Short Is Beautiful
I have never been one to measure my skills as a film-maker by the length of my films – nor any one else for that matter. I have just completed watching a very large number of films of varying length – from a few seconds to a couple of hours in my capacity as a judge for the Singapore Myanmar Film Festival. I will be attending the event in early November to host a workshop called The Future in the Palm of Your Hands – on Film Culture and Documentary.
The idea is to explore ideas in development and work in progress and the means of distributing one’s work in a world where anyone with a smartphone can be a broadcaster. One of the films, sadly not in competition, I will be referencing is Jade Man by Lee Yong Chao.
It was shot entirely on mobile phone and is a remarkable achievement both as an observational dramatised documentary and as a beautifully crafted and directed work of contemporary film-making.
The film tells the story of one man’s dreams of making a fortune working in the illegal, corrupt and multi-billion dollar business of jade mining in the remote mountains of Myanmar.
I was asked to make a short film about the workshop which I duly did, using an iPhone, called, ‘Your Future is in the Palm of your Hand’. Apparently the video got a large number of views in the region and I have just been informed that it has inspired a new film festival devoted to short films made using smart phones which will be held in Yangon, Myanmar later this year. Naturally I feel rather chuffed and hope that Burmese creativity and inspiration might be replicated elsewhere.
Meanwhile, closer to home, another festival in Bristol is in full swing. Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival run by the Watershed, is hosting a celebration of the super-short film called DepicT. There is a short list of twenty 90-second films which the public can view and vote on. Check it out here. You need to be quick as voting closes on 19 September, but the films are there to view after that date.
In the OCA course on Film Culture there are frequent references to lists of favourite, best, most popular films. As a festival judge what I like can affect individual professional film makers and their futures. Being able to add award wins and nominations to your CV is always useful. As a film lover, indulging in voting for my favourite film on DepicT could make a difference too, whereas the endless lists one finds on the Internet really change nothing.
The super-short film shares much in construction with commercials where 30, 60 and 90-second films need to hook the viewer and also be watchable over and over again. It is one of the hardest things to do, to make a good film of just 2,250 frames and shares much in common with the short story or the graphic comic or novella. However, the super-short film is also a very democratic artform, especially now, when anyone with a smartphone can download the apps they need to edit and broadcast their work. Give it a try if you haven’t already and don’t forget to vote!