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Twenty-four Washington-area filmmakers will be upping the ante at the DC Shorts fest, so I thought a little Q&A was in order for those locals gracious enough to lend me some time. I was mulling over the Vanity Fair route until I realized, the Proust Questionnaire is so ’90s.

So let’s call this…the Olszewski Probe. First up, Greenbelt’s Zachary Brewster-Geisz, whose animated, three-minutes-and-change comedy, The Cell-Phone, is making its premiere at the festival’s opening-night screening Thursday.

Q: Do you own a cell phone?
A: To my eternal shame, yes; but I rarely turn it on or even carry it with me, and no one knows the number except my wife. People are more likely to be annoyed by my digital watch.

Q: Are you going to take calls during the screening, and hold up the phone so your friends can hear the audience’s reaction?
A: Hey, that’s an idea! Maybe I should try that during the award ceremony, too. “No, that bastard from Sundance got it! Yeah, I will rough him up after.”

Q: If you were a telephone, what kind of telephone would you be?
A: One of those old black Bell Telephone rotary phones. I loves me some vintage equipment.

Q: Do you have formal training in animation/filmmaking?
A: Not really. I started with stop-motion back in eighth grade, filming my shoes and underwear walking across the floor of their own accord. My sense of humor has only grown less sophisticated since.

Q: What’s the most difficult part of making an animated movie?
A: Seeing the forest for the trees. So much emphasis is placed on the visual style (at least in computer graphics), but for me, everything is about the story. So if I’ve created an absolutely stunning bit of animation, but it runs too long or doesn’t pertain to the rest of the film, it’s gone. (Fortunately, for me the stunning bits of animation are rare. Or was I not supposed to admit that?)

Q: What is one film you wish you’d made, and why?
A: Everyone says Casablanca, right? Actually, I kinda wish I had thought of The Incredibles before Brad Bird did. Superhero movies are a guilty pleasure, and I love anything that explodes genre conventions. Same goes for Galaxy Quest and Star Trek.

Q: Have any of your other movies screened before?
A: I was lucky enough to have two films screen at DC Shorts last year, and both of those ( and Soap Opera) have had some minor successes on the festival circuit. has probably been seen by the most people, since it’s screened on Nicktoons and G4.

More of a command than a Q: Predict your state of mind Thursday evening.
A: As I enter the theater, I’ll be cool and collected. When the lights go down, I’ll start holding my wife’s arm for support. By the time The Cell-Phone starts, I’ll be a gibbering, weeping mess. After the film, I’ll be anxious that the audience didn’t laugh enough.

Q: What will you do if someone else’s phone rings?
A: Point at them and laugh like Nelson from The Simpsons.

Thanks, Zach! Stay tuned for more…