Charlie Chaplin built a career on them, and brands are now using them to sell their latest products. The short film, once a slightly marginal staple of art houses and film buffs, is experiencing a golden era in Britain and is reportedly reaching wider audiences than ever before.
Advances in film-making technology and the growth of the internet are behind the rise, experts say, but their popularity is down to more than digital progress. The short film, with its capacity to convey ideas concisely, is capturing the mood of an increasingly time-pressed, information-hungry generation.
Briony Hanson, director of film at the British Council, said we are at a "watershed moment" when it comes to the proliferation of "perfect little vessels that tell a story in their own right". "We are looking at a golden era in Britain," she said. "Just over 20 per cent of shorts in the total Sundance [Film Festival] selection were UK-made in 2012, while last year, the figure was 6 per cent."
Festivals including Brief Encounters and the London Short Film Festival received more submissions last year than ever before. Shorts International, which has the world's largest short film catalogue, had a 60 per cent increase in its sales over the past five years and in April plans to extend its cable channel across Europe.
Future Shorts, the organisation behind the world's largest pop-up short film festival, launched a YouTube channel which gets two million monthly views, a 100 per cent increase in the past year. Its founder, Fabien Riggall, wants to build a "thinking man's MTV channel". He said: "People are looking for random little moments to be inspired. The short film is the natural medium for that world."
A Morning Stroll, Grant Orchard (2011)
Oscar-nominated short won the Bafta for best short animated film this year.
Love You More, Sam Taylor-Wood (2008)
Directorial debut by the Turner Prize-nominated artist.
Tooty's Wedding, Frederic Casella (2011)
This 19-minute British comedy headed to Sundance this year.
Wasp, Andrea Arnold (2003)
This 26-minute short won Arnold an Oscar and catapulted her into a film-making career.
Dog Altogether, Paddy Considine (2007)
Won a Bafta for best short film.
Robots of Brixton, Kibwe Tavares (2011)
Nominated for a Sundance award.