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Originally published Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 7:06 PM

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Seen these films? Probably not, unless you go to festivals

"The Official Best of Fest: The Best Films You've Never Seen," a curated selection of short films originally seen at film festivals, airs at 7 p.m. Saturday on KCTS. The series was curated by Rick Stevenson, a Seattle native who lives in Richmond Beach and who produced "Privileged," the first film Hugh Grant starred in.

Seattle Times staff reporter

TV preview

'The Official Best of Fest: The Best Films You've Never Seen'

7 p.m. Saturday on KCTS, then at 7:30 p.m. every Saturday

"It's always the same story," Rick Stevenson said. "Wonderful films, but it's one night of glory, and that's all."

Stevenson is talking about film festivals. He has been to hundreds in his career as a director, producer and writer. The problem, he says, is that the brand of independent films screened at festivals rarely reaches the public. Filmmakers can't afford steep distribution costs, and they can forget about marketing short films: There's no market to speak of.

His fix? "The Official Best of Fest: The Best Films You've Never Seen," a short-film series that premieres this weekend on KCTS 9.

Stevenson, a Seattle native who lives in Richmond Beach, produced the 1982 flick "Privileged," which starred Hugh Grant in his first role. Stevenson's credits also include films with Meg Ryan, Kiefer Sutherland and Patrick Dempsey. He's also the founder of and an instructor at TheFilmSchool in Seattle.

In the past six months, Stevenson directed, produced, wrote and co-hosted the 30-part "Best of Fest" series. He got the idea in 2006, when he toured six continents to plug his feature film "Expiration Date," shot in Seattle. Stevenson found that many indies he saw at festivals were more original and more engaging than Hollywood's latest recycled sequel or stale romantic comedy, even those clocking in at less than half an hour.

"It feels like the most common thing said about the movies these days is, 'Where did all the movies go?' " Stevenson said. "It seems criminal that they're out there and there isn't a means to see them."

He took recommendations from others in the industry to curate the shorts that made it on the show. Each half-hour episode fits into a theme: love, laughs, fathers and sons, girl power, etc.

In the gently heartbreaking "Celamy," part of the series opener about friendship, an imaginary friend helps a girl cope with her mother's death. As the girl hits her tweens, she outgrows her made-up pal and must choose to remain a child or move on without her.

In "Tanghi Argentini," from Belgium, a stodgy office worker enlists the help of a colleague to learn the tango to woo his Internet lover. In 13 minutes, the film darts from comedy to romance to tragedy, and a surprising yet sweet ending.

Stevenson isn't shy about confessing his prejudice: He likes films with a positive message, though some in the bunch are a bit darker.

He hopes the series will inspire audiences to dig for entertainment with a little more depth than what's playing at the cookie-cutter multiplexes.

"There is a world of wonderful work out there that is available if people can just find it and not give up on the movies," he said.

Rachel Solomon: 206-464-3272 or rsolomon@seattletimes.com

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