Thursday, February 11, 2016


Much as tardiness displeases me, time is a scarce commodity of late.

Because...we're in pre-production.

Yes, we're making another film. The joy. The peril. The angst. The satisfaction.

This one is called 'Dedo', and we are now officially just under four weeks away from rolling cameras. I won't plug the film too heavily as yet, safe to say that it has a broadcast slot on the ABC network in Australia, if we can deliver on the promise of the script.

But what kind of film, you ask? A documentary? An historical epic? A sci-fi thriller?

A short comedy, actually. Infinitely more accessible for audiences, and therefore programmable for film festivals and the like. The real prize is eyeballs, after all.

Generally, when I explain what kind of film 'Dedo' is, the response falls broadly into two hemispheres.

Fantastic! Let us know when it is screening on television, so we can tune in.


Another short film?

And there it is. Nothing more gut wrenching than a question that's sole purpose is to diminutise. Because working with a great writer/director on a script you are passionate about, while simultaneously wrangling people, resources, time, wills, etc etc; isn't enough somehow.

Interestingly, the same people who ask this sort of question, less inquisitive than sharpened to a razor point, are the exact kind of individuals who would also ask a charity worker 'why their cause is more worthy than the others?'.

All the while, ironically, the mean-spirited inquisitor contributes not a whit, to any cause, ever.

It's the same personality that would criticise someone for offering advice from their own perspective, while offering very little in return. By way of example, in an interview I did recently, I suggested that:

'Short films are absolutely vital. They are a place to develop your voice and your process as a filmmaker. Too many people skip this step and don't properly develop in each of these key areas.'

For the most part, this perspective seemed to innocuously bubble to the surface, pop, and disappear. Existing for a moment and then gone, into the din of the interwebs.

But even in that infinitesimally small amount of time that the interview was 'current', a colleague of mine objected.

Spurred on by a recent article decrying the allegorical 'short film trap' that filmmakers apparently become stuck in, this colleague unabashedly claimed that you have to "move on" from short films. Some sort of general musing followed about 'making a short or two and then making a feature film you can make money on'.

If only I had known earlier! All you have to do is make a film exactly ninety minutes in length, and money will rain down upon you like milk and honey from the Cornucopia.


I'll be honest, I'm thoroughly exhausted with this particular debate. It's like Groundhog Day, only I'm not sure if I'm Bill Murray or the groundhog. Perhaps both.

So, for the avoidance of any doubt, and perhaps to finally answer a question that won't die (and that no-one really remembers asking), let me make the strongest case I can for the continued existence of short films.

I'll start by repeating myself from the interview. On a purely holistic level, the experience of making a short film develops artists in two ways: process, and voice.

'Process is important because of the practicalities in making a film. The undertaking is gargantuan, and needs proper experience, knowledge, and respect for the craft. If you don't know what the words "boom" "mic" "phantom power" mean, you could waste hours on set trying to fix a microphone that actually works.

Developing your voice is also critical because otherwise you literally have no reason to be making the film. You MUST have something to say, about the world or the human condition; no exceptions (e.g. even Iron Man was about Tony Stark realising his legacy was 'death', and making efforts to change it). This is art, emotions and storytelling. Never forget that.'

I'll admit, that's a little fluffy. But still, true.

Aside from these ethereal benefits, however, there is also a commercial imperative that can't be ignored. Essentially, the Hollywood majors are looking for new, bold, ideas to develop into studio films. Guess where they are turning for a wellspring of new talent?

Don't take my word for it. Ask Neill Blomkamp. His short film 'Alive in Joburg' became 'District 9'.

Or James Wan and Leigh Whannell. Their short 'Saw' became the billion-dollar, and imaginatively retitled, 'Saw' franchise.

More recently, Jennifer Kent's short horror film 'The Monster' became the indie-hit 'The Babadook'.

And even in the last few months, an epic short called 'Leviathan' was literally bought for feature development just days after it was released online.

Practical knowledge. Artistic growth. Commercial possibility.

Three benefits of the short film experience that are worthy enough individually, let alone in unison. Remember these pillars before you deride short films and their makers.

Because, much like sandcastles, short films are hard to construct; and many a personality delights in tearing them down.

Even when they have no concept, or ability, to create one themselves.

Perhaps show an ounce of respect, for someone building a career, instead?

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