Over the last few weeks, I have been working as the production assistant on ‘TRIGGA’, which is a Creative England and BFI Network supported short film that follows a young girl who confronts the bullies with the help of her horse.
Last week Flatpack: Assemble hosted an evening masterclass in Birmingham’s Impact Hub to inspire a new generation of cinephiles to create their own film nights.
After Cocks & Docs I am more interested than ever to continue organising film nights in the West Midlands. I want to do this because I love the idea of bringing people together in a cinematic space to share exciting content and to build a community of creative, like minded people in my home town. Film nights also give people an excuse to actually leave the comfort of their own house and socialise with new people.
They explained that at their core, film nights consist of three elements. Films, Places and People. You can control the films, you can control the place but you cannot control the people. You need to make the event special in some way to encourage audience members to attend. This can be done by showing content that can’t be seen anywhere else, holding the screening in an unusual venue or having an interesting mix of people/entertainment (such as dancers/musicians etc.)
Here are some of Flatpack co-founder Ian Francis’s top tips on hosting your own film night:
- Keep distractions to a minimum eg. natural light/noises from the venue
- Don’t over programme, make sure you schedule intervals.
- Make sure the audience are relatively comfortable
- Think about the trajectory of the evening and the mood and tone of the films you screen.
- Clear all the rights and licenses for both the venue and the films
- Seamless presentation is important. In a later post I will break down some of the advice the Flatpack team had to offer about screening conditions.
I’m so pleased to see Flatpack Festival organising more events across the year and reach out to people in the West Midlands, encouraging them to engage with film. If you don’t follow them already, you should…@flatpack
I absolutely love short documentaries. The format lends itself to experimentation and also forces filmmakers to make tough choices when it comes to the edit. For me, a good short doc is concise, moving and narratively whole. There are a lot of great short documentaries online but they rarely are seen in a cinema/communal screening environment despite the fact cinema was built upon the screening of short films.
During my first year at uni, I was saying to friends at the student union pub that they should come around to mine for ‘cocks and docs, long cocktails and short documentaries’ and the idea stuck with me since then. It took two years to actually do it in a public space for a larger audience but yesterday myself and my friend and collaborator, hosted the first ever ‘Cocks&Docs’ event at the Falcon Tap basement in York. The basement seemed like an unlikely screening room as it is typically used for sweaty club nights. But working with a shoe string budget we managed to transform the room using old tea lights and a shower curtain we fashioned into a screen using some string. Once all the seats were in, the pop corn machine was on and the lights were down, the room felt like it was built for the job.
We screened a total of 6 curated short documentaries covering topics including: pop culture, women’s issues, art, animal welfare and crime.
I am thrilled with how the event went, the audience seemed to enjoy the selection of films and we were sure to provide time for discussion during the breaks. ‘Cocks and Docs’ taught me two important lessons:
- You never see a short film and wish it was longer.
- You need to be mindful of the order you put films in, think about the mood the film provokes. We nearly made the mistake of finishing with a film that really brought down the guest’s mood. Instead we chose to play an upbeat, music driven documentary which stirred an applause from the crowd the end the evening.
DIY film screenings are a bit tricky to organise, when it comes to licensing the shorts and the venue and actually getting bums in seats but it was also a very rewarding experience.
‘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 Shorts.tv’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.’
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 Shorts.tv 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 shorts.tv 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 Shorts.tv 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.’
Just when I was beginning to think Short films no longer served as a calling card in the industry I find out about James M. Johnston’s short film Melville. A short character study about a man who is withdrawn from life and his personal struggle to become a hip-hop star. The film stunned audiences at the 2015 SXSW Festival and caught the eye of Michael Strahan and Constance Schwartz, the co-founder of SMAC Entertainment. The short is currently in development to become a television series.
Short films getting picked up for TV is not a new phenomenon. Though rare, it has happened many times before. An example of this is animated series South Park. The series is spawned from a short film called ‘The Spirit of Christmas:Jesus vs. Frosty’ which was created in 1992. Now, this is not to say that anyone who makes a short will be picked up by a TV Network but it is one way short films are getting new talent noticed. As well as having a unique and interesting idea and getting your film seen by the right people, a certain amount of luck is also needed. After receiving the best animation award at the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Jesus vs Frosty caught the attention of Fox executive Brian Graden, who offered Stone and Parker $1,000 to create another short as a video Christmas Card. This then circulated around on the internet and bootleg video. Comedy Central then caught on and two years after their second short the South Park series aired and 19 episodes later, it’s still causing controversy.
What is Fashion Film?
Fashion films aren’t new, fashion houses have been using film as a secondary vehicle to showcase their work for years. The quality of fashion films out there varies, some are little more than a poorly crafted music video and others are well formed, satirical takes on the form and though it is still unusual, some are well crafted narrative stories, whose stars (who often have a Hollywood pedigree) ‘just happen to be’ impeccably dressed.
Fashion films seems to be an increasingly important method brands are using to create a more immersive advertising aesthetic and solidify their brand identity. 2015 saw a number of impressive examples of this:
Matthew Frost (the director of the satirical fashion video above) in conversation with Vogue said that ‘There are more and new ways to communicate online for brands and magazines, so it’s a good opportunity for filmmakers to use that space…It’s invigorating because you’re not in a comfort zone.’ The general consensus seems to be that fashion films are an important medium because it allows for innovation, audiences have less of an expectation when it comes to what a film should be. So many fashion filmmakers then go on to make narrative features, which no doubt build upon the experimentation of their fashion shorts.Fashion films are, in essence, adverts attempting to pick up on the hype of successful narrative shorts.
In an interview with FFFMilano (Film Festival Milano) Editor, Nick Gilberg said ‘I think fashion films are opening up new ways of expressing feelings through performance, and they are a great space for people to experiment, which I’m sure influences cinema.’ The films are often created in the style of abstract art films, relying heavily on music and pop culture. I struggle with the fact these fashion moving pictures are being placed in the same category as documentary or fictional short films, with strong narrative archs and character development. Certain circles and festivals such as the Berlin Fashion Film Festival and La Jolla International Fashion Film Festival are celebrating the format that epitomize the porous boundaries between advertisement and short film.