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The Long and Short on Short Subject Filmmaking

The Academy Awards were a couple of weeks ago, and for the most part, they were pretty banal and predictable… Except, as is usually the case, when it came to the short films. Shorts can be one of the most exciting parts of the film world, and I think that all too often we overlook them. If not for Peter Jackson catching wind of Neil Blomkamp”s short film, Alive in Joburg, we wouldn”t have had one of last year”s biggest hits, District 9.

Blomkamp”s conceptual short, Alive in Joburg

Alive In Joburg – Neill Blomkamp from Spy Films on Vimeo.

The main problem with short films is the way they”ve been distributed in the past. Most are only shown at film festivals or special screenings, usually tagged on to the beginning or end of a feature length (a feature length being anything over 40 minutes). Because of this, only the film aficionados of the world get the chance to see most of them. Every year, around Oscar season, we end up with a flurry of buzz around them, and then it dies back down, and goes back to being for the film elite, leaving the rest of us in the dark on some of the greatest film works being produced.

The other problem falls with the filmmakers themselves. There are just way too many short films produced every year for us to be able to hear about them all, much less see them. And the honest truth is that most of them are amatuerish, sloppy and under-budgeted (not to be confused with low budget). Because of this, most people moan and groan at the idea of a short film screening, expecting it to be poorly acted, shot and edited. But so are most feature length films we see in the theatres! The difference? It”s all in the marketing. Pauly Shore may not have been a great actor, but once the media got a hold of him, they turned him into headlining name! My point is that short film does not translate into bad film.

Here”s another example; a gem I discovered last year, and posted the trailer for on this site: Turbo! Director, Jarret Lee Conway, took a concept for a feature length film and condensed it in a way that he didn”t lose his story, heart or impact, but made it possible to do on a smaller budget. The concept revolving around a virtual reality fighting game, and the best execution of a video game movie since the first Tron.

Conway”s futuristic short, Turbo!

TURBO from Jarrett Lee Conaway on Vimeo.

The two videos that I”ve posted here are examples of the way that the short film landscape is changing. Five years ago, nobody would have ever seen these movies, outside of a very localized selection of people. Thanks to internet video sites like YouTube and Vimeo, filmmakers are now able to bring their films to the masses through FREE online distribution channels. Viral Marketing is the buzz term, but the truth is that good film has legs. And these setups are great for young filmmakers trying to make a name for themselves in showbiz, but they”re probably not going to make a living off of YouTube hits.

Enter iTunes. Say what you will about Apple”s DRM policies, exclusivity, and sneaky marketing, but they”ve created a marketplace for anything and everything media. Music, movies and video games, all in one place, and in some instances, all on one platform, like the iPhone, iPod Touch and upcoming iPad. Through iTunes, these filmmakers now have a way of distributing their media, and getting paid for it! This brings me to my final example of amazing short film; this year”s Academy Award winner for Short Film (Animated), Logorama.

Logorama is… well, it”s one of a kind. A mix of action, comedy and satire, bundled in an amazing visual feast, this short film challenges our consumer driven lifestyle, while also holding up some of the best examples of modern design. In short, you need to see this movie. Check out the trailer below, or better yet, just head over to iTunes and

Academy Award winning short, Logorama

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