Jen Bennett admits it: For a filmmaker, she's poor at bossing people around.
So no set designer or best boy for her on "The Lazy Pear." Of course, that also meant that this seven-minute stop-motion animation about a shiftless fruit who's given a magic wand took her two years to make.
Bringing the charmingly dreamlike narrative to life meant countless nights and weekends arranging her green-modeling-clay hero and his construction-paper world in minutely different poses, and shooting each, one frame at a time. "I figured he was easy to boss around because it wasn't something alive," she quips.
The film, Bennett's senior-thesis project at Point Park University, is one of three shorts she'll show at the Sept. 8 Film Kitchen. Also screening work are local filmmakers Samantha Stowe and Michael D. Lies.
Bennett, 28, will also show "The Pump Man," a profile of a small-town Ohio man obsessed with vintage gas pumps. Most are the glass-cannistered "visible-gas" variety: Sohio Supreme, Texaco Firechief, even Polly Gas, with its parrot logo. "Every time I go see one -- Ohhh, it's beautiful, I've got to have it," the collector says.
Bennett will also encore the short she made for this past June's Film Kitchen contest, themed Urban Legends and Old Wives' Tales. Her "Tootsie Pop Who?" (which placed third) spun off the myth that you'd win free candy if you scored a wrapper sporting the "Indian" logo.
Bennett profiles that arrow-shooting Native American, "Shooting Star," who humbly acknowledges, "There's nothing in the world like being a timeless legend." Bennett adds testimony from the tennis couple, softballers and other Tootsie logos resentful of Shooting Star's notoriety. "I don't think he even likes Tootsie pops," gripes one.
Stowe's shorts, too, hark to childhood. "Lobster Boys" consists of black-and-white images of her little brothers fighting over a toy, matched in split screen with footage of older friends goofing around. The soundtrack is clangorous synth music. Her "Nature Library" pairs roller-rink organ sounds with vignettes of thematically attired young people reading those vintage Time-Life books ("The Forest," "The Sea") against a backdrop of enlarged images from the books, with their strange creatures and vibrant colors.
Stowe, a University of Pittsburgh graduate who also studied at Pittsburgh Filmmakers, also returns literally to childhood places. Her "The Lost Boys 2" pays homage to the Santa Cruz, Calif., boardwalk where the 1987 teen-vampire movie was filmed with a smartly edited series of impressions.
"I wanted to get the feeling of how it was to be there," says Stowe, 26. "I kinda just shot everything I was interested in."
The Film Kitchen program's most elaborate production, meanwhile, is Lies' "Experyment 6." The 22-minute science-fiction work, which finds humanity gathering in its multicultural variety to face a doomsday deadline, is an earnest plea for global cooperation. It recently screened at the West Hollywood International Film Festival.
Film Kitchen 8 p.m. Tue., Sept. 8 (7 p.m. reception). Melwood Screening Room, 477 Melwood Ave., N. Oakland. $5. 412-681-9500 or www.filmkitchenpgh.org