Thoughts on Film: Why short movies matter

Initially, when I joined the local film-making club, my idea was to learn the tricks of the trade. By making progressively longer and longer short films, I would eventually achieve my goal: a full-length movie of my own.

Since then, I’ve changed my mind.

Why?

Because I began to realize that not only did I enjoy making short films, I also realized that most stories – which in Hollywood would get a whole 2 hours worth of entertainment devoted to them – can be effectively and powerfully told in less than half an hour. To actually come up with a story which needs more than a hour to be told is actually hard.

But I also realized something else. I was bothered by the fact that there weren’t many short films which were both memorable and well-made. It was as if the people who made short films systematically considered that whatever the end result was going to be, it would never be as polished or as meaningful as a proper film.  A short film, for them, was nothing more than a technical exercise or a way to learn the craft through having fun with the medium.

The real catalyst, however, was when I got the chance to see a beautiful documentary about the Lumière brothers, edited together from a selection of their finest films. These film were delicate, poignant works of art which are still mesmerizing even today.

And none of them were longer than 50 seconds.

That was when I full realized that short films could be so much more than mere technical exercises. Short films had the potential to be their own art form, distinct from that of the feature film: a medium that sorely needed to be championed.

In this day and age, short films have the potential to reach a far wider audience than any Hollywood blockbuster. Freed from the need to propagate the accepted propaganda of the political lobbies which bring money to the film studios, those who make short films can express themselves in ways inaccessible to most professional filmmakers.

A great short film is far harder to achieve than a great feature film, in the same way that a great short story takes far more art and dedication to write than a full-length novel. In a short space of time, you need to create a whole world, draw the audience in, and never let go of their attention until the very last split second.

And that’s why short films matter.

But too many people believe that their short films have no value outside of their circle of acquaintances. Too many consider that, because of their ‘amateur’ status, they must forever place restrictions on what stories they can tell. Remember this: cinema has always been, and will always be, the art of making miracles appear in the audience’s mind. Cinema is made from magic tricks, from misdirection, assumptions, surprises and the occasional ‘where the hell did that come from?’.

That’s why I’m going to keep making short films. My new goal: to make full use of the medium, to prove that short films can thrill and entertain every bit as much as any blockbuster, and most importantly of all… to tell the tales I wish to tell.

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