The Impact of Short Films
By. Alyssa Rodriguez, Content Writer
San Diego International Film Festival
With our first-ever, San Diego Intl ShortsFest on the sunny San Diego horizon, promotion and preparation for the event is in full swing. With all this excitement for the event, there has been a lot of talk about the Short Films we will feature during the ShortsFest in May. This reminded me of working in the film office in 2020 as an intern to the film screeners. I was very familiar with the style and structure of feature length films but not as familiar with the genre of Short Films. During that time I viewed 200+ Short Films and I began to more fully understand the format. This however got me thinking, why is it that I was so unfamiliar with this category? What purpose do Short Films serve and why is the San Diego International Film Festival creating a larger stage for Short Films this year? If you find yourself asking the same questions, this post is for you!
First, Let’s explore a brief history of Short Films. Technically speaking, the first films ever made were Short Films, not because they intended to be of this category but because this medium was both experimental and expensive. As the art and science of filmmaking evolved, so did film genres.
Spearheaded in the 1910s through the 1920s by Charlie Chaplin, comedy became the most notable introductory genre to film. Even as Chaplin moved on in the early 1920s to create feature length films, comedy remained the most common genre for Short Films.
Disney cartoons kept Short Films afloat, by storytelling comedic events to an audience in less than a 30-minute length. Although Disney cartoons kept the Short Film structure alive – post the development of feature length films – we would see a rise and fall in popularity through the decades. Since the requirement to be categorized as a Short Film is a storytelling in less than 30 minutes, we now see Short Films in nearly every genre.
In the 1980s we saw the rise of short films through Music Videos, most commonly hosted on MTV. The Short Film became again popularized and profitable. Although Short Films are not particularly categorized as mainstream today there is still an important place held for Short Films in Festivals and at all major Film Awards.
This brings me to the recent conversation with Festival CEO & Artistic Director, Tonya Mantooth and Festival Producer, Stephanie Inscoe. I asked them if there was a Short Film that stands out for them. Tonya shared that the feature film Whiplash by Damien Chazelle was originally an 18 minute short film starring J.K Simmons and Johnny Simmons (later replaced by Miles Teller in the Feature). This Short Film won the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize for Drama In 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Based on its success at Sundance, the project was funded and 1 year later the full length feature film opened Sundance 2015 and went on to be nominated for 5 Academy Awards, winning 3 that year including Best Picture.
I asked Tonya if this is the goal of producing a Short Film? “Not necessarily. A Short Film is usually a calling card for emerging filmmakers. It’s also a format that allows for filmmakers to be experimental, take on a variety of topics, hone their skills and grow creatively.”
Tonya then went on to talk about how she has seen time and time again Short Films often have been a bit of a bell-weather for global social issues. “They are the first indicator,” she said , “of what people are feeling and experiencing around the world. Since the time from script to screen is shorter, we see important topics explored in the shorter format 18-24 months before they emerge in feature-length films. It’s like these Filmmakers have a finger on the pulse of the world. This is why we are so passionate to use the San Diego International Film Festival platform to elevate and celebrate short films and the filmmakers.”
Stephanie touched further on this exploration into why our festival is creating an even larger space for Short Films by stating that, “Short Films allow Filmmakers to take risks and explore boundaries without the necessity of a large budget.”
In addition to the 100 short films submitted by Filmmakers from around the world, Stephanie said, “This year’s ShortsFest will also allow us to amplify the voices of our local Filmmakers here in San Diego. We are committed to bringing their work to a national and even international audience.”
Even though Short Films have been around since the very beginning of cinematic storytelling they have not consistently maintained a place in popular culture. Many of us have seen animated Short Films made accessible by Disney and Pixar who showcase these in the previews of Feature Length animated films. What we lack however is accessible and commercialized platforms for non-animated Short Films. Film Festivals provide that stage and attention that is necessary in helping these Filmmakers share their art with as many viewers as possible.
We could not be more excited to set the stage for this year’s Short Filmmakers! If you’d like to be a part of the fun please join us next month, May 14th-16th, at THE 2021 SAN DIEGO INTL SHORTSFEST where we will showcase 100 Short Films from around the world plus more from local Filmmakers. Passes range from $29 for a one-day pass and $79 for a three-day pass. You can find more information at the link https://sdfilmfest.com/shortsfest/
We can’t wait to see you there!