Film - The Long and Short of It

Despite the title of this post, I feel most are aware of the value of full feature films – the long of it, and that it is short films that need a moment of focus.

It is interesting that people will accept the concept of short stories and yet be puzzled at the validity of a short film.

I recently read an online article about this cinematic format, that described them perfectly: “Like a shot of good whiskey, great shorts are concentrated and carefully distilled.”

This mini (dare I say, short?) exploration of short films, of what they are, of why they are wonderful gems to be treasured, is just my own perception and thoughts. I encourage everyone to seek out films of all formats, lengths, and genres, and discover what they mean to you, personally.

In my experience, when it comes to film, it is truly not the size that matters, but rather the substance. Be it a stellar narrative, the quality of innuendo, the visual and audio ambiance in which it comes to life, or hopefully a wonderful mix of these and more factors, it never is the duration on screen, that makes or breaks a film. Some full feature films are lacking, whereas many shorts encapsulate a full plot, rich in detail and personality, and provide provocative and evocative windows for new thought, and personal definition.

Not to be confused with trailers or teasers, short films are not meant to be a taste of a bigger cinematic treat yet to come, though some filmmakers do indeed take the seed concept of a short and expand it into a full feature film as a new project.

The amount of impact that a short can have, is as individual as the viewer. I recently saw a quote presented by ‘The Academy’ on social media, that I agree with wholeheartedly;

“Your perception of a movie evolves as you do.”

Have you ever rewatched a film, and not only caught new details, missed in previous viewings, but also found yourself exploring new and different ideas and questions than you did after your first run through? I certainly do.

What we see and feel as the theme or message or foundational traits in a film, are also up to the individual viewer. Of course the writer, the director, all have their concepts and precepts as they create the work, but that does not mean that we as viewers come away with the same messages. I often read reviews of films I have seen, and often even reviewed myself, and feel as if I missed so much or perhaps saw an entirely different piece. That is the beauty of art, it is as extremely personal to the viewer, listener, reader, purveyor, as it is to the creator, in terms of interpretation anyway.

Take for example ‘Paddy’s in the Boot’. This Irish short film starring Eoin Macken and Kevin Ryan, directed by Kevin Shulman, is given this synopsis on iMDB: “In Dalkey, Ireland, murdering a pedophile is doing god’s work. Even if he’s your family priest. For two small time Irish stick up men burdened with the task, being Catholic can be an occupational hazard. Using an old collectible Nazi Pistol can be a discussion unto its own.” (view ‘Paddy’s in the Boot’ here.)

I shared this short with a handful of people, as an example of how a short can indeed be a standalone story, as well as part of a bigger plot… or not. In discussion, it was outstanding how many different themes were listed as being ‘the main concept’. One said corruption, which is clearly present as it is, after all, about two stick up men going after a potentially abusive clergyman. Another felt it was about faith, and no matter what else one is engaging in, there is an unbreakable bond with whatever form of divinity one subscribes to. Another thought it was about organized crime. Another said greed. Another listed desperation. Redemption. The list went on and on, with of course mine being fully different than the rest. What struck me as a theme woven through various characters, relationships, and story facets, was something I value, so perhaps that is why that is what shone through for me. (My overly analytical thoughts on this short film? They may be another post soon. Maybe.)

Great things come in small packages, and the sizable (what??? It’s funny!) list of clichés and whatnot that encourage us not to dismiss anything based on small stature, all very strongly apply to film.

Seek out short films – online, at festivals, etc. They are truly unique gems unto themselves, no matter what they may inspire as a larger project. In many ways, I feel you get right to it with a short – a lot less distraction and fanfare than with a full feature film. Just you, the story, and its personalized impact, just for you!

For those of you who have not yet clicked above to watch the short I mentioned, here is the trailer... and then scroll up and click and watch it in its entirety!

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