1 of 4
Peter Kramer, Associated Press
Director Jason Reitman

Newly Oscar-nominated director Jason Reitman came to the Sundance Film Festival in 2006 with the satirical comedy feature "Thank You For Smoking."

At the time, he was already a festival veteran, though. He showed three of his short films — "Operation," "In God We Trust" and "Gulp" — at Sundance in 1998, 2000 and 2001, respectively.

"Getting my shorts accepted into the festival, and having them be so well-received there, was a big step for me," he said by telephone from North Hollywood.

"That convinced me that I really could be a filmmaker," he continued. "It was the first time I really felt like I could have a career doing this — that I should be doing this."

Reitman also believes his Sundance experiences might have made him "the perfect person to judge the festival shorts."

By heading up the three-member shorts jury for the 2008 festival, he says he feels "like I've come full circle."

Juried and audience award winners, both in feature film and shorts categories, will be announced in a festival ceremony Saturday night.

Of course, festival jury duty meant watching 80-plus short works, but Reitman says, "It was worth it.

"Short filmmaking has gotten so good and so sophisticated since I had my short stuff at Sundance. It kind of made me feel embarrassed about the ones I made," he said, laughing.

The 30-year-old filmmaker is the son of "Ghost Busters" and "Kindergarten Cop" director Ivan Reitman. And he says he was "in disbelief" when the Academy Award nominations were announced recently.

The younger Reitman's film "Juno" received four Oscar nominations — for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay (Diablo Cody), Best Actress (Ellen Page) and Best Director.

"My father called me crying because he was so happy," he said. "We were both emotional wrecks. So can you imagine what would have happened if the film hadn't gotten any nominations?"

Unfortunately, he and Page, the star of "Juno," were unable to reunite at Sundance. She appeared in the festival feature "Smart People" but has been in Europe promoting the earlier movie.

"I'm sure Ellen is as thrilled as I am," he said. "It's especially gratifying when you put so much of yourself into a project and have people really love it. You can tell they've appreciated all your hand work."

Reitman isn't resting on his laurels, though. He's already getting back at work with "Jennifer's Body," a film he's producing. The darkly comic thriller was written by Cody, but the nearly 3-month-old Writers Guild of America strike has prevented the two friends from working together.

"It's disappointing and frustrating," he said with a sigh. But Reitman added, "Diablo's stuff is pretty much perfect, so it's not like we have to make any huge changes to it anyway."

Still, he's anxious for a resolution to the strike, which would allow him to work on his own screenplay. "It will be nice to have the industry return to normal — or at least as normal as this industry can be."

E-mail: jeff@desnews.com