short cuts

– . – Short Cuts

Short Cuts

From the demise of the UK Film Council to emerging technologies, the British film industry is in a state of flux. With filmmakers struggling inside and outside the system, we question whether the traditional route of short films to features remains a successful model for new filmmakers who want to get noticed.


By way of analogy, consider this: in spite of the ongoing popularity of his lengthy tomes, novelist Stephen King, by no means an up-and-coming writer, consistently returns to the genre of the short story. ‘Most of you have forgotten the real pleasures of the short story,’ he writes in the introduction to his collection, Skeleton Crew. ‘Reading a good long novel is in many ways like having a long and satisfying affair. […] A short story is a different thing altogether—a short story is like a quick kiss in the dark from a stranger.’

With this in mind, should we be flying the flag for short films with the same passion as King does for stories? Chris Collins, senior production and development executive at the UK Film Council and judge at last year’s Virgin Media Shorts competition—a contest widely recognised for supporting and promoting the medium—believes so. “Making shorts,” he says, “is an important part of talent development and for that reason supporting them is vital.”

Fellow judge Cindy Rose, executive director of digital entertainment at Virgin, agrees that shorts are relevant in today’s marketplace. “The majority of established directors,” she points out, “will tell you they learned their craft from making short films, and with more people viewing content online in bite sized chunks, there is the opportunity for new directors to showcase their shorts directly to the public, so the medium has become increasingly influential.”

shortcuts2This notion that shorts are part of the process of learning one’s art is, perhaps, where the analogy falls apart. In order to truly gauge the significance of shorts, we need to establish exactly what they are or, more to the point, in philosophical terms, what they should be. A piece of individual art or a ‘visual pitch’ for bigger, better projects?

“Traditionally,” says Collins, “the industry has been the target audience for a short film even at festivals, because the short has been the calling card for a filmmaker. However, online is opening up audience opportunities for shorts and with it added potential market value. My advice is: make the film that you want to make and if it appeals to the public, then it will catch the industry’s eye too.”

That said, shouldn’t savvy, ambitious filmmakers be thinking primarily of their audience as industry and tailor-making their short to appeal to film bodies and judging panels? Rose thinks not. “After working with filmmakers for the past four years,” she says, “we don’t believe that entrants tailor make their films to appeal to specific judging panels—they are far too passionate and creative for that.”

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