Special Features

Short is beautiful in film production

Audio 06:36

Short film production has been growing each year, a trend that took off some ten years ago with the advent of digital filming and post-production which lowered costs considerably.

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Even during the economic downturn, entries to the landmark Clermont Ferrand International Short Film  increased by more than 500 in 2010 over the year before, according to festival organiser Jerôme Ters. French entries were up by almost 1,000.

Shorts are definitely becoming more acceptable for viewing outside the closed professional circuit. In recent years, some high-profile feature directors have produced shorts to create a single-theme feature, like in Paris je t'aime or New York I love you.

And, amazingly, while this programme was in production, a 48-minute medium-length film made it onto the big screen.

The Paris art house cinema Action Christine screened a musical film called Un Transport en Commun, a play on words meaning shared or public transport.
 

In a bush taxi in Senegal, the passengers, who would not otherwise have met, sing their reasons for travelling, and find a certain compassion with each other. The film also touches on political, social and economic concerns in the country.

Director Dyana Gaye has origins in both Europe and in West Africa. She's made several short films, this medium length film, and is now starting a feature project.

She says that short films allows you to keep working, as it can take years if you succeed at all to raise financing to make a full-length feature.

For Gaye, filmmaking is about what you say, not how long it is.

"The deciding factor about the length of a film should be what it says not how much it costs,” she says.

Perhaps short, or shorter, films with their un-commercial formats don't reach the big screens because their creators don't really want or need them to.

They are often calling-cards - an example of someone's work and potential - which are meant to remain in the professional circuit or as part of film school requirements.

Edward Housden from Australia made a short film called Muscles about a little boy's efforts to cope with a body-building-obsessed older sister. Made during his film school programme in Melbourne, it was selected for the Cannes Short Film competition in 2010.

"It's just a humble student film,” he says “My aim is definitely to make feature films, so hopefully I'll get something happening on the back of the Festival and also hope just to get the film out and show it to people."

So there are short film-makers with a message, short film-makers hoping to make it big, and short film-makers who feel they don't have a choice.
 

EM photo swallow a toad

Latvian Jurgis Krasons, whose ten-minute film To Swallow a Toad is a carefully-drawn animation film, and was also in the Cannes Short Film Selection. He says making short films, like his painting work, is a hobby. He explains that he called it a pastime rather than a profession because in his country you can't live off of filmmaking.

"The national budget for filmmaking is so small that it's too tough to get money to make a feature,” he says.

At the end of the day, short films are often underestimated, says Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan, the head of the jury of the Short Film Competition Jury at the Cannes Film Festival this year

"Very often the short film is misunderstood to be a calling card for a feature career,” he says. “Yet some of the finest short film-makers have dedicated themselves to that specific format."
 

Moreover, Egoyan adds another category of short film-makers: artists. He has seen that short film is becoming part of art installations, and the works are thus receiving the focussed attention they deserve, in art galleries.

The days of the underestimated short film seem to be numbered (beyond feet and inches).

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