Ninth British Short Film Festival Today - 25 Sept UCI Empire, Leicester Square
Time was when every aspiring thesp had a novel in their bottom draw - these days it's a short film.

"We get 4,000 entrants a year," says British Short Film Festival director, Amanda Casson. "From these, we can only choose 400." This selection, which signifies the great and the good, ranges from gritty black-and-white minimalist East European silent animation to homespun comedies made by students running around with a Steadicam mounted on their heads.

"The fact is that a lot of people have access to video cameras now, and this has had an immense impact on the growth of short film making," She also credits the current short and sharp programming in cable television, "Cable has taken the short film from being obscure and arty into the mainstream and on to our television screens."

Whether watching or making their own short films, it's clear by the sheer size of the crowds now attending the British Short Film Festival ( 25,000 are expected over the next week) that people want to see more. This year's festival has a special focus on Japan, a country which has only recently started making short films. Also showing are British, Italian, American and lesbian and gay shorts. Special events include interviews with a panel of international directors and discussions on subjects that trouble aspiring directors: how to make it in Hollywood on an empty purse, the pop promo business and adapting novels for the screen.

Of course, the main reason why people make shorts is that it's a good way to practice for the real thing - features. Kevin Chicken is one such hopeful who has moved up the ladder. Having made award-winning commercials, he made Cold Feet, a silent but charming short and has now graduated on to developing a script for a feature-length horror film. "My advise to young film-makers is to set a deadline and go ahead, even if things aren't falling into place. Write to all the festivals and make sure your film gets shown - otherwise it doesn't exist. Being a runner is a good way of learning, you get to see all the jobs. If you work very hard and try and impress then people will give you a break. It is possible."

Amanda Casson recommends: `Run' (Dir. Tomoyuki Furumaya, Japan, 1993) 7.30pm, tonight;`Is It the Design on the Wrapper' (Dir. Tessa Sheridan, UK, 1996) 4pm, tomorrow; `Doom' (Dir. Marco Pozzi, Italy, 1996) 4pm, Sept 23. Programme details and booking: 0990-888 955