A celebration of the art of short films
We have always had a policy of supporting short films when we can in Keswick. After the success of the Osprey Awards at the Festival, we decided we should try out an evening of shorts in the club. We'll start with a couple of the winners from the Virgin Media Shorts competition - how DO you make a thriller in 2 minutes?!
Then we've got a couple of local films, a documentary and a 'doco-verity'. Other films include the UK entry for the Women in Film in Television International Showcase, and, if we can get it in time, the winner of this year's Oscar short, and we'll finish with another winner; our own Osprey Awards. Not just shorter films, then - a different art form.
By John Stakes
Following the irrefutably heady and hopefully commercial success of the 2012 Film Festival (and what a great coup in securing John Hurt as festival patron), it was a clever move by the club committee to come up with a "now for something completely different" occasion last Sunday...a "shorts" evening! It may not have been the weather for shorts, and there was a goodly amount of material on display, though some of it proved scantier than might have been expected.
The world of the "short" film rarely comes under audience or critical scrutiny. Its category is one of the minor Baftas and Oscars thereby ensuring that even clips from contenders are never previewed on terrestrial TV, and the winner will rarely surface outside the film club scene and not often within it. Will 2012 Oscar for best Documentary Short "Saving Face" or live action "The Shore" for example be screened in a cinema near you, and will the best Bafta short "Pitch Black Heist" see the light of day in Cumbria? Probably not, and the remaining nominees are unlikely to have much screen life beyond the judging panel.
So here was a rare opportunity to see what both experienced and fledgling film makers alike find to hone their skills and perhaps catch the eye of a producer, distributor, or organisation with funding in order to reach a wider audience and advance their careers. After all the first foray into film by the Scott brothers saw Ridley behind the camera at age 23 and Scott in front of it at age 16 when they teamed up to make the short "Boy and a Bicycle", so hope and talent spring eternal.
So what was on show to whet our appetites whilst not challenging our attention spans? Amongst an uneven but eclectic mix of shoestring financed films, local home grown or related contributions came from "Type 2 Fun", made by independent film makers Bufo Films, and "One Last Walk", a family comedy-drama set in the Cumbrian fells. Both contained those "spot where we are in the Lake District" moments, which, for this reviewer, were at least as interesting as the remaining content.
Two winners from the recent Osprey Awards, "Birdie", and the comedy horror "The Shed" were shown although if you'd had to fidget for your spectacles you would have missed both. From the 2011 Virgin Media Shorts Competition the shortlisted "Cruisin" and "Inanimate" were screened together with the winning entry "02:20" a two-minute thriller indeed!
More animated drama came in the form of "Lighthouse", but the animation icing on the cake was "Morning Stroll", the 2012 BAFTA winner for animated short which was also an Oscar contender. The stroll imagined the same surreal scene (a chicken returns home to its owner from a walk around the block) being played out in 1959, 2009 and 2059, and cleverly used black and white and colour photography.
The special skills needed to make a film in which time constraints prevent the development of theme were readily apparent and came together particularly and more satisfyingly in the animated features. The knack is to distil the essence of the work whilst maintaining its integrity. It's rather like asking even a short story writer to produce a satisfying work within say ten pages, or a portrait painter to reveal the fundamental characteristic of the face with minimal brushwork. In cinematic terms every frame like every word has to count. It's an art form in itself and not undertaken merely by those who cannot raise cash for a full length feature. The precise skill needed to succeed within these limitations is ultimately acknowledged in Oscar or Bafta recognition and in lesser but worthwhile competitions which can, with luck, open career doors for some.
Whether at national, international or local levels any opportunities for aspiring film makers to display their talents are to be welcomed, so long may the Baftas, Oscars, Virgin Media, Osprey and other such "competitions" continue to give budding film makers the opportunity to display and compete to raise the bar despite funding limitations. In an extraordinarily difficult market to break into the world of the "short" is an obvious starting point and breeding ground for embryonic film directors of the future and often the only means open to make that first important inroad. Were the Scotts of the future on display here? Probably not but the cinema of animation looks in very good health.
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