You're a first-time director and you'd like to get your short film into the Sundance Film Festival. What do you do?

Well, you can fill out the forms and submit your VHS tape to the festival selection committee, just like everyone else. Or, you can show your movie to your boss and hope he passes on a kind word about.And if your boss is Robert Redford, it just might help.

Three short films in the festival program are first-time directing efforts by actors Illeana Douglas ("Cape Fear," "Alive"), Ethan Hawke ("Dead Poets Society," "White Fang") and Rob Morrow (TV's "Northern Exposure").

And all three have roles in Redford's upcoming movie, "Quiz Show."

"They showed them to me," Redford said with a laugh, "and I guess it paid off - they're in the festival."

In truth, however, Redford just encouraged the three to submit the films to the selection committee and each film was good enough to get into the program without his influence.

What's more, festival program director Geoffrey Gilmore says these familiar performers weren't the only recognizable actors who submitted films to the festival. "The interesting thing is that there were a lot of (short films) we turned down that were by fairly well-known personas. And the ones that we accepted are the ones we really believed in."

Other actors-turned-directors who do have short films in the festival are Daryl Hannah ("Splash," "Roxanne"), Peter Weller ("RoboCop," "Naked Lunch") and Matthew Modine ("Short Cuts," "Memphis Belle").

All are first-timers behind the camera, except Modine, who co-directed a short that was shown during last year's festival ("When I Was a Boy").

- "SMOKING" marks Modine's first solo directing effort, an adaptation of a David Sedaris monologue that Modine had heard on National Public Radio, and his film of that monologue is a wryly amusing, deadpan pantomime played out against the active voice of Sedaris, with Philip Forman playing the hapless young smoker who is abused at every turn whenever he lights up. (The film precedes the dramatic competition feature "Floundering.")

"I come from a family of smokers and drinkers," said Modine, who spent much of his adolescence in Utah. "And I remember, when I was in my sophomore year of high school, taking a health class. And every day we'd get lectured on how alcohol and smoking will kill you.

"I'm the youngest of seven kids, and all my brothers and sisters were gone one day, and my parents and grandparents were drinking and smoking - and I started to berate them. My grandmother took a long pause and looked at me and said, `Who died and put you in charge?' You know? That's the life they chose."

Modine said he hopes his film will be taken beyond its surface subject as a plea for tolerance in a larger sense. "We have to let people live the life they choose to live, and love them and try to forgive them."

- "PARTNERS" is so wacky that it's a real surprise to discover it is directed by dramatic actor Peter Weller. "That's because lying beneath every aging hipster is an aging comedian," he said.

One of four films in the "Shorts Program III" collection, "Partners" is a wildly funny look at a law firm and the uptight lawyers who man it. "I come from a family of lawyers," Weller said. "I hope they dig it."

But "L.A. Law" it ain't - though it does feature "L.A. Law's" Alan Rosenberg in the cast. In fact, the 30-minute film boasts a rather amazing ensemble of high-profile actors, including Robert Hays, Ed Begley Jr., Kevin Nealon, Seymour Cassel, Charles Fleischer, David Rasche, J.T. Walsh - and a cameo by Weller himself. Griffin Dunne has the lead.

But Weller says the blend of wry understatement, deadpan satire and zany physical humor - even the film's craziest visuals - came straight out of the Tom McGuane story on which it is based. "Oh, he's off the wall, man. That story is so off the wall. There's not anything there that has been embellished very much. It's a very faithful adaptation. And it's a very visual film because it's a very visual story."

Weller is very enthusiastic about the finished product: "I love it! It's the most entertaining movie I've seen. I hope it gets a lot of attention and wins some awards - and I hope it leads to bigger things."

- "STRAIGHT TO ONE" is Ethan Hawke's short film, and he's quite modest in speaking about his 20-minute, black-and-white, two-character tale of shy young honey-mooners from rural Texas who stay in their New York hotel room for the entire trip. (The film is showing as part of "Shorts Program II.")

"It's a little love story," Hawke says, and though it was finished a year ago, he kept it to himself until friends encouraged him to get it out on the festival circuit.

"I didn't show it to anybody for a really long time. It just sat in my kitchen and I played it for people when they came over. Then I showed it to Peter Weir (who directed Hawke in `Dead Poets Society') and he said I should submit it. So, I did."

- "THE PERFECT WOMAN," a hilarious and insightful eight-minute look at modern relationships, marks Illeana Douglas' directing debut.

The film has 30 women (including Douglas) talking directly into the camera, addressing boyfriends they've been waiting for and lying to protect the guys' egos. (The short is showing with the dramatic competition film "Grief," in which Douglas co-stars.)

"The first image I had," said Douglas, "was of this girl, and all these terrible things keep happening to her, and she says, `That's all right, I enjoy crying.' That image was always in my mind, and the images of all these women in a restaurant waiting for their boyfriends to appear."

Douglas shot the film in her apartment over one weekend. "It was tricky. I was obsessively trying to work around each person, and we worked around the clock. I did my stuff about 4 in the morning."

The film has been very well received, but her greatest satisfaction comes from providing work for her friends. "I did in 10 minutes what it takes the studios 10 years to do - I gave 30 women jobs."

As you might guess, there's a sequel in the works, "The Perfect Man," which will feature a much more high-profile cast - perhaps even Robert Redford!

"It won't be shot in my apartment, of course - because I'll have to go to the men. That's the good and the bad of the success (of `The Perfect Woman'). I've been elevated, and now all these famous guys want to be in it - Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, Griffin Dunne, John Turturro. And since I worked with Robert Redford on `Quiz Show,' he said he'd be in it."

In the meantime, she is also planning another short film, "Candidates for Prozac."

- "LAST SUPPER" AND "SILENT ALARM" are fascinating films told from the viewpoints of children in abusive situations.

Daryl Hannah's 12-minute very dark comedy "Last Supper" has a little girl coming up with a surprising way to send her mother's abusive boyfriend packing. (It's playing with the documentary competition film, "Martha and Ethel.")

And Rob Morrow's 30-minute "Silent Alarm" (playing in the "Shorts Program III" collection) is an artful and compelling look at a young boy who is blamed for a crime when his mother is romanced by a con artist.

FESTIVAL SCHEDULE

For festival information, phone 328-FILM (3456); for ticket information, phone 322-1700. All theaters and auditoriums are in Park City, except the Tower Theater, which is in Salt Lake City, and the Sundance Screening Room, which is at the Sundance Resort in Provo Canyon.

THURSDAY (JAN. 27)

Egyptian Theatre: "Sirens" 1 p.m.; "Theremin" 4 p.m.; "The Hudsucker Proxy" 7 p.m.; "Fresh" 10 p.m.; "Poor Little Rich Girl" midnight.

Holiday Village Cinema I: "Hoop Dreams" 1 p.m.; "Are They Still Shooting?" 4:30 p.m.; "Living on the River Agano" 7 p.m.

Holiday Village Cinema II: "You Only Live Once" 1:20 p.m.; "Cronos" 4:20 p.m.; "Two Small Bodies" 7:20 p.m.; "Suture" 10:20 p.m.

Holiday Village Cinema III: "The Secret Life of Houses" 1:40 p.m.; "Anchoress" 4:40 p.m.; "Grief" 7:40 p.m.; "The Fence" 10:40 p.m.

Prospector Square: "Floundering" 3 p.m.; "Risk" 6 p.m.; "Mi Vida Loca" 9 p.m.

Library Center: "Lives in Hazard" 3:30 p.m.; "Nina Takes a Lover" 6:30 p.m.; TBA 9:30 p.m.; "The Who's `Tommy': The Amazing Journey" 11:30 p.m.

Tower Theater: "Thirty-two Short Films about Glenn Gould" 6 p.m.; "The Beginning and the End" 8:30 p.m.

Sundance Screening Room: "Consuming Sun" 8 p.m.

FRIDAY (JAN. 28)

Egyptian Theatre: "The Bed You Sleep In" 10 a.m.; "Mi Vida Loca" 1 p.m.; "Clerks" 4 p.m.; "Reality Bites" 7 p.m.; "Shorts Program V" 10 p.m.; "The Velvet Underground and Nico" midnight.

Holiday Village Cinema I: "Go Fish" 10 a.m.; "Boatman" 1 p.m.; "Dialogues with Madwomen" 4 p.m.; "Cuba Va"' 7 p.m.; "Fast Trip, Long Drop" 10 p.m.

Holiday Village Cinema II: "The Snail's Strategy" 10:20 a.m.; "Boxer Rebellion" 1:20 p.m.; "Closing Numbers" 4:20 p.m.; "Johnny One Hundred Pesos" 7:20 p.m.; "Fun" 10:20 p.m.

Holiday Village Cinema III: "Freedom on My Mind" 10:40 a.m.; "Fire Eyes" 1:40 p.m.; "Clean, Shaven" 4:40 p.m.; "Martha & Ethel" 7:40 p.m.; "Heart of the Matter" 10:40 p.m.

Prospector Square: "Tango Feroz" 9:30 a.m.; "What Happend Was" noon; "European Cinema" 3 p.m.; "Darkness in Tallinn" 6 p.m.; "Threesome" 9 p.m.

Library Center: "The Hudsucker Proxy" 9:30 a.m.; "The Nostradamus Kid" 12:30 p.m.; "The Pornographer" 3:30 p.m.; "blessing" 6:30 p.m.; "River of Grass" 9:30 p.m.

Tower Theater: "Naked in New York" 6 p.m.; "Killing Zoe" 8:30 p.m.

Sundance Screening Room: "Lives in Hazard" 4:30 p.m.; "Shopping" 8 p.m.