Barebones; Short and Sweet

By Jo Phillips

At its inception, film was short. Whether it was a travelogue, cartoon, or second feature, film did not begin as a 2 plus hour theatrical experience. Even looking at the careers of Hollywood’s most renowned directors, their beginnings are just as humbling and small as the medium itself.

From Alfonso Cuarón to Francis Ford Coppola, many Oscar-winning directors’ first ventures were with short films. Short films are a testament to building and honing your craft. Given two hours to tell a story and the possibilities are endless. But to do it within an average of 20 minutes? To be able to develop a character, tell a complete narrative, and gauge the interest of your audience within the confines and restriction of a half hour is the challenge and telling capability of a gift. The limitations make the stakes higher. Every minute counts. Every shot, every second is precious. The short film medium serves as the basis in which the potential career and talent as a filmmaker/director are tested.

Taking Wes Anderson, an incredible talent who is capable of turning out a 1 hour and 45-minute film like Isle of Dogs, he is equally adept at producing a comparable beauty in his 7 minutes short, Hotel Chevalier. Or Jim Cummings and his 12 minute Thunder Road, which has every means to take you on a more intense rollercoaster of emotions than a film ten times as long. Directors with skills such as these are the reason that film is a beloved medium, why there are an infinite amount of different fields dedicated to the study of it.

Short films generally rely on festival exhibitions to reach their audience. It then stands to reason that short films are where you should look for budding talent—the next big thing. Steven Spielberg’s first ever production was an 8-minute short western; his very first theatrical release was a short film by the name of Amblin.

Shorts such as Clarissa Jacobson’s Lunch Ladies and Emily Ann Hoffman’s Nevada, both featured at Palm Springs International ShortFest, an Oscar-qualifying film festival, epitomize the very potential that can be found in the short film genre.


Short films like these and Matt Soson’s Everything’s Going to Be Okay transcend any stereotypical connotations that short film may already possess in the minds of the vast majority.

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Filled with heart and unlimited amounts of potential, short film’s stripped back nature and call for an undiluted narrative make it the essential form to start in film. It makes it the base where all great works and names can come from.  They prove that this genre is indeed a basis for which greatness can be discovered, where talents are tested, and amazing careers can begin.

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When it comes to short films, the amount of them that are out there are also endless.  But in a world where there are just too many options, here are some others (besides the fantastic ones already mentioned above) to watch to build a perfect foundation for.  Hotel Chevalier (dir. Wes Anderson), Luxo Jr. (dir. John Lasseter), Frankenweenie (dir. Tim Burton), The Wrong Trousers (dir. Nick Park), Thunder Road (dir. Jim Cummings).

Everything’s Going to Be Okay

Trailer: Lunch Ladies

Trailer: Nevada


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