Short films - Brief encounters of the increasingly popular kind

Short films are the fastest-growing section of the movie business, with major directors, big brands, and web guerillas all using them to reach big audiences.
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There has never been a better time to watch short films. There are more being made, there are more festivals that cater to the format, and the internet and portable devices are perfect for watching short films.

I was recently on the jury of the Venice Short Film Festival and was delighted by the level of the 50 short films that I had to watch as part of the three competitions that we were judging. Having produced award-winning short films for no budget and with grants from the UK Film Council, I'm always impressed by how new camera technology and cheaper post-production continues to raise the bar on the quality of short films.

Alessandro Grandesso, programme coordinator of the Circuito Off Festival says: "Today, short films are going through an interesting evolution. On one side there is no revolution as there is not much in the way of money. But the flip-side of the coin is that short films are the ideal way to capture the attention of a public more and more habituated to consume items quickly, on the internet, on their phones, but also on television, which increasingly copies innovations found on the web."

It's also time to put the standard rap about short films being a steppingstone to feature films, or that they are to feature film what short stories are to the novel, to bed. It's too simplistic a way to look at a format that, in the past decade, found a new identity, and is able to connect to a youth audience in a way that feature films do not. In Venice young audiences flock to short-film screenings and parties and shun the supposed glamour of the feature-film festival.

Penelope Rose Bartlett, the programmer for the short-film section of the Chicago International Film Festival, argues: "The best short films should feel complete and self-contained, not like truncated features. The constraints imposed by the time limit in a short film make it challenging to develop convincing characters, so I'm always impressed by shorts with characters that feel real."

Film-makers such as Isaac Julien and Sam Taylor-Wood have adopted the format. At Cannes this year, James Franco and Kirsten Dunst both aired short films that they directed. The success with audiences of short films has been noted by brands, who are increasingly using such films to attract clients.

Grandesso explains: "Even the big brands are using the format. Dior, Givenchy, Chanel, and Pirelli, for example, are obliged to try and seduce potential clients by new means of publicity and they've all turned to short films." The 68-year-old Martin Scorsese shot a short film for Bleu de Chanel starring rising French star Gaspard Ulliel. When Shane Meadows was commissioned by Eurostar to make a short film for them it became his feature Somers Town.

Young artists are more likely to make short films then ever before, and they're being shown on TV, on airplanes, as adverts and also by VJs in clubs. Clermont-Ferrand film festival, which takes place in February, is the Cannes of the short-film world. This is the festival where most of the deals for short films are made. Usually TV stations and airlines will buy shorts as part of a package, rather than as individual movies, to fill up schedules. In the UK the biggest short-film festival is Bristol's Encounters Film Festival that runs in mid-November.

The internet remains a great way to watch short films, particularly via YouTube. Now other sites, such as Vimeo, that have HD quality, are becoming the vehicles of choice for film-makers wanting to show off their wares. Of course, the problem of how to make such movies cost-effective exists, but, for consumers at least, there has never been a better time to seek out and watch short films.

Cream of the crop: ten top shorts


Directed by Gregg Helvey, the winner of the Circuito Off Venice Short Film Festival's top award is about children forced to work in India.

Betty B. and the The's

Felix Stienz's romantic drama has a touch of David Lynch about it. The music and visual gags are exemplary, as a depressed short man is enamoured by a voluptuous singer.


Simon Neal's charming film about a child who wets his bed and skips school has a great pay-off.

Coming Attractions

Peter Tscherkassky's film is a comedy that looks at the relationship between early cinema, the avant garde, and advertising.



The winner of the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film is a visual feast that depicts LA as a city made up of nothing but corporate branding.

Hotel Chevalier

Wes Anderson devised this film as a prologue to his film "The Darjeeling Limited". It was so good it was incorporated into the movie.


Nash Edgerton's 2007 short film is one of the best examples of how effective, subversive and surprising a short film can be.

The Six Dollar Fifty Man

New Zealanders Mark Albiston and Louis Sutherland tell of an eight-year-old forced toleave his superhero world to deal with bullies.

Drunk History: Douglas and Lincoln

The script was so good that Don Cheadle and Will Ferrell agreed to be in this Sundance Award-winning film.


Amy Grappel's documentary about couples who wife-swapped in the 1970s is told by two members of the foursome looking back.