Sunday, February 24, 2013

Do You Like Short Films? I Don't.

For as long as I can remember, commercials directors have also made short films, and their producers have asked me to watch them.

Now I don't know if I'm a lone voice in the wilderness here, but I find these films dreadful.

Yes, partly my attention span is shot to pieces, to the extent that I rarely even watch all the way to the end of a 60-second ad on an ad blog any more. (Why do a 60? The 40-second cutdown is always heaps better).

But it's also because the films are normally slow, meandering, pointless, uneventful, dull, unoriginal, corny, over-emotionalised, over-acted, and under-edited.

It's also partly just economics. If someone is asking me to watch a 3-minute short film, then it should be six times as rewarding as a 30-second ad, right?

Here's this year's winner of Tropfest, probably the world's most prestigious short film festival, which was held last week.


It's well-shot, well-cast, well-acted, a good story... yada yada yada.... great achievement on what was probably very little money. So the last thing I want to do is slag off the individuals involved. But come on. The film's not bad, but it's not fantastic.

And at 6 minutes and 47 seconds long, is it really more than 13 times better than this?



No. It isn't. The goat is better, especially the part where he screams, that part is just priceless.

So in summary, I'm not suggesting that directors don't make short films. Heck, maybe other creatives like them. And maybe they can lead to the director getting feature work, or being taken on by a production company.

But just don't ask me to watch them.

P.S. I will admit there is one short film I've ever seen, that I enjoyed. Here it is.





31 comments:

Ben said...

Yep. They're pretty much all shit. Two people eat a biscuit in a station cafe, people pass a sneeze on to each other, even the one Wes Anderson made where Natalie Portman gets her bum out is utter cack.

I think the same about short stories and wonder if there is an optimum timelength for some media.

pablo blanco said...

Yes. They are usually shite. I've sat on a short film festival jury.
It's depressing, especially
when the production values are high and the list of contributors is long.

Here's a exception.

It's life enhancing!


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cbk980jV7Ao

Alison GrooveQ said...

Tropfest is definitely NOT the most prestigious film festival in the world!
What a shame because you're missing out on a cinematic form, that when well done, can be most rewarding viewing.

Anonymous said...

I agree so much it hurts

Dom said...

The crowd figure at Tropfest this year probably answers the question of whether there's an audience for them.

Not sure comparing a Super Bowl ad with a budget thousands of times that of a short film made by an up-and-coming filmmaker is a useful exercise.

Make it a fair fight and swap the creative teams behind both, and their budgets, and see what they come up with. That would be interesting.

JB said...

Hey Scamp, care to comment on the winning films similarities to the chain of love filmclip - an adaptation of the same story?

Scamp said...

Normally you'd be right, Dom... but the Doritos ad was actually created as part of a crowdsourcing competition. Its budget would almost certainly have been lower than the Tropfest winner.

Scamp said...

JB, I'm afraid I don't really know the details of this particular debate. But my general answer to the question is that no one seems to mind when multiple movie-makers adapt the same story, e.g. there have been lots of versions of Romeo & Juliet...even two versions of Total Recall now! As long as the people who need to get paid for rights, get paid.

Dom said...

Fair enough - I stand corrected in this case. That ad is great for a shoestring budget. Although animal wrangler, and those production values...not too cheap surely.

I think short films have their place, as you've hinted at. I don't particularly like the majority of them myself, but they're useful for filmmakers who are smart enough to try walking before they run.

A lot of it is about expectations. People don't expect Tropfest films to be spectacular. Much like they don't expect cask wine to be. A place for both, though. And nobody has to like either.

JB said...

So basically the winner of tropfest was a short film created from a short story. Which had already been turned into a filmclip.

Here ya go:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVQGQ0wh7eY

I don't know what the judging criteria is for tropfest but the ad guy in me wants to award originality.

Anonymous said...

No offence, but you're showing your age. Ad world has been trying to play catch up for a while. You now call it branded content. Nobody wants to watch ads, everyone wants to watch great film, it's that simple. Tropfest is a joke, has been for a while. Sounds like you need to do some more research, or turn off the tv for a change, go on I dare you.

Scamp said...

I guess the judging is not on 'best original screenplay'

Anonymous said...

That doritos ad is a little similar to skittles singing bunny isn't it?

Craig said...

I agree, the problem with most short films is they are not short enough.

Perhaps you will enjoy this site though:

http://5secondfilms.com/

- Craig

In summary... said...

Simon likes comedy more than drama.

Career Watcher said...

Ironically, Tim Bullock's 'Playin' Hard To Get' is even better than the film that he eventually won Tropfest with a couple of years later. He's a talent, that boy and all the more surprising for someone who was a mild-mannered account man at Saatchis.

J-Rex said...

I like short films. I just don't like production companies sending me unsolicited junk mail. I like music too, but not some struggling publisher's complementary February mix sampler.

pseudonym said...

I think it's a case of comparing apples to oranges. Writing a short is a very different skill to writing a thirty second ad.

The same can be said about writing a feature, it's different to writing a short.

They tend to follow different formulas, and I'm not sure your math applies: "If someone is asking me to watch a 3-minute short film, then it should be six times as rewarding as a 30-second ad, right?"

Some people just prefer apples.

I like fruit salad.

Not alone said...

They bore the fuck out of me too.

fan said...

So, you don't like short films. Advertisements are esentially very short films, good ones are good, bad ones are shit. Most directors want to make long form work (as opposed to selling their souls making ads), a good short film is a fantastic calling card for directors, they demonstrate talent in telling a story and crafting a film. The skills that go into making ads crossover to this genre. More and more good creatives and watching shorts and appreciating the nuance, craft, dedication and skill that goes into making a great short - I agree, bad ones are dull. As a group of people looking to engage directors, particularly young ones, you should take the time - if you have the attention span, to view and engage in their projects, recognise their talent and commitment and ultimately their love of film making. Don't be vacuous, be committed.

By the way, the reason so many commercials directors make shorts is for the sheer creative freedom of not having agency and client breathing down your neck and retracting all the creative ideas submitted and signed off on at the treatment stage.

Ownership said...

@fan – That's because they're my ideas and a lot directors lose the 'idea' by often straying away from the simplicity of the thinking and trying to be too creative for creative's sake.

So yeah, they're welcome to self indulge on their own time and money, but I'm not really that bothered about watching then damn thing.

another angle said...

Most TVC directors have ambitions to do other stuff. Short films are part of that ambition.

The short film 'Alive in Joburg' launched the director to make the feature District 9. Quite an effort.

If he didn't make that 'short film' he would have robbed himself of the chance to be awarded 4 Oscar nominations and create a film that would go on to gross over $200million worldwide from a $30million prod budget.

There are numerous ways to get noticed, write great film scripts, a novel, etc or make a short film and be picked up by famous producers to create a feature.

You can't kill the dream.

I want my 6 minutes back said...

Short films are wasted on creatives. Lets be honest, most don't have the attention span, intelligence or understanding to appreciate a piece of film making. Creatives generally tend to be vacuous, arrogant, self serving and one dimensional.

But they all want directors to use their 'directing skills' so their 30" script wins as many awards as possible, then they can use that 'award currency' to get a promotion to a bigger agency.

Luckily for creatives there are directors out there passionate enough about what they do to invest their own time and money writing, directing, editing short films to fulfill their passion & enhance their skills, which the creatives then tap into for their own gain.

fan said...

"i want my 6 minutes back' could have not said this better myself, tried, but totally concur re passion and commitment.

The Mirror said...

I'd love to see a Director write a similar piece looking back the other way. Very sad to see someone in this industry not appreciate craft and other peoples passions and desires. The world is bigger than 30 seconds. Hear hear to "I want my 6 minutes back"

Anonymous said...

I'm sure a lot of short film makers feel the same way about TVC's. I will say that there's been a fair share of TVC's produced ripped off from short films ... Usually about 2 months after Tropfest.

That said I find this article fatuous. The truth is short films, TVC's, TV series, music videos, feature films are related in a sense, but they're also very different forms and serve different purposes.

To be closed off to one or another of these forms leads to a myopic view of the world in which we work. Now I better sign of because this comment might take more than 24 seconds to read and you won't get to the ...

George said...

How does an aspiring young director make an impact without making a short film? Jonathan Glazer made several shorts before his first commercials and promos. They were essential for him to take the next step. Ditto loads of the directors I represent.

Ah, but what about music videos, I hear you cry. But what if you want to write something with a bit of dialogue? A promo will rarely allow that luxury.

The director could do a 'spec' ad, but these are not commissioned and I feel they are meaningless. I'd love to get your take on that....

If a director comes from a tv background, usually the standard of TV is not strong enough to show agencies. TV production value is often pretty low rent (unless it's HBO or something like that). We certainly wouldn't be showing clips of The Bill or Casualty.

When we brief a director on making a short, the key is to keep it.... well, short. 60-90 seconds at most (that is with a view to getting them into commercials).

And I'm really struggling to comprehend 'a 40 second ad is always heaps better.' That can't be true of Cog or Balls or a bundle of others, can it?

George said...

How does an aspiring young director make an impact without making a short film? Jonathan Glazer made several shorts before his first commercials and promos. They were essential for him to take the next step. Ditto loads of the directors I represent.

Ah, but what about music videos, I hear you cry. But what if you want to write something with a bit of dialogue? A promo will rarely allow that luxury.

The director could do a 'spec' ad, but these are not commissioned and I feel they are meaningless. I'd love to get your take on that....

If a director comes from a tv background, usually the standard of TV is not strong enough to show agencies. TV production value is often pretty low rent (unless it's HBO or something like that). We certainly wouldn't be showing clips of The Bill or Casualty.

When we brief a director on making a short, the key is to keep it.... well, short. 60-90 seconds at most (that is with a view to getting them into commercials).

And I'm really struggling to comprehend 'a 40 second ad is always heaps better.' That can't be true of Cog or Balls or a bundle of others, can it?

Scamp said...

Hi George! If you are briefing a director to do something 60-90 seconds, with a view to getting them into commercials, then yes I would recommend they do a spec ad. An ability to communicate an idea in a short time-length is more convincing to me (if we're talking about candidates for an ad job) than an ability to waffle on for 4 minutes. Obviously if they're trying to get a feature gig then it's probably different.

On the other question, if all 60 second ads were as good as Cog or Balls then I wouldn't mind watching them as a 60. They almost never are though!

Anonymous said...

This is with out doubt the funniest short film I have seen in ages. And its a short short at only four minutes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1r62vBY9jvM

Too many films at Trop try to fill the full seven minutes because they feel they have to...hence lots of dead spots... This short is exactly the right length. Came second last year...

Anonymous said...

Tim Bullock has made a few good shorts.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kLJMUac0Mc