Short Sighted: Do we need a Shorts Category? Oscars 2016

According to the Academy’s guidelines, a short film is anything with a running time of 40 minutes or less (including credits).
The short film awards stem from the time short films were shown before feature length films at cinemas before the explosion of television and they were seen by a wider audience. Originally there were two different shorts categories, the first ‘Short subject – one reel’ and the second ‘short subject – two reel’. The categories were dependent solely on the number of reels of film used, generic factors were not taken into consideration.
But times have changed and the academy now has three categories for shorts: the short film branch administrates the animated and live-action shorts category awards whilst the documentary branch administers the documentary short subject award. Some academy members want to eliminate the shorts category in an effort reduce the overall run time of the televised Oscar ceremony. They argue that it is an outdated tradition, because we no longer see shorts before features in the cinema. It would however be a real shame for them to scrap the shorts awards. It is a category that student filmmakers can apply to, thanks to a clause in the academy’s regulations for the shorts categories. Although this year, no students took home the prize, Shorts are a crucial category for up-and-coming filmmakers as it gives them a chance to break into the industry.
The shorts that took home the awards this year:
Best Animated Short Film- Bear Story (11 mins)
Bear Story is the first Chilean film to win an Oscar and was produced by small Chilean independent production company Punkrobot Studios. It is a unique telling of the violent days in Chile under Pinochet’s control. Before Bear Story Gabriel Osorio had directed animated kids TV series Flipos but apart from that he has no major credits listed under his name. So for him to win the Oscar can really help establish himself further in the industry, proving how important the short awards can be in recognising future talent.
Best Documentary Short- A Girl in the River: the Price of Forgiveness (39 mins) 
A Girl in the River follows a girl in Pakistan who survived an ‘honour killing’. It was produced by HBO and was director’s Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy second Oscar (the first she received in 2012 winning for ‘Saving Face’.)




Best Live Action Short Film- Stutterer (12 mins)
Stutterer is the first film written, directed and edited by Irish Filmmaker Benjamin Cleary. Clearly was the only Irish nominee to take home the award. It explores the world of a man with a severe speech impediment as he tries to take his online relationships into the real world.

Who are shorts international?

‘You’re not going to make a living off of short films.’ was one of the first thing out of Chris Tidman’s mouth in front of a room full of aspiring short filmmakers. ‘they’re an investment you make in your next project.

Shorts International is a global independent short film distribution platform and Chris Tidman is their London based vice president of global acquisitions. His role is to oversee procurement for the Shorts International distribution catalogue. At the BAFTA short film masterclass he discussed’s relationship with the Academy, the anatomy of a Sale and his predictions for the future of short films.

Chris told us that Shorts.TV have a close relationship with the Oscars, releasing and providing theatrical distribution for the nominated short movies. ‘The films go into theaters shortly after nominations are announced, and are not released anywhere else except in theaters until a few days before the Oscars.’ 


From ‘World of Tomorrow’ (2015) : available on Netflix and to rent via Vimeo. 

Posting content to be viewed free online is generally frowned upon by festivals. Filmmakers are often faced with choosing between getting paid for their shorts, with the help of organisations like Shorts.TV or allowing the biggest possible audience to view their film. Chris weighed in on this saying : ‘the internet is problematic for broadcasters, once your short film is on the internet, it cannot be sold to but there are certain organisations we can’t dictate to…’ he went on to say that when Disney made their short black and white romantic cartoon, Paperman, free to view online in 2013 there was little could do. In turn every animated film up for the award followed suit causing real problems for the broadcasters. This year, however, none of the shorts have been made available online (legally) with the exception of World of Tomorrow (which is available on Netflix and to rent via Vimeo) meaning the exclusive theatrical release of the Oscars shorts lies in the hands of once again.



Chris said: ‘The recent growth in demand for short films has been unprecedented and Shorts.TV now has over 11 million subscribers. That’s a huge number of people interested in viewing high quality short films! The landscape of short film has changed, broadcasters who were once interested seem to have run away. I think this has something to do with Video on Demand, which has lowered the price of short films. This is not to say there isn’t hope for the short form. We have seen recently that short films are used as teasers for feature length films, and they’re being used to pilot tv series. First and foremost, shorts are a filmmakers calling card and a chance to find out who you are and what your style is as a filmmaker.’ 

Chris then went on to talk about how he sees the landscape of short film changing over the next 5-10 years. ‘I predict that shorts will go back into the hands of the broadcasters. On demand platforms already see the potential of the short form. Canal + have been offering €500-€1,000 per minute for a short. The audience is there and seems to be expending, it is in your hands to produce the quality content.’