Palm Springs Shorts Film Festival And (Some Of) Its LGBTQ Film Makers


Instinct had the opportunity to interview four LGBTQ film makers who contributed to the 2021 Palm Springs Shorts Film Festival. It was all virtual as it’s still March 2020, right? 


The Palm Springs International Film Society will marked another exciting milestone as its annual Palm Springs ShortFest became the first film festival in the state to hold all of its screenings in-theatre in 2021. The event returned to the Camelot Theatres (Palm Springs Cultural Center) from June 22-28. –

As we all do when going to an event like this, I had to read through so many different film descriptions, really sifting through the ones that sounded interesting to me. Making a list, I got to watch some wonderful films and I decided to interview these four, that I guess you could say were my “Winners.” I decided to edit the interviews into a single video piece, my very first one, which I will include at the end of this post. I hope my excerpts, and interviews in the video make you want to see these movies.


The first was with Faye Ruiz and “The Lights Are On, No One’s Home.” It’s about a trans woman coming into her new identity, through a multitude of changes around her, based on her house, and her identity, and what she lives “in”, going through the “Dangerboy” phase, and coming out with an empty space, something to start a new life in.

Jeremy Hinks: I dissect film, and I saw the house as a major part of the film, what was the symbolism, was that her former life or transition?

Faye Ruiz: I think that the house was very much connected to the rest of the neighborhood, and throughout the film we see that is looking for it. But everything up until we see the house is different, and so why should we expect it to be the same in the end, when she goes inside and it’s empty, everything is really gone, and the fantasies and memories are all gone, and she has to let go of that.

JH: I saw that, that so much change was happening, and then it was like with her name, she kept saying through the film “I don’t know what name I am going to have.”


FR: With the name, it was something I wanted to “book-end” the film, so we started with that as one of the first stories we hear, connected to the bridge, and at the end, we hear the fantasy conversation. But I wanted to tie it back to the idea of if I don’t have a future, I am going to engage in all these risky behaviors. I feel like picking a name for myself is saying, “I am not ready to go into the world and live as this person.”

Alyssa Lerner interview

“Break In” Alyssa Learner.

A comedy of “Breaking Bad” epic proportions, (yes it was that epic, and that bad), a simple “OOPS” send of a text leads into an insane string of events that you could never imagine happening in a 10 minute film.


JH: So, how did you manage to squeeze so many ideas into such a short film?

Alyssa Learner: I wrote the part for that actor, she does embarrassment really well, she does hi-jinks and physical comedy really well. So I just let whatever popped into my head go onto the page. There was some really overly weird stuff that we cut out. But I think boiling all these random ideas to the core of what would kind of exacerbate this character’s emotion in the moment helped it feel cohesive. Like all of these other characters reading her erotic fiction would really exacerbate her emotions from her heightened state. So lining it all up around one character’s want was our guiding light.

JH: How did you come up with all of that, the locksmith, the wrong house, everything that could have gone wrong, comedic ideas, how could you think of them getting into that much trouble? I was watching it thinking it was a Shakesperian Mock-up.


AL: My life is not that way at all, never like calling a locksmith and breaking into the wrong house, it truly started with character, little defensive who can’t admit when she is wrong. And I thought, well what would that character do wrong, like, break into the wrong house, and her friend Oliver would know all of the weirdest people in the city. So I think that’s what make it really works.

Bar Cohen Interview Image

“Her Dance” Bar Cohen.

A trans Israeli woman returns home to her sisters wedding, being mourned as the lost son.


JH: I saw the film, and you said it was your own personal story. I loved the Hebrew, and watching the traditions, I spent a lot of time around the Jewish and Israeli folk over the years. Did you get any flack or trouble form your community for this? Have you been exiled?

BC: No, I did it as a mirror to my community and my life, but I just did it with all the courage I had.

JH: How did your family handle you transitioning? I know in some parts of your country its very conservative.


BC: Yes, in the orthodox society, it is very chauvinistic, and it’s more difficult, because “Woman is Woman, and Man is Man” It is very black and white, and they didn’t know what it means to be a trans woman, or what it means, so it was difficult I think because they have the beloved son, just like in the film. And they love me as their son, but when I did it that I have to live like this. For them it was the start of the process, and they need to mourn me as their son. It is difficult because it is the opposite of what they understand it is to be a man, in our society.

JH: It’s interesting you say that, when I lived in France, I met an Israeli, and still a soldier, he was gay, and he told me that when he told his family, the chased him out, and when he came home a few days later the mirrors were covered, and they were mourning the loss of their son. So he had to leave, and came to France to train the French military.

BC: Yes, like in the story of the film, I was not invited by the family, like to the bar-mitzvah of my brother, and they hid me from the family and friends. So I had to do all the process by myself, it was very difficult.

Image from festival web page

“Club Quarantine” Aurora Brachman.

A Worldwide Queer Dance Party over Zoom, during lockdown.

Aurora Brachman: I learned about this “Queer Dance Party” that would happen at the same time every day, and there was a link, and a user name and password, and it would only be available for a very short time. So when I got in, there were my neighbors looking in on me dancing with complete abandon with no music with my headphones on. It probably looked ridiculous. But there was some allure to the intense joy, and sort of sadness in the isolation. The first time I joined, I thought it was going to be voyeuristic, I mean, you don’t know who is going to be in this party, so I didn’t have my camera on, and it was just incredible, it was memorizing, there were a thousand people in this party. People had amazing lighting setups, and costumes. I saw so many times people had their computer or phone at the dinner table, and the computer was another seat at the table. You saw everything, I saw a couple propose to each other, I saw a woman in the hospital with her newborn, showing off her new baby. It was a queer nightclub where people were getting naked, and people just going to sleep, and doing their chores, it was the whole range of human experience happening in this club. It was not just a party, but to have people be able to witness what live was like to be alone in this time.

We would love to return to the big in person epic and entertaining festivals soon,  but in the mean time, some hybrid options are still amazingly done.


As for the four interviews I pulled some excerpts from, they can be found below, with further information on the films and film makers.


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