We are living in the heyday of the short film. As our attention spans have shrunk and our leisure choices have multiplied, the access to affordable film production and post-production equipment has made everyone an aspiring filmmaker. For years, trying their hand at a short gave filmmakers the experience to confidently attack a feature. Now, You Tube, Vimeo and other such sites give the shorts filmmaker an instant audience, feedback and distribution channel. Yes, some of the films may just be a cat playing with an empty box of saltine crackers, but there are plenty of inspired artists pushing the boundaries of what they can do personally with their own camera.
While the Academy Awards® may not honor these films, no one can deny that web content, and its creation, has given this next generation of filmmakers opportunities unheard of just ten years earlier. The short film, once a mere project on the way to graduating film school, has become a staple of modern culture. Websites like Funny Or Die routinely draw a million viewers to new releases, well ahead of many feature films’ debuts in the cinema. Any number of ‘new’ ideas on television, if you do the research, started somewhere online as a video, a vlog, or even a twitter feed.
And yet, last week, when the Academy® released their short list for consideration for the Best Live Action Short Film, I couldn’t help but feel most of the world is still missing out on some of the best filmmaking being done right now. Because of the way the deadlines for consideration fall, Austin Film Festival is very proud to have its last two jury and audience awards winners in consideration (2011’s SALAR, written and directed by Nicholas Greene, and 2012’s ASAD, written and directed by Bryan Buckley). These are films that somehow deliver the beauty and power of a feature, in a small package. More simply, they are both what we at Austin Film Festival love to highlight, great stories.
The ability to convey a fully realized story, with dynamic characters, in an abbreviated form is one of the most difficult tasks a filmmaker faces. Last year, Austin Film Festival received a record number of submissions, and a record number of submissions in both the Narrative Shorts and the Narrative Student Shorts categories. Some of them had the immediacy and vitality of the online forum, and we played a few of these. They connected with their audience swiftly and were usually wrapped around one sparkling fresh idea. However, the ones that truly rose to the top were films that embraced the short form as an opportunity to tell a story no one might take a chance on in a feature, characters that challenged us with depth and contradiction, and the style and skill of a true artist finding themselves and their place in cinema.
Congratulations to all those filmmakers on the shortlist for consideration for the Best Live Action Short, and to all those who strive to make their films something special. Austin Film Festival is proud to showcase great storytelling (in both short and long form) and look forward to seeing what 2013 delivers us (incidentally, film submissions for the 2013 festival open on January 2nd).
— Bear Fonté, Director of Programming