” “LongBranch” is a perfect fit for the Festival not only because it is such a great film but because it is shot in South Etobicoke! British Film “Hatch” is the winner of the Agency 71 Blue Wave Award – the highest honour of the Festival. A truly beautiful and compelling film!

What does your role as Artistic Director entail and what do you like about the job?

I facilitate the film entries, adjudication, liaison with the filmmakers, volunteer co-ordination, social media etc. Chris handles the financial side of things entirely – his enthusiasm is truly infectious! Together we work as a team with Lakeshore Arts on everything from marketing to event details, to ticket sales, to thank you’s – the list goes on. We also have a wonderful group of people who help with Web Design, event set up, programs etc. It is a tremendous amount of volunteer hours but we really do love it. My favourite part is watching the films.

What’s your greatest wish for the future of Lakeshorts?

That it retains its intimacy and grassroots feel but that its reputation and renown becomes worldwide. That the educational and mentorship programs we offer continue to inspire and motivate kids to pursue a career in film and tv.

Lakeshorts International Short Film Festival runs May 3 and 4, 2013. For more information, visit the Lakeshorts website.

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