Why Short Film

Why Short Film

The Brilliance of Short Film

Short film is First Light’s purpose. It is our vehicle for attracting young people into the industry and our means of showcasing their talents. As such we believe that short film is the most important form of digital media. It’s a ground breaking, inclusive and accessible platform for exciting and engaging story telling and documentary. In short, short film is an art from, but it is not receiving the recognition it deserves….

What we do

‘Skool Daze’ is a short film that explores the issues of Victoria Britain, Empire, and the stifling of the Welsh language and heritage by the English. Yet it is funny, the young people really enjoyed working on it – and they are only 9 years old – what other art form would have them so involved in social history in such a hands-on and informative way?

Kate Montefiore, Cinetig, Cardiff

First Light provides funding and expertise to help groups of young people from all backgrounds, make short digital films under the guidance of professional filmmakers. Filmmaking enables children and young people to develop their team working and technical skills, expressing themselves through a media that transcends barriers in academic ability, literacy, language and cultural background. Engaging young people in filmmaking helps them to develop the creative skills they’ll need to fulfill the government’s aim of making Britain the world’s creative hub.

Creativity and experimentation

From young people with mobiles to well-established artists, using the short film format offers a space for experimentation and delight – a place to explore an emerging artistic voice or to make a high impact statement.

Laura Sillars, Head of Programme at the Foundation of Art and Creative Technologies, Liverpool

Short film is the ideal medium for young people’s filmmaking because there are no big budgets and therefore no big risks involved; young people are empowered to take creative risks.

Short film is art

At their best, short films capture the essence of story-telling, without the encumbrance of pop-psychology and over-developed characterisations, and without the unnecessary weight of meaningful subplots and subtexts. Simple, universal stories.

Keith Phillips, Director, Ideal Films Ltd, Swindon

First Light encourages the production of quality content, we promote the creation of exciting and original ideas but we also value a strong script, good acting and high production values. As Roger Goldby, Oscar nominated for his short film ‘It’s Good to Talk’ reports ‘it’s no mean feat to make a good short film’ and as such short film is an art form in itself; the types of stories you can tell and the way you can tell them is unique to the medium, shorts are not just shortened features.

How short is short?

Creating short film was immediately accessible to the young learning disabled filmmakers who created ‘Animated Hove’. They were able to have ideas, create images and immediately have them projected back onto large screens to aid their decision making processes and ensure their ownership of the creation of their film. The finished film was exactly the right length for them and their peers to appreciate and celebrate.

Mark Richardson, Artistic Director, Carousel, Brighton

With Lottery funding from the UK Film Council of £1.1 million each year, First Light have enabled more than 16,000 young filmmakers to make over 1000 short films which make up a diverse and unique archive of moving image that documents young people’s views and experiences of the UK in the 21st Century. We want that archive broadcast to as large an audience as possible and it is Charlotte Dolman’s job as Exhibition and Distribution Manager to do that via the film festival circuit and the internet. Many of our films are around 10 minutes long but actually Charlotte believes that telling a story or getting your message across in an even shorter form is the best way to get your film shown at a festival.

Charlotte says

Shorter films help vary the pace of the programme, keeps the audience interested and potentially break the monotony of a long, short film programme – after a 10 minute film the audience will really appreciate a snappy short, short!

Shorter, short films also work better for the internet, the shorter the film, the smaller the file and the easier and cheaper it is to digitise it, host it on a server and stream it on the internet. Plus in an age where you only have a few seconds to grab the attention of a cyber audience short films that tell their stories and get messages across in a quick and engaging way make perfect online content.

Short film: the career springboard

Young people who want to enter the broadcast industry are more than likely going to get their first experience of crewing on a short film production, either as a community based project or on a low budget short……short film production is providing young people with “apprenticeships”. As apprenticeships within the broadcast industry are limited these non accredited placements on short film sets are often a way for young people to gain experience and make vital contacts on their career pathway. This means short film productions are providing a vital building block in the creation of a strong and vibrant broadcast industry within the UK for the future.

Suited and Booted, Bath.

Taking part in a First Light project can open doors into the industry for aspiring young filmmakers and our new scheme Second Light aims to provide a clearer career path for those who show particular talent or interest in developing a career in filmmaking. Once new filmmakers are ready to attempt their own short films getting their work into festivals can raise their profile, get them noticed and get them work. Oscar nominated for his short film ‘It’s Good to Talk’ Roger Goldby explains: If you want to be a director you have to make something to show you can do it and a short film is the best way to do that. It’s a great calling card because you still have to apply all the same skills you would to directing or writing anything else….What is vital is that you make one that gets people talking, that wins prizes and that gets into the mainstream.

For the future

At the moment short film production is not an “industry” despite the fact that the majority of interesting and engaging film being made in the UK is short.

Suited and Booted, Bath

First Light believes that in order to produce valuable film content, young people need to have an understanding and appreciation of short film. It would therefore, benefit our young filmmakers and the cultural landscape of the UK as a whole if there were more mainstream access to short film. Shorts could be shown by the big cinema chains before features, or on DVD releases. The First Light funded film ‘The Princess and the Pendant’ appeared on DVDs of Michel Ocelot’s ‘Azur and Asmar: The Prince’s Quest’. Our shorts have also been shown on Virgin-On-Demand and Virgin Atlantic flights. We are working hard to get our shorts out there and but we believe that more needs to be more support from the UK’s exhibition and distribution industry to ensure that the short film enhances and enriches much more people’s lives…….

Quotations on the brilliance of short film:

Roger Goldby, Director:

How short film can be a vehicle for experimentation and potentially a calling card?

If you want to be a director you have to make something to show you can do it and a short film is the best way to do that. It is the perfect calling card to show what you can do, what you are about. And it’s no mean feat to make a good one. Whether it’s experimental/avant guard or a more straight forward narrative, just because it’s short does not mean it’s easy to do. It’s a great calling card because you still have to apply all the same skills you would to directing or writing anything else.

The opportunities presented by short film for young people entering the industry?

Think I covered above. Ummm. But basically you aren’t going to be employed as a director unless you make one or make something! Unless you are a very fancy theatre director or an actor. And a short film is the best format for that. It’s cheaper to do, it’s an industry wide recognized way of showcasing talent, they run in festivals, there are prizes for best shorts, basically if you make a good one you can raise your profile, get noticed, and that is what it’s all about. What is vital is that you make one that gets people talking, that wins prizes, that gets into the mainstream. But that’s obvious.

Whether you consider short film to be an art form?

Of course short films are an art form, definitely.

What makes a good short film?

Same as what makes a good long film! If it’s a straight narrative then, you want strong characters, strong simple idea, clear beginning middle and end, to engage the audience, to move them, make you laugh etc. If more experimental then to fit all those criteria, strong visuals, good music, whatever fits for the genre of the film, needs to be the same as a long one. I guess if there is one key element, its to make a short film as simple in it’s idea, no matter what that is, as possible.

The power of short film – can it change the world?

No! I don’t know anything that can do that! But good luck to anyone trying.

Laura Sillars, FACT:

The work FACT does supporting young people to make short films continues to transform the way we think about film-making and story-telling. Short films can tell stories of great importance and energy. From young people with mobiles to well-established artists, using the short-film format offers a space for experimentation and delight – a place to explore an emerging artistic voice or to make a high impact statement.

Mike Donaghy, young filmmaker:

I think a lot of filmmakers see short films as just a calling card and learning tool, but it really is a unique genre in itself. Short films are a chance to experiment with stories and ideas that are interesting and powerful but perhaps don’t have the scope to be able to sustain a full length feature film. It’s also a chance to experiment with a creative freedom you could never get working in features.

Tony Ealey, Eek Films:

Young people always surprise me with the freshness and insightfulness of their ideas and the resulting films always include unpredictable elements that I feel a team of adult writers would struggle to come up with. Their understanding and ultimately their usage of film theory is something that they can only be credited with once it has been put into practice by writing and creating a character driven short film.

Young people don’t have to be spoon fed but I find they really enjoy looking at material from outside of the multiplex experience. Animation by Ray Harryhausen is always met with enthusiasm for example as is the silhouette animation of Lotte Reiniger. It is hoped that this practice will cultivate some kind of cultural awareness and encourage a love of the medium the way it did for myself. The animation of Leger did it for me though at a slightly older age.

Sarah Mumford, National Media Museum:

Short films require ideas to be condensed which makes the impact on the audience punchier and more impactful. Short films are more do-able than feature length and provide the opportunity for new film-makers to test ideas and processes and techniques in a cost effective way. Short films make film-making more accessible.

Ben Eagle, National Media Museum:

Many short films show a greater degree of creativity, fresh ideas and passion for the medium than some longer and feature length movies. Each year we receive hundreds of short films to be considered for entry into the Shine strand of the Bradford International Film Festival, and the final selection always makes popular, exciting and surprising viewing. I don’t think the importance of short films, and the experience gained by the people making them, can be over-estimated in terms of the wider film industry.

Kate Montefiore, Cinetig:

‘Skool Daze’ is a short film that explores the issues of Victoria Britain, Empire, and the stifling of the Welsh language and heritage by the English. Yet it is funny, the young people really enjoyed working on it – and they are only 9 years old – what other art form would have them so involved in social history in such a hands-on and informative way?

Gerald Conn, Cinetig:

Short films have allowed us to explore, with young people, ideas and issues that would otherwise not be so interesting to them. Cinetig has established a reputation for helping young people discover their cultural heritage. They also learn the processes of film-making to a high standard on a small budget and the completed film can be amusing, hard-hitting, educational, but always dynamic, hitting the buttons in only a few minutes that longer films sometimes miss. The young people are, without exception, and for good reason, proud of their involvement in the films we make with them.

Mark Richardson, Carousel:

Creating short film was immediately accessible to the young learning disabled film makers who created ‘Animated Hove’. They were able to have ideas, create images and immediately have them projected back onto large screens to aid their decision making processes and ensure their ownership of the creation of their film. The finished film was exactly the right length for them and their peers to appreciate and celebrate.

Oska Bright steering committee, who run the only international short film festival (Oska Bright) screening shorts made by learning disabled film makers, feel strongly that shorts are the most accessible and exciting way to view film. They also feel that the emerging genre coming through learning disabled film makers is refreshing, inspiring and unique.

Keith Phillips, Ideal Films Ltd:

At their best, short films capture the essence of story-telling, without the encumbrance of pop-psychology and over-developed characterisations, and without the unnecessary weight of meaningful subplots and subtexts. Simple, universal stories.

Rob Sullivan, Fly Catcher Films:

Short films are the perfect platform for first time film-makers. A five minute film requires roughly the same process as a 2hr feature, so they learn the importance of planning and pre-production, they experience the thrills and stresses of filming, and they get to grips with the grammar of film-making in the edit.

Working on short films allows crucial space for experimentation with new techniques and unusual ideas. The canvas is that much smaller, more manageable and disposable, so that first time film-makers can afford to make bolder strokes and try almost anything they like!