or: 8 Short Films You Should See Before You Start Submitting to Festivals
Filmmaker Reuben Field writes in to ask:
What are your personal favourite short films? I’m really keen to watch more but as you know there are millions of them out there and it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff.
I love this question because it doesn’t really require much thought from me, just a bit of time and effort to recall some great work I’ve seen at festivals over the years. The short films that stick out in my mind are the funny ones. Here’s a list off the top of my head, though I think I will keep a running list and update it from time to time.
If you’re working on a short film that you hope to play at festivals, you should be seeking out the best examples of the form you can find to make sure that your work stacks up. Sites like Short of the Week and Vimeo Staff Picks are essential viewing to get a feel for the kinds of films that top festivals play currently – and the quality that they expect.
Update: I should point out that not all of these are suitable for viewing at work or with young children.
One minute long and a favorite of festival directors around the world. I don’t want to spoil it, just watch.
The Horribly Slow Murderer with the Extremely Inefficient Weapon
In many ways the opposite of Frog Jesus, this film explores comedy as torture. Or torture as comedy. When I first saw it I thought to myself “I’m going to find this filmmaker and insist that we become friends.” That’s more or less what happened.
Another witty, super-short film with heart. I first saw this at South By Southwest and I have no idea how many more festivals it played after that, if any! Somehow I’m just now discovering that there was a sequel, Dinosaur Sandpit.
Here Comes Dr. Tran
In its time this film was a force of nature, spawning multiple sequels, DVD sales, merch, you name it. I don’t know how many DVDs they sell these days but I always feel a bit gleeful when I introduce someone to Dr. Tran for the first time.
Originally I thought this wasn’t online, but creator Mike Brune was kind enough to point me in the right direction. The Adventure breaks some of the accepted festival “rules” of shorts programming (in particular the fact that it’s more than 20 minutes long), but it played a dozen or so fests and won awards at several of them. It’s a fascinating slow-burn of a film. I’m so glad you can actually watch it.
The Ballad of Friday and June
I’ve written about this one here on the blog before. As I said then: This was a big favorite of mine on the festival circuit [that] year. It’s short, funny, poignant, heartfelt, and other adjectives that mean ‘wonderful.’
Will Hartman’s films would probably make the favorites list of many a festival director. I keep going back to this short, which puts a new spin on an old joke. There might be a couple of familiar faces you’ll recognize.
The director of this film, Mark Potts, is better known for short and feature films that are not as, um, family-friendly as Building Imagination, but I like the contrast this short provides to the rest of his work. Also, there are a number of his festival shorts I couldn’t find online. Get on that, Mark.
Got some favorite short films of your own? Link to them in the comments.