In a Hollywood landscape where studios have turned films into nothing more than products of mass consumption marked by predictability, watching short films is a refreshing experience. Shorts are rarely made for commercial purpose. For directors, they are the quickest way to get noticed when budget restraints prevent them from making a feature.
With the progress of digital technology, the medium has become accessible to everybody. The unaffordable burden of 35mm film processing and printing has been replaced by DSLR cameras, GoPros and others. While it allows filmmakers to bring their stories to life with minimum financial investment, it also has a downside. The medium has become more competitive. Anyone equipped with a simple iPhone can make a movie.
In this context, originality and creativity are the essential values that make someone’s work stand out. In other words, don’t try to imitate but rather create. When producing short projects, film students make the common mistake of recreating what has been done before and nurturing the concept of proved formulas, instead of imposing their own style and vision. While horror movies with cheap thrills are fun to watch, every possible variation of the genre has been explored and Hollywood keeps repeating itself with the slasher flicks and possession / haunted house movies (The Conjuring, the Friday the 13th, Halloween, Poltergeist, Amityville franchises and their reboots, etc.). The reason the genre is still so popular among aspiring feature film directors is that those projects are cheap to make and profitable. Short films are inexpensive anyway and their ‘raison d’être’ resides in their artistic values. They represent the golden opportunity for visionaries to fully express their creativity at low cost while keeping the final cut. Being different becomes crucial especially when considering the limited number of films selected in festivals. Some of them receive as many as 1000 entries and only screen 50. That’s 1 out of 20!
Casting is equally important to convey one’s original vision. When the acting is bad the audience doesn’t get involved, no matter how compelling the story might be and how good the shots look. The most intricate camera moves and compositions captured with sophisticated cameras such as the Red or Arri Alexa will never be able to cover mediocre performances.
A paradox in a so-called visual art form, sound is as crucial as the cinematography, if not more. The average viewer is more interested by the narrative and what is being said or heard than by the artistic values of the shots. A poorly recorded sound and /or awkward sound mix will lose the audience’s attention. Sound is unforgivable.
And finally, a good director needs a good crew, including a skilled cinematographer, sound person, set decorator and assistants. To best tell his story, the director must keep his focus on screen directions and acting while letting his trusted crew do their best to support his vision.
El Cid monthly short film showcase, in Silverlake, has become the can’t-miss event for short film talents in Los Angeles. Since 2009, on the first Wednesday of every month, the restaurant-bar landmark hosts an evening filled with small cinematic jewels. A full-house of film buffs come to enjoy the works of up-and-coming L.A.-based filmmakers while savoring Spanish tapas and cocktails. The event also represents a great networking opportunity and inspires through its eclectic selections of films covering a wide variety of genres and styles.
Roll sound, roll camera and… Action!