Skip to main content

Copa Shorts Film Fest 2019

Recent Blog Posts

Blog Archive

Copa Shorts Film Fest Offers New Filmmaking Programs in September


June 21, 2017

Copa Shorts Film Fest is pleased to announce new screenwriting and filmmaking programs planned for 2017!

Partnering with Central Arizona College, Copa Shorts Film Fest will be offering 3 full-day programs in September, available to the public for free. (Advanced registration will be required at Eventbrite.)

Registration will begin in July for the three days, which include morning workshops on three different aspects of screenwriting.  Afternoons will feature workshops on legal aspects of filmmaking (protecting your work, requirements to be legal), sound and lighting (How to be seen and heard!), and cameras (using your camera to make the best films).

Hands on – bring your favorite electronic device, camera and questions!

Save the dates:

September 13 at CAC’s Signal Peak campus.

AM- Screenwriting; PM – Camera – Getting Your Best Visuals – Guy Reed – Photographer/Educator – Tempe Camera

September 14 at CAC’s Maricopa campus.

AM- Screenwriting; PM – Legal Aspects of Filmmaking – Entertainment Attorney/Producer – Stephen Wade Nebgen

September 19 at CAC’s San Tan campus.

AM – Screenwriting; PM – Lights! Sound! Making your films seen and heard – Award-winning Director of Photography and Producer – Steve Wargo

May 20, 2017

Copa Shorts Film Fest 2018 is underway!

So much has happened for our second season already and this first week has been a busy one:

  • On May 12, we began receiving shorts films and screenplays for our 2018 season from – and several films have already been submitted.
  • Sponsors Ahwatukee Realty and Chris Cahall’s American Family Insurance have renewed their sponsorships – we’re so grateful!
  • Central Arizona College has renewed their partnership and we’ll be holding several filmmaking programs on 3 different campuses.  More details soon!
  • ASU students and grads  and community members have received a refresher as  film reviewers. Most of the reviewers have rejoined us from last year.
  • On May 16, Shelley Gillespie, Executive Director, spoke before the Maricopa City Council, detailing our new programs.  They were especially receptive to the new Military Veteran film category we’ve added.
  • On May 20, Shelley and Roger Gillespie (Festival Director) are attending the Casa Grande Union High School District 5th Annual Graduation Powwow to share details of the festival and especially the Native American film category.

More to share soon!

The first films we’ve received appear to be excellent – and we can’t wait to see more!

Put February 16-18, 2018 on your calendar to attend Copa Shorts Film Fest at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center!

May 1, 2017

We’re planning for  major program changes and additions in our 2018 Copa Shorts Film Fest.

So much of our 2017 festival worked well, but we want our festival to grow and adapt to assist filmmakers.

And, we’re making the following additions to our 2018 schedule to meet requests and provide more recognition:

  • Our newest category is for military veterans.  We want to provide a way for them to share stories of their lives and receive recognition for the contributions they have made to all of our lives! See the “Submit” section for Films to see the details.  As usual, all films will be 2-20 minutes.
  • College and High School films will be in separate film blocks.

More announcements coming soon!

February 23, 2017

The festival is over and the results are in!  See the home page for the list of winners.

However, we were all winners because everyone had a good time and the comments were extremely positive:

“Best festival I’ve ever been to.”

“I was extremely impressed and I’m sure everyone else was, too.”

“The best film festival I’ve been to in years.”

We had 56 short films and four screenplay table reads.  The weekend was very full with great entertainment that brought people from all over the country.

One of my favorite moments was when Giancarlo Fusi, who wrote the screenplay finalist, “Hell to Pay: The Legend of Robert Johnson” arrived just as the reading was beginning. He just made it driving in from California and didn’t miss a word!  He grinned because he’d never seen his name so large on the screen.

Kudos to all of the winners!

And, thank you to those who attended and provided help in every possible way!

We especially want to thank Ak-Chin Indian Community Chairman Robert Miguel who presented the awards on Sunday evening.  Their sponsorship was used to provide the 4  showcase winners, Best Native American film, Best Student film, Best Screenplay, and Best of the Fest with their monetary awards.

We also thank Desert Diamond West Valley Casino for their sponsorship of the film workshops and the two musical groups we were fortunate to have entertaining us –

Arvel Bird on Friday

Smokestack Lightning on Sunday.

City of Maricopa Council Members all contributed to the film workshops held in September and supported us with their good wishes and presence at our event.

The 20+ volunteers, from ASU, CAC and the Maricopa community,  greeted everyone, made sure they had what they needed, and were so helpful. We couldn’t have done it without them!  Special thanks to Chandler, Kara, and Alexa who did everything needed when Roger and I couldn’t be everywhere at once.

Also, the 20+ film reviewers – most from ASU and some community members – who saw the films, reviewed and scored them.  They helped us gain greater perspective on the many films with their comments.

Also, the UltraStar Multi-tainment Center staff – who tirelessly set up and served in every capacity to make our events terrific.  Especial shout-outs to: Jen, Stephanie, Laurie, Kim, Shannon, Wilson, Dan, Arthur, Jake, Adam, and the chef at Elements for the fabulous food – plus all of their assistants and staff.

We thank Julia Swift and Brent Michael Davids who presented workshops for filmmakers on Saturday morning.  The workshops were free!  The information was priceless!

We are so grateful to Cynthia Morgan who recruited local actors and rehearsed them for the 4 screenplay table reads that created a special and unusual experience – especially for the screenwriters whose screenplays were voiced for the very first time! That was a lot to do in very little time as the finalists were chosen in January.

And, our most gigantic thanks to amazing Gina D’Abella who coordinated the volunteers with juggling all of their time availabilities, carpooling and other needs to schedule them with no gaps in coverage.  And, on top of that, she created the slides that were shown on the film screen for each movie interlude, sponsor slides, and for the screenplay table reads.  That was a great challenge because making things work on the giant screen from a powerpoint program was a challenge.  She is the most reliable and dependable – and creative person we know.  She also served as coach and advice giver when needed. Thank her when you see her!

We also thank all of our sponsors!

Check them out on our sponsor page.

(Please consider joining us as a sponsor for next year’s Copa Shorts Film Fest – the more the merrier – and the more workshops and programs we can offer!)

Our especial “angel” sponsors, Chad Chadderton (Ahwatukee Realty) and Chris Cahall (American Family Insurance) were the first people to step forward and show their support for Copa Shorts Film Fest.  Remember their names!  They care about our community.

Also, May and John Donohue.  In addition to being sponsors, they also stepped in to act in the table reads (2 of them!), contact potential silent auction donors, and –

May also created the program’s fabulous, colorful, memorable cover!!!

Orbitel Communications provided us with hundreds of commercials to promote the festival on their cable channels and offered additional sponsorship.

CAC provided us with support and hosted our screenwriting and filmmaking workshop back in September at their Maricopa CAC campus. They were so gracious and helpful in every respect!

Grace Robinson spoke up and sponsored our swag bags.

Robert Kistler and his staff at Impressive Imaging did great work under tight deadlines for all of our programs, posters, and badges.

Our Advisory Board, who offered advice and help when needed.

Special mention to ASU interns Matthew Sugarek and Eryn Bailey who were our final film reviewers. They spent many hours seeing and evaluating the many films we had entered in the festivals.  We trusted their judgment and their reliability was phenomenal!

And, a giant hug for Julianna Feher who reviewed and judged the screenplay finalists’ screenplays.

But, most of all – I thank Roger Gillespie.  My co-founder, spouse, and wise partner who did everything in the universe behind the scenes for Copa Shorts Film Fest.  Without him, I assure you, there wouldn’t have been a festival.  He chose the music, set up the lights, did all of the research, contacted film software companies, etc. etc. Even now, he’s making sure that all of the winners receive their prizes.  And, if he hadn’t said “Let’s do it!” we wouldn’t have created this festival. I’m a very lucky person!!!

If I’ve left anyone out, I apologize profusely. Hugs to all!

We hope you all had fun and will be back next year for 2018 Copa Shorts Film Fest on February 16-18 – save the dates!

We’ll start accepting films on Film Freeway in Mid-May.  Get ready!!

January 19, 2017

We are less than one month until Copa Shorts Film Festival (February 17-19) and everything is coming together in wonderful ways!

For instance:

  • All of our filmmakers and screenwriters have provided downloads of their work and we are getting the films converted so they can be shown on digital Blu-Ray at UltraStar in Maricopa at Ak-Chin Circle – see the cranes next door to guide you if you’ve never been to UltraStar theater complex.
  • All four of the screenwriter finalists whose submissions were chosen to receive a table read at the festival will be attending!!  That’s fantastic considering that we’re in Arizona and two of them are from the East Coast and one from California.  If you’re interested in how a film gets started, plan to attend the table reads!

You’ll hear actors for each of the very different concepts  – sit around the table – hence “table read” – and give their best interpretations    of the characters in the screenplay. It should be a great experience – plus all of the screenwriters will join us after the table read for a Q & A.  Get ready to find out what they learned from the experience – and be ready to ask questions.

  • If you’ve ever gotten frustrated when a movie’s music just doesn’t fit what’s happening onscreen, plan to attend the FREE Workshop on Saturday Feb. 18th at 10:15 am at Elements Event Center (next to UltraStar) to learn how to create the right musical score for your film.

BRENT MICHAEL DAVIDS – an award-winning film composer will offer a fun workshop on how to do “Film Scoring for FilmMakers.” He’s a pro who has composed the music for films and other artistic creations for 40 years.  Also, Davids composed the film music for “Iroquois Creation Story,” which was chosen for the festival and will be shown on Sunday, Feb.19 at 4:00 pm in the Native American film block.

Register at for the film composing workshop or see our link to register on the Tickets page. You’ll never think of movie music the same again!

  • Bring your creativity when you attend JULIA SWIFT’S  FREE Workshop on Saturday, February 18th at 9:00 am (also at Elements Event Center) – She’ll show you how to flex your creative brain and begin “Charging Your Creative Spark” to find new ways to come up with more and better ideas for your screenwriting and other projects.

Swift knows how to impress – she’s won awards and has had projects shown on Warner Brothers, NBC, Universal, Fox, Regency, Sony, and Dick Wolf Productions. Episodes she wrote of Smallville and Hercules were “Picks of the Week” on Entertainment Weekly and TV Guide.

Register at  – See copa shorts film fest or on our Tickets page.   Help charge your ideas on Saturday at 9:00 am, also at Elements Event Center. Register at for the creative workshop or see our link to register on the Tickets page.

Lots more to share.  Within the next few days, we’ll share more details of the great fun we’re planning at the festival.

To enjoy the award-winning music of Arvel Bird  and award-winning Gila River Blues Band, Smokestack Lightning,  ( plan to join our VIPs Party.

More to come soon, everyone!

December 24, 2016

Every screenplay and film submitted to Copa Shorts Film Fest has been reviewed.  Our judges have made their choices.

We’ll be notifying those chosen for showcasing at the festival this week!

And, until we let the chosen filmmakers and screenwriters know who they are, we feel it’s only fair that we not tell you who they are – YET!

BUT…We can share a few great things about the festival. ~~~

COPA SHORTS FILM FEST will be showing 54 memorable short films during the festival on February 18th & 19th, 2017.

CSFF films will make you laugh…with lots of comedy.


Drama. Documentaries. Sci-fi. Animation… including films from local, regional, US and foreign filmmakers.

Film blocks will have…

  • Ups and Downs
  • Kings and Other Things
  • Different Realities
  • Student Films
  • Native American Films
  • Scary Choices (Adult Situations and Themes)

and MORE!

PLUS – WE’LL BE SHOWCASING SCREENPLAYS in a special session of table reads.


October 7, 2016

We’ve been notified that 24 projects will be submitted from the MUSD middle school students who attended our September 9th workshop!  So many students have been inspired – and we can’t wait to see their work!

We’re in our final month of accepting films for Copa Shorts Film Fest’s debut showings on February 18 and 19th, 2017.

Some of the films we’re seeing are amazing,  but all are intriguing!

Our films represent over 20 countries.  Comedy is our largest category – which is exciting, since who doesn’t love to laugh!

We’re also receiving  screenplays for our screenplay challenge.  The two finalists will be awarded a table read at the festival.  The Grand Prize winner for the screenplay category will receive Write Brother’s Movie Magic Screenwriter professional screenwriting software and a monetary award.  And, if the Screenplay Contest winner produces a film from the winning screenplay and submits it for the 2018 festival, they will be guaranteed a showing at the festival.  We do say our mission is nurturing and showcasing talent!

In addition to more films and screenplays, more donors and sponsors would be extremely welcome.  We still need a sponsor for the red carpet, the awards ceremony, and other categories! Consider the excitement of being a large part of Copa Shorts Film Fest’s inaugural year.  Envision yourself or your company being listed as a sponsor or donor on our website, in the program, and announced at the festival.  (And, if you’d prefer to remain anonymous, we can thank you privately.)  We can carve out a creative place for your company to shine at the festival!

Our sponsor, Orbitel Communications, will be showing spots featuring Copa Shorts Film Fest on their channels soon.

So much going on!

And a great big thanks and round of applause to our film reviewers who have been seeing films and rating them.  Ultimately, their reviews will determine which films are shown at the festival. Thanks to:

Amanda, Bruce, Dayna, Emina, Ernesto, Eryn, Gina, Hunter, James, Joan, Joseph, Kara, Katherine, Matt, Paul, and Pierce.

We couldn’t do this without you!!

September 15, 2016

Central Arizona College hosts screenwriting/filmmaking workshop at Maricopa campus

On September 15, Copa Shorts Film Fest presented a half-day day screenwriting program coupled with an interactive full-set filmmaking workshop. Community members and college students were provided with a morning introduction to screenwriting by CSFF directors Shelley Gillespie and Roger Gillespie, owners of Venture Court Productions. The attendees developed a screenplay concept with characters, dialogue and were engaged in writing a full scene.

The scene was later used as a basis for a film production workshop, using all attendees as either cast or crew.

In the afternoon, Bruce Anderson of BVP Productions, provided thorough instruction on how lighting is used in filming and basic set protocol. Anderson, with over 30 years in the film industry, showed the elements to each “cast” or “crew” member so they could successfully be a set dresser, camera operator, boom operator, focus puller, cue card holder, director, or actor. Most of the attendees had no prior experience as actors or crewmembers.

By the end of the day, the ensemble had created and filmed footage to include closeups, wide shots, and various angles. Anderson edited the scene to a 3-minute, 22-second film, now available for viewing on Vimeo.

September 9, 2016

CSFF presents workshop for Maricopa middle school students

Maricopa Unified School District middle school students – about 340 of them – joined an intensive introduction to filmmaking with guest instructor Tony Estrada, film producer and director, of Wild Horse Productions in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Estrada, in film production for over 20 years, is a Navajo tribal member.

On September 9, the students traveled to Maricopa High School’s Performing Arts Center for the workshop which whisked them through a program beginning with screenwriting and ending with volunteers performing in scenes from some popular films while learning on-set production roles with full cameras and sound.

Several middle school classes are teaching students how to write screenplays. Students will work to complete their short screenplays to submit by October 28 for the CSFF Screenplay competition.

The workshop was supported by contributions from the City of Maricopa.

August 22, 2016


Get ready for fun workshops!

For kids –

Where: Maricopa Unified School District’s Performing Arts Center

When: September 9, Friday

What: A 3-hour interactive filmmaking workshop. Attendees are 300+ middle school students who will learn first-hand what it takes to make a movie!

(Not open to the general public, but if your child is in the middle school age group and doesn’t attend Maricopa Wells or Desert Wind Middle schools, contact us and we’ll get special approval for them to attend. Contact us:

Tony Estrada, filmmaker and producer, will be the students’ guide to what takes place behind the scenes in creating what you watch on any screen.

While the cost to attend is free, please consider sponsoring one of the kids – $12 to sponsor – see the box on the right. =>

For college students and adults –

Where: At Central Arizona College’s Maricopa, AZ campus

When: September 15, Thursday

Who: An adult or college student anywhere in Arizona

What: A full day scheduled with a morning screenwriting workshop and afternoon filmmaking workshop. Both are interactive, fun learning experiences and


Preregistration is required. Spaces are limited, so register now!

Register at:

August 17, 2016

Excited to share the many happenings since our last blog post!

We’ve had more films coming in – and our festival will certainly bring smiles and laughter.  Our largest category is comedy!!

If you’ve even been considering submitting a film – remember only 2 to 20 minutes long – do it!  Submit films at or hit the button on our submit page to get there directly.  We have prizes!  Students have a terrific deal – on $10 to submit a film until October 28.  Since we’re a new festival, not everyone has discovered us yet.  You could be a winner!  Like we said, do it now!

We have an array of sponsors: UltraStar Multi-Tainment Center, Harrah’s Hotel & Casino, Write Brothers (Movie Magic Screenwriter), Jungle Software (Gorilla & Chimpanzee), Orbitel Communications, Global Water, and more.  Where’s your name?  Copa Shorts Film Fest, while new, will be featuring some of the best new short films and screenplays out there.  Show your company as a community, regional, and global player.  We’re drawing attention from around the world – France, Canada, Australia, UK, Norway, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, and more.

July 2, 2016

What an amazing first month!

When we launched Copa Shorts Film Fest and started to accept films, we could not have predicted the whirlwind our first month would bring. With a crew of eager and talented film reviewers, we were ready to review the films that came in from all over the world. At first, it almost appeared that we’d be predominantly a foreign film festival. That has changed. Films have been submitted from four continents. (I don’t know anyone in Antarctica, do you?)

Thank you to our wonderful crew of reviewers! Bruce, Dayna, Emina, Erika, Eryn, Gina, Hunter, James, Joan, Joseph, Kara, Katherine, Matt, Paul and Pierce who’ve watched a diversity of films.

We’re now fortunate to have the support of some major Hollywood software companies!

Write Brothers, developer of Movie Magic Screenwriter, will be awarding professional screenwriting software to the screenplay contest winner, as well as other contest categories to be announced.

Jungle Software will award their Gorilla Combo pack (budgeting, scheduling) professional software to the “Best of the Fest” winner, plus StoryO to the screenwriting Grand Prize winner and Chimpanzee to both the Student and Native American category winners.

Our sponsor list is growing, our media stories are out there, and we’re organizing community filmmaker/screenwriter workshops for September. (More details on that soon.)

One favor – we still need to meet our fundraising goals on –

Please help us make this great event and workshops happen.

Thank you to everyone who has assisted us!

June 11, 2016

Film are coming in!

We’ve had some excellent, thought-provoking, quirky, funny, creative, and colorful films to review.

But, we need more!

We’ve seen films from France, Cyprus, Australia, Japan,  LA and San Francisco.  Where’s yours??

Do you want recognition?  Do you crave the chance to have your short film seen or your short screenplay read and heard?  Now’s the time – while the festival is new and not everyone has discovered us yet!

Send your creative two-20 minute film or 15-page screenplay to: and Enter “Copa Shorts Film Fest” in the Search box.

We want YOU!

Until June 30, the Early Bird rate is in effect – only $20. A student submission is only $10 any time until October 28th.

May 30, 2016

Copa Shorts Film Fest has opened for short film and screenplay submissions!  Until June 30th, your Early Bird submissions are only $20 each.  Students are $10 per submission all the time!

Join us!