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Hitting Up Shorties 

The James River Shorts Festival returns.

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Filmmaker and educator Lyn Elliot was a finalist with the 2011 James River Shorts festival, taking third place for her clever short film, "Another Dress, Another Button." It features various clothing buttons escaping from their individual packaging and dancing while their owner is away.

"I wanted to make a film where there were carefully packaged items and highlight that they aren't ever used," she says. "Stop-motion animation was a good way to do that, to play on the irony and to give them life."

Elliot will return to the festival this year as the guest juror who decides which finalists will take home cash prizes totaling $2,000 (I served as a juror this year to help narrow the field of entries).

The festival is a two-night affair held Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Visual Arts Center of Richmond, respectively. It should be an entertaining night, with a broad concept of film and a variety of cutting-edge and creative work, including a wonderful children's class project on evolution from the Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts and a richly imagistic noir poem made with cutout photographs, lights and shadows.

Elliot, a professor at the University of Missouri - Kansas City, won't be wooed by the latest technological savvy. She's seen the next generation of filmmakers, and they need to work on some of the basics.

"Story is really what matters. Using the technology appropriate to tell your story is the mark of a successful film," she says. "A great short film has originality and the stamp of the maker's personality. You get the feeling when you're watching of the perspective of the person making it, and they're drawing you into their world for a period."

The 2012 James River Shorts Festival is Nov. 30 at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts at 6:30 p.m. Tickets cost $8 ($5 for museum members). There will be a reception and annual holiday membership party at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond on Dec. 1 at 6 p.m., followed by "The Girl in the Air: the Films of Lyn Elliot" at 7 p.m. and honorable mentions at 8:30 p.m. Tickets cost $5 plus donations for the reception.

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