Short Films and Long CVs.13 Apr 2009
I recently watched some short films which had an interminable list of credits at the end. Including second assistant directors, transport captains and who knows what.
It's not that I begrudge the work or belittle the efforts of those job descriptions, but...
The problem, certainly in this part of the world, is that short films are apparently no longer a crazy endeavour. Now they're mini-features. You wouldn't dream of grabbing a camera on a Saturday morning and shooting a short, three minute piece, unless it had been script-doctored, revised, rewritten, sanitised and finally put into production.
In Ireland, there are approximately five funding "buckets" for short films, not counting animation. When each of these short film funds uncaps its funding, scripts appear from miles around. Not just any script, but good scripts.
So, what's wrong with this?
The problem is, five funding buckets make approximately three films each. Fifteen films, with stellar budgets. And five hundred good scripts go back on the shelf.
Apparently, it takes around 10,000 hours of practice to be good at anything, so making one short a year isn't exactly a recipe for success (unless of course, the short is A Place in my Heart, which has easily burnt 10,000 hours. OK, not quite, but it certainly seems that way).
Group 101 Films offers a scary and altogether enticing alternative. Shoot one film a month for six months or lose your mind. I feel compelled to sign up. It's like a sick addiction. The adrenaline rush of production every four weeks.
However, the real issue here isn't the lack of production around specific grant-aided windows, it's the overall approach to short film. A lot of people see short films as stepping stones to features. They use the experience to prove to one and all that they can handle a budget. Or that a crew of thirty or so professionals is not a problem. Often, it shows in the story. High production values and low story content.
Where's the room to experiment, to play with the form? Short films have a shorthand (pardon the almost-pun) which allows us to develop a character in 48 frames. We can attempt to create pathos in the blink of an eye. Most of all, though, we can try new things. We can be creative.
Not if you're spending 7,500 euro per minute of someone else's money on your showreel.
Funding for short films is wonderful. By and large, it seems to be a new development. Hardened short-filmmakers from the seventies tell us ghoulish tales of "borrowing" equipment and begging for short-ends.
Largely though, it's distribution which offers the best breakthrough from the grim era of seventies filmmaking. Every town and village with a population over 10,000 now boasts an international film festival. We also have Internet distribution in all its forms.
In short (another bad pun), the outlets for short films have never been better or more plentiful. And yet, we still see filmmakers sitting on their scripts waiting for a funding window.
While I'm not recommending shooting without a script or without trained actors and professional assistance, but why not revisit the budget and see if you can shoot the thing for peanuts instead of standing in line waiting for the grant-aided money tree to take pity on you.
In days of old, you would spend your winter evenings filling out festival entry forms and duplicating VHS copies of your opus, now even that's a thing of the past.
So what are we waiting for?