Understanding Short Films

Understanding Short Films

I recently got invited for an interview for a position with Encounters Film Festival; needless to say I am super excited!

Encounters Film Festival is the UK’s leading short film and animation festival and one of the few festivals of its kind in Europe. The festival is a celebration of talent and innovation from new, emerging, established filmmakers and Industry professionals. Alongside the festival runs a wide range of Industry talks, workshops, events and parties.

The Encounters Film Festival Grand Prix winners not only win a cash prize but also become able to be shortlisted for an Academy Award nomination. The festival itself is a gateway for many emerging filmmakers to be recognised by the big dogs such as the BAFTA’s and the European Film Awards.

Five films from the Encounters Film Festival have been nominated for an Academy Award in 2016:

So it’s pretty incredible for the festival and for me, as this is probably the closest I will ever get to the Academy awards.

The next Encounters Film festival is on the 20-25 September 2016 and is being held in Bristol. Be sure to check out all the details here.

While I was doing some research on the film festival and short films in general. The thought crossed my mind that isn’t it a shame that so many great short films made by talented directors fade into obscurity. I wondered whether the film industry was similar to the music industry, in that all the great ideas are developed in the underground and then the huge Hollywood studios steal these ideas and re appropriate them for the masses.

This motivated me to write this article to try and understand short films better.

Description:  The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences a short film as “an original motion picture that has a running time of 40 minutes or less, including credits.”

So many films could come under the umbrella of being a short film e.g. animated shorts (like the shorts before Pixar movies), documentary shorts and probably the most viewed type of short films, music videos.

Short films have been seen as the underdog of the film industry; however, I would argue that with the advent of digital communication platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo that short films have a bigger potential audience than big Hollywood releases.

You’ve probably watched 2 -3 “short films” without knowing it today. Millions of people have stopped watching MTV and go onto YouTube to watch their favourite music videos. Music videos are probably the first short films that we are introduced to. Music videos play such an important part in our lives that people refer to each other’s childhoods by what music videos they watched.

Music videos have become an art form and have played an important part in our culture. Here are a few favourite music videos of mine; some have been made by directors you may recognise.

Triumph of a Heart
Artist: Björk
Director: Spike Jonze


Artist: Michael Jackson
Director: John Landis


Around The World
Artist: Daft Punk
Director: Michael Gondry


Artist: The Pharcyde
Director: Spike Lee


Artist: Madonna
Director:  David Fincher

People watch millions of music videos a day on YouTube. YouTube monetizes these views through adverts. In the not too distant future short film directors might be able to monetize their short films through similar methods.


Where can you watch short films?

Music videos are very easy to access and it would be wrong to say that they are the only example of short film.

I wasn’t sure of the best online avenues for finding such films, but here are a few websites I have checked out that allow you to watch short films:

Dazoo Short Films

Shorts TV

Films Short

Short of the Week

Online Short Films


You know when you have about 15 minutes to eat before you go to work, but you are a bit bored at the same time. That would be a great time to check out one of these websites, and watch a short film.

Short films aren’t easily distributed to the public it seems, except for maybe through Channel 4 Random Acts, short artistic clips they play in between the shows.

Short Films are a format for which people have to take proactive action to discover and then view; as per usual with these things, it is the independent cinemas that tend to be the supporters of short films. You can either check your local independent cinema or look out for short film events such as the London based Shorts on Tap, an award-winning London-based short film screening platform for both upcoming and established film-makers to showcase their work, exchange ideas and receive feedback.

What are some key short films and why are they important?

Some successful films over past few years started life as short films some include Neil Blonkamps District 9, which originated from the short film Alive in Joburg, Monsters by Gareth Edwards, which originated from the short Factory Farmed.

You can find a whole list of films that originated from shorts here and here. You’ll find that directors such as Tim Burton, Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson had their careers launched by the short films they made.

Through my research I realised that short films are important mainly because they give directors the opportunity for their work to be seen, recognised and acknowledged. Once this happens they are able to gain the funding they need to make the big feature film movies that we all enjoy! so it is important that we support short film directors and Festivals such as the Encounters Film festival, because they drive creativity and innovation in the film industry. Smaller budgets can sometimes be extremely good drivers of creativity within film, forcing directors to innovate and therefore benefiting the industry as a whole.

Times are changing however, with the rise of digital technology you don’t necessarily need millions of dollars to create some special effects, and similarly, you can shoot a whole film on your phone if you really wanted to. Film makers don’t need to rely on sales agents and distributors as much as they used to get there film seen.

This cultural shift seems to be providing filmmakers with the ability to control the means in which their film is created and displayed. So which means more content is being created which can be both a good and a bad thing.




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