What Happened to Shorts? -Brooke Harris

The creation of short films began in the early 1900s in the United States. The main theme of these shorts in the beginning was centered on comedy, and became very popular. Everyone was excited to get together and go see a film. Shortly after they became popular, around the 1930s short films started to lose their status. What began to happen was the larger companies that helped invest in these short films, bought them from the owners and began turning them into more expensive and longer, feature films. This action was called “block booking” (Kamau, 2011).

However this was quickly made illegal by the Supreme Court so all the large companies ended up having to sell their studios. Another contributor to the fall of short films was the growing popularity of television in people’s homes in the 1950s. The only short films that were seen by the public were the ones television shows bought and played. This left only independent filmmakers to create short films. Sadly, short films evaporated from the entertainment world, before entering the 1970s.

Short films slowly made their way back on the scene in the 1980’s and had a variety of genres. They are now considered “contemporary noncommercial motion pictures” that are shorter in length than big feature movies (Kamau, 2011). There has never been a concrete answer about how long a short film should be, what it should include and so on. Groups such as the Tampere Film Festival and Irish Cork Film Festival are working together to create a set of rules for short films. This may cause controversy for many people because the idea of short films is that it is very free, to do whatever one wants. Each individual can follow their own direction giving each short film its own individuality.

These groups believe that a set of rules can help maintain short films and keep them in existence for generations to come. Short films need theories just as short stories do in literature (Jaakola, 2007). These rules will help to continue to attract audiences of all different ages and groups. Today there is a never ending amount of short films that exist and they all leave a lot of room for creativity. However, the only way these want-to-be filmmakers can reach the public are in art festivals, like the Sundance Film Festival or Tampere Film Festival, or by utilizing media platforms like Facebook and YouTube. The existence of these festivals is important because they are the voice of these short films, to help them evolve and attract more people to short films (Jaakkola, 2007). Making short films is very popular today among the youth and for people who wish to be a filmmaker one day. A big reason for this is because it is very inexpensive to create a short film and in some cases, it’s even free.

Short films are rising in popularity thanks to filmmakers like Guillermo del Toro and producers like Sam Raimi who support, create and search for short films and prove that it is possible to attract a large audience to something many would have doubted. Short films may actually have the potential to save Hollywood (Zeitchik, 2010). Hollywood has reached the point where there is a loss of passion and creativity for a movie. Short films began with the pure creativity and love to create a film; for the individual person’s pride and enjoyment. Now there is this heightened importance to create a big, over the top movie that will sell.  The priorities in making films are now distorted which in turn produces recurring, lackluster films with similar plots and effects just because filmmakers know it is what people will pay to see. How much longer though will this satisfy us?

As moviegoers, we are so spoiled by films made available to us today and we forget up until the 1970s, a short silent film was something a family looked forward to going to see together and enjoy to their fullest (Hart, 2001). Now every movie is competing with one another to have more action, more effects and quirkier animation; what will happen when everyone gets tired of that? There is something amazing about the simplicity of short films, the availability, the cost and most importantly the uniqueness and lack of remakes and competitiveness that feature films have today.

Joseph Levy who has produced a few short films on the Internet including “George Lucas in Love” said, “There is an increasing awareness in Hollywood that aspiring filmmakers are being empowered by cheaper, more accessible technology” (Hart, 2001). Many people may disagree about the internet being a great medium for short films because it is too accessible and lacks demand. However, it gives aspiring filmmakers more of a chance to make it. It used to take them years to try to show their films in different festivals year after year. Now with mediums such as YouTube, these amateurs have the opportunity to be exposed to millions of viewers in a matter of days.

Short films are not only economically effective but also save you cost and time. Filmmakers and producers are slowly going to remember the enjoyment of creating shorts and that is what will bring popularity back to the short films. Bertrand Lee, a director of short films agrees and believes this is where a director gets to show his skills for creating a short film. You are allowed to experiment with different ideas and making mistakes are considered okay; in comparison to big feature films that have an intense structure and money is time and time is money (Foo, 2002).

With short films growing in popularity there will also be more expectations for the actors in the films. If you look back at most short films, the actor only had 15 minutes, or even 5 minutes to shine. This means displaying every gesture, emotion and word to the best of their ability. Big feature films today, actors have a couple hours to show their talent and the film is not as closely focused on them as an individual, which also leads to poor acting and a disconnect from the audience. Another positive aspect short film will bring to the table is challenging the artists and actors to really have talent; to really be able to adapt and become this character and capture the audience in a short amount of time.

Some people disagree with short films being the answer to saving Hollywood. Dave Justo, a producer, photographer and videographer believes if anything, Hollywood is getting bigger. “There are less people, but those people are making huge amount of profit. With the internet, you have a new generation of people who have a really short attention span and sometimes it is easier to watch a 10 minute movie and not embrace yourself in a 2 hour long feature film. That kind of film goes along with the generation that is coming along. With music, film, it’s how people are”.  He believes we are getting less attentive so short film feeds that need to have something straight to the point and with YouTube it is very evident.

“It sucks in a way because you can’t fully immerse yourself in to the character you’re watching and do not feel you have as much of an emotional attachment. It takes time to build rapport with the character or mutual relation to find in yourself in that character.” Justo feels you can’t fully relate to the character in a short film and that it does not give the full effect that a full length movie gives you. “If Hollywood isn’t Hollywood in 5 years it will be some other company that has the biggest production. (Short films) It’s like a Google filter for movies, with short films, you have what you want, right there, there’s no hour and a half of excessive things” Justo does agree that with short film it is more about individual creation for whomever is directing or writing and their exact thoughts rather than this polished, generic film like in long feature films.

Slowly over the years the amazing qualities of short film and how it once was in the 1900s, has been warped and translated into a less original, constantly repetitive and aggressive industry. “Effects are tamed attractions” (Gunning, 2001). We are gradually losing that pull or connection that once existed between the film and the spectator. Hopefully filmmakers, directors and Hollywood will start to acknowledge the power in short films and that they might be what will save Hollywood from drying up of repeats, uninspired films, and lack of creativity.

 

References

Foo, J. (2002, December). A nation’s cinema starts with shorts. Retrieved from Mini Cinema website:

http://www.filmsasia.net/gpage77.html

Gunning, T. The cinema of attraction: Early film, its spectator, and the avant-garde. The question of  

realism (pp. 229-235). Retrieved from http://www.english.tamu.edu/pers/fac/bhattacharya/files/cinema_of_attraction.pdf

Hart, M. (2001, January 14). Film: A comeback for short films is linked to the web. The New York Times.

Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2001/01/14/movies/film-a-comeback-for-short-films-is-linked-to-the-web.html

Jaakkola, M. (2007, March 11). A long future for short films. Retrieved from Festival News website:

http://www.uta.fi/festnews/2007/sunday/37392.shtml

Kamau, R. (2007, April 10). A brief history of short films. Retrieved from Associated Content website:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/199025/a_brief_history_of_short_films.html

Zeitchik, S. (2010, May 10). Can shorts save hollywood? Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/movies/2010/05/guillermo-del-toro-shorts-district-9-the-raven-mama.html


Just Say Enough- Brooke Harris

This is a short that I recently directed and produced along with the help and beautiful, creative camera work by Dave Justo Productions. I recently have been actively working on a campaign I created, entitled, Just Say Enough: Speaking out against Dating Violence. Our Facebook page with more information can be found at: www.facebook.com/JustSayEnough . My main goal is to raise awareness about dating violence which is a problem that is suppressed in our society and something that needs to be addressed and put to an end.

The goal of this film was to evoke emotions in people as well as passion and to help them know it is okay to speak up, they are not alone and they no longer need to fear or feel ashamed or embarrassed. The film was especially powerful to make because everyone who stepped up and involved themselves in the film, had either directly been involved in an abusive situation or knew someone who was. The beginning illustrates the person’s situation in an abusive situation; you are silenced and feel ashamed or embarrassed; you are made to believe it is not okay to speak up.

The ripping of the tape symbolizes the pain of speaking out. Yes, it will hurt like hell at first, but it will be worth going through with it. That pain will only be temporary in comparison to staying in a violent situation and remaining quiet. The end is more uplifting and trying to encourage the viewer to get help and to be aware of their loved ones and to ensure that they have a support system in us if they need it.  Parents need to be aware of how prevalent dating violence is, especially in middle school and high school as well as college. Children have health class and sex education in most schools, but they also need to learn about dating violence and what is considered a healthy relationship so they can avoid dangerous and detrimental situations.


The Dove Evolution Campaign- Tim Piper and Yael Staav

This film sets you at the scene of any typical photo shoot. The model you see on billboards is sitting there with no makeup, hair not done, looks nothing like models we see in magazines. She is quite simple, not ugly, but not what we consider in our society to be a “bombshell beauty”. Then they speed up the camera work and show the process, how long it takes and how many people it takes to do her makeup just right, her hair a certain way, all the work it takes to make her look “pretty” before taking the photos.

Then they show how much lighting is involved and wind in her hair to make her look…a certain way. Then after that the process is still not over. They put her face into a photo editing program, make her eyes bigger, change the shape of her nose, make her thinner, give her cheekbones, and lower her eyebrows, plump her lips and it is then that the image is posted on the billboard.

They send a clear message that obviously people have self esteem problems and our culture’s sense of beauty is completely warped. We live in a society where the perception of beauty is something that is not even real. The finished image looks nothing like the model who was in the image in the beginning. How do you think that makes her feel, let alone millions of other women staring at that AD? This was a very moving and powerful film that everyone should see.


What is Beauty

This woman, Annie created this in mind of her subscribers asking her what they can do to make themselves more “beautiful”. The beginning is very personal as you see the hand that is writing this letter, this letter she is writing to her subscribers. She uses beautiful piano melody which adds to the emotions. Her camera work is not fancy but she makes the point of showing what we see every day as readers and spectators. Magazines, billboards, ads, TV, telling us what is “beautiful” is thin, long legs, long hair, busty and so on.

She writes “You can never see true beauty with a mirror” and other very powerful phrases to remind young women that is not the outer beauty that matters and everyone is beautiful in their own way. It was very moving and done well to connect with the viewers.


Strangers- Erez Tadmor and Guy Nattiv (2004)

The camera work was very cool, while showing the different angles on the subway and the different close ups of the people’s faces as if looking through someone’s eyes who are moving back and forth. Without dialogue the film creates this intensity, this powerful silence that raises the issues and conflicts between the Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East.

The two believe because of where they come from that they cannot speak with one another. Then a twist in the film, adding skin heads to the mix suddenly brings these two strangers from opposite worlds together and they make a connection and feel for one another in a scary and tough situation.

This film goes from silence, to whispering voices which escalates the element of tension. Although they are both from different religions and entirely different viewpoints, these men find a common ground to work peacefully with one another which I think this short film communicates beautifully.


Causing Pain: Real Stories of Dating Abuse and Violence

This 2006 Emmy nominated film about teen dating abuse and violence was very powerful, emotional and well put together. They maintain the anonymity of the people involved in abusive relationships by doing close ups of them as they speak, showing only parts of their faces, the bottom half, top half, left side of their face and so on. The clips of actors displaying examples of the abusive stories being told portray good examples of abuse and show that it is not just physical, but also emotional, verbal and psychological.

They do a good job of showing that violence can happen in all different ages, races, genders and situations. The words and phrases that shoot across the screen as the actors tell their real stories keep the viewer’s attention the whole way through. The tone, lighting and mood really add to the emotion and seriousness of the video.


A Thousand Words- Ted Chung

This film was in B&W shows a simple everyday occurrence where two people make eye contact on the train or subway and think about that person later, wondering “what if”. Seeing this, most viewers can remember at least one instance where that has happened to them and they have either acted on it and something came out of it or they dismissed it and kicked themselves late wondering, “what if?”.

The girl leaving her camera on the subway is the connection the girl and guy have together once she left. After seeing that she too, noticed him through her camera (their connection), he uses clues and a camera to try and bring them together, in hopes or belief that this is fate or that something good would come out of it.  It was a very short film that showed a simple everyday occurrence, but in a very sweet and cute way; definitely worth watching.

Can be seen for free at: http://pangeaday.org/filmDetail.php?id=74