Stuck for something to watch? Well how about a couple of trailers…
…a short film…
…and to round it off, a feature!
ENJOY YOUR SCREENING.
The popcorn’s on us!*
*this is not legally binding
Can you name your favourite ten short films? Or perhaps even five? I’d have to think quite hard about it.
As Sarah Morrison suggests in this Independent piece, Britain is in a ‘golden age’ of short films, with more films being made and ever more opportunities to screen them to audiences, online or in person.
‘The short film,’ she writes, ‘with its capacity to convey ideas concisely, is capturing the mood of an increasingly time-pressed, information-hungry generation.’
Maybe in this attention-deficit age, this is just what audiences want: short films. The shorter, the better. (aside: so why did everyone go and see Avatar? You don’t have to answer that.)
My own opinion of short films is pretty ‘love-meh’. I’ve seen some – what I thought were – memorable ones and then promptly forgotten about them. That could be my incredible ADHD or it could be that they were too short to remember. But that’s silly isn’t it, because you remember songs that are a few minutes long, so why not short films? Possibly because you only see them once, not time and time again?
In the Internet age, you can see shorts, web series and music videos all day, every day if you want. Has this resulted in oversaturation or too much choice? Everyone’s a filmmaker now, and they’re all vying for your attention.
But that also means a huge variety and diversity of new short films to choose from every year, whether online, in a cinema or at a festival.
The first short I made was a very silly one, but one that people remember if only for the amazingly nutty performances and the catchphrase, ‘EH?’.
The Planetarium by mileypiley
I attended a seminar on short films at the Leeds Film Festival a few years ago and met a few people whose job it was to watch dozens of short films a day. Their advice was to make sure the concept was strong and to include a terrific, eye-catching photo in the brochure to make the film stand out as something they wanted to watch.
They also said that after watching 400 short films, the two or three they remembered were all comedies: ‘Go for the laugh’ they advised. This is something that creators of ‘virals’ know all too well. The last few shorts we made were either cheaply made for the gags, or rather more stylish attempts to work in several genres, rather than an attempt to make ‘short versions of features’. Is that merely what short films are, or are they much more?
While the comedy approach makes a lot of sense – short drama films can either be literally too short to make an emotional impact, or they can take themselves too seriously – one of my favourite shorts is Hotel Chevalier, technically a part of Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Express but in its own right a memorable account of painful, destructive love that most humans can relate to.
Its use of Peter Sarstedt’s Where Do You Go To My Lovely helped to nail that one to my bedroom wall, along with the fragile, bruised performance of Jason Schwartzman who tells Natalie Portman, ‘I promise I will never be your friend’. So much said, and not said, in so little time.
I’m also rather fond of this little masterpiece, directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt:
Yes, technically it’s a music video for Zooey Deschanel’s band She & Him, but a lovely short in its own right, brimming with character and leaving one with a certain sense of uplifted emotions.
The modern showcase for short films, other than short film festivals such as York’s recent Aesthetica Film Festival, is of course online or in such initiatives as Virgin Media Shorts, whereby filmmakers get the chance to submit their short films for possible screening before major films in the cinema. Some of these have been great and some have been akin to those annoying ‘Sponsoring Independent Cinema’ shorts which play over and over AND OVER, FOR YEARS.
So are we in a ‘new golden age’ of short films? Several filmmakers I know seem to veer between thinking short films are a waste of time and money, or a powerful and pure expression of cinema. Some think they’re pretentious or pointless.
As someone who has made a good 20 or so short films ranging from the decent to the craptastic, I wouldn’t now wish to spend several years trawling a short film round festivals, marketing the same few minutes over and over. Nor would I necessarily want to sit through dozens of shorts myself, though I am often surprised when I do watch a bunch of them by the range of skill and talent on show.
For me, mostly, it’s all about features, and I know many filmmakers who feel the same way, turning ideas for shorts into full-length features to make more impact or serving as a ‘tester’ for a proposed feature such as the film that eventually became District 9:
After all, if you’re going to spend a few thousand and a few years on a film, it might as well be a feature, right?
The flip side is that I also know some filmmakers who have trawled their short films round festivals, and in the process have gained something in the way of reputation and/or industry contacts so that they may make another film, perhaps a short or a feature, and advance their career. A great example of this was Oscar Plewes’ Gin & Dry, a beautifully made short I saw at a London screening in 2010.
Then there are some makers of short films who produce something memorable every time, like London-based Alasdair Beckett-King, whose latest short film The Library of Burned Books looks set to be a typically majestic, visually stunning affair to follow up his beautiful short film Netty Carlisle:
So do you go for the heart, the belly laugh, or employ stunning pop culture geekery and fantastic effects like Patrick Boivin or Freddie Wong?
…or perhaps a stunning graphics demo that’ll get you noticed by Mr. Steven Spielberg, as with this excellent Tintin sequence:
Maybe the answer is all of the above, depending on your own personal taste and ambition.
And if you’re a filmmaker, how do you make that transition from shorts to features? Maybe something like this:
If you’d like to share your own or your favourite short films with us, please feel free.
We were on Leeds Indie Radio this week talking about filmmaking, Twilight, monstrous celebrity children, poo poo, computer games in urinals and other scorching topics. We had such a fun time recording it and we hope you enjoy listening to our verbal diarrhea. Squelch.
Thanks to Steve Shooter
Here’s an article touching on what we’re up to lately, including a tiny bit more about our new feature.
One & Other is a new website and soon-to-be-magazine highlighting the best of the York culture scene and is well worth checking out.
These guys have taken it upon themselves to champion art, music, film, food and creative culture that is flourishing in York, and by… gum, we need them, so show your support and join them on Facebook & Twitter with all deliberate speed.
They’re going to be a big part of what we do in the future, oh yes…
The most excellent Sir Steve Shooter interviewed me recently for his Fixated On Podcast.
Click the link to hear us shoot the shit about the new Zomblog series, the York filmmaking scene, web series, Adam & Joe, musical ignorance and namedropping famous musicians we like/are related to. And a whole load of other shash.