Finding the next Scorsese...on YouTube?

One of the short films being shown to industry insiders at this year's Sundance Film Festival is the winner of a YouTube contest, Project:Direct.

Michelle Meyers
Michelle Meyers wrote and edited CNET News stories from 2005 to 2020 and is now a contributor to CNET.
Michelle Meyers
3 min read

This post was updated at 5:12 p.m. PST to fix an inconsistency in the spelling of Fede's name and clarify the filmmakers' contributions.

Perfecto filmmakers
Blake Edwards, director, and Erin Fede, writer and actor, won a trip to the Sundance Film Festival by coming in first place in YouTube's short film contest, Project: Direct. Michelle Meyers/CNET News

PARK CITY, Utah--It could be one of the quickest known ascents to fame for a filmmaking team.

Four months ago, Blake Edwards and Erin Fede met as new cubiclemates at a Charlotte, N.C.-based religious TV network. Today, they're here at the Sundance Film Festival with a short film Edwards directed and Fede wrote and acted in.

They took a different path to Park City than the 96 other filmmakers screening short films at the festival. They got here via YouTube, a site some associate more with crazy cat home videos than the work of future Scorseses.

Edwards and Fede are the winners of YouTube's Project: Direct, a short film competition now in its second year, in which the prize is a trip to Sundance. The contest this year called upon filmmakers to create shorts that in some way incorporate two props that represent the most memorable films in the Sundance Film Festival's 25 years. (Edwards and Fede chose a wedding dress and a soccer ball). The films also had to incorporate the iconic red phone associated with contest sponsor Moviefone.

perfect team
Project:Direct winners Erin Fede, top center, Blake Edwards, bottom left, and their team of collaborators, aka Edward's housemates. Michelle Meyers/CNET News

A panel of Sundance programmers narrowed down the selection to 10, and then it was up to the YouTube community to choose the winners.

Edwards and Fede's ¡Perfecto! was the grand prize winner, for which they got $2,500 in addition to the five-day stay here. Their film, which is about an international spy who finds love with a down-home country girl, is also screening at an official festival party for short filmmakers.

"It's great access for a filmmaker," said Sara Pollack, YouTube's product marketing manager for film. She added that the overall quality of submissions was better this year than last. Second place and $2,500 went to Ben Goldenberg and Jason Gossbee, of Toronto, for their film White Collar Criminals. Third place and $1,000 went to Avery Auer of Santa Monica, Calif., for her film, Good Deeds and the Damage Done. DVDs of all three films are being distributed to industry executives here.

Edwards and Fede, who both aspire to a career in film, are here along with their team of "collaborators," (aka Edward's talented housemates, who road-tripped in from Charlotte) and are excited for the chance to network with industry leaders.

Edwards said his attitude toward being here is similar to his attitude toward making the film to begin with. "We were given an opportunity and we can either do as little or as much with it as possible," he said. Making the most of opportunities as become a sort of mantra for the group, he added.

Fede actually came in second place last year with a Project:Direct film she wrote and acted in called Gone in a Flash. So when she heard about this year's contest, Fede, who works as a graphic designer, immediately went to Edwards, a video producer, to seek his partnership.

"We did it, from conception to submission, in one month," Edwards said. They tipped the hat to their collaborators and Fede appreciated Edwards' quizzing the main actors about their characters so that they would come off clearer and more developed.

"It really pushed us to understand our characters further," said Fede, who started fooling around with her dad's Beta camera at age 8.

One of the goals of the contest, Pollack said, is to discover hidden talent. And last year it succeeded in doing just that, she said. The daughter of last year's Brazilian winner, who starred in her mom's short, is now starring in one of the biggest Brazilian soap operas, Pollack said. Maybe we'll see Erin on Young and the Restless, Pollack said.

The following are the three winning shorts: