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The Long and the Short of it All

May 12th 2011 01:55
While short film continues its resurgence in the arts scene, there is still a question of whether it has really made its mark in modern culture as something that is significant in its own right and not just something aspiring film-makers do because they haven’t the budget or backing for features.

While mainstream audiences may see shorts as the easy make, the reality is that short doesn’t mean simple. By definition, shorts have to pack a punch - immediately. There’s no room for the superfluous because every second counts. It takes skill to make a cinematic impact, and more so to do it succinctly.

St Kilda Film Festival
St Kilda Film Festival

With the St Kilda Film Festival on the horizon, showcasing the top 100 shorts from film-makers vying for screen time and a prize pool of $40,000, festival director and long-time film critic, Paul Harris, had this to say about the subject:

“[Film-makers] might dream of one day making 'mainstream' films but [they shouldn’t] think of short films as abridged versions of possible features but as a separate discipline altogether. The creative freedom offered by the short film format disappears when you venture further afield and budgets rise, with nervous investors, distributors and producers breathing down your neck. In shorts the limitations are purely financial and the more modest budgets force you to think on your creative feet and engage with audiences that are hungry for broader film viewing experiences than what is offered by the downtown multiplexes and arthouses. [They can] turn that negative into a positive by discarding creative preconceptions and prescribed approaches.”

With Nadine Garner, Matt Day, Tim Lee and Tom Gleeson making their directorial debuts at this year’s festival, Gracie Otto directing her dad, Barry Otto, in her short Seamstress, a doco-short called Sally’s Story giving a glimpse into life as a middle-aged Jewish transgender woman, and Nash Edgerton’s world premiere of Bear, written by David Michôd, those who appreciate short film aren’t likely to be disappointed.

The festival runs from 24 May to 29 May 2011 at the Astor and Palais theatres, St Kilda. Click here for more from the interview with festival director, Paul Harris.

Michaelie Clark
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2 Comments. [ Add A Comment ]

Comment by Bryn Tilly

May 12th 2011 23:02
Yes indeed, too many filmmakers don't seem to understand just how to make a short film. I believe there is much to be made within the short film medium; I have seen some stunning short films in my time as a cinephile, but for every great short film I've also had to endure ten pointless and/or overlong pieces of amateur crap. There are exceptions to the short film that are much longer than average, but they are far and few between. The abstract arty short film is something different again, but when it comes to drama/comedy/horror/sf/thrill er then you do need to have the highest possible calibre involved. It doesn't necessarily need to be big budget, but then if it's not it needs to be well acted and have a sense of humour and/or a clever sting in its tail. A short film needs to linger in the mind long after it's finished.
Some of my very favourite short films include Kitchen Sink (NZ, 1989), La Jetee (France, 1961), a couple of Jim Jarmusch's Coffee and Cigarettes shorts (US, 2003), Cosas Feas (Mexico, 2011), Meshes of the Afternoon (US, 1948), Spider (Australia, 2008).

Comment by Michaelie Clark

May 13th 2011 00:21
Hey Bryn,

The 'lingering in the mind' is what I see as the vital element. When shorts are so... well, short, one of the best signs of success is how long lasting the impact is when the film-maker only has a fleeting period in which to imprint it on the viewer.

It frustrates me a bit that a lot of people see shorts as the easy option. It's the same whether it's film or writing - every moment in the story is critical and that creates a different kind of pressure.

I was looking forward to Sally's Story and Gracie Otto's submission at the festival this year, especially since it's at my local now, the Astor, but I'm going to be away. I'll have to find out if they are screening elsewhere afterwards.

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