It is fashionable – perhaps too fashionable – to feel cynical about the state of contemporary cinema. A casual glance through the screenings at one’s local cinema only seems to reinforce this belief: the average movie going experience is packed with spectacles, superheroes, and sequels. It is also in fashion to link this to the cold, calculating, and commercial filmmaking industry, who are increasingly unconcerned with the artistic merits by which their predecessors were acclaimed, and are making business arithmetic the order of the day.
There remains genuine creative talent in the industry, and as audiences we are certainly not deprived of quality releases year-on-year. But as in the rainforest, where the tallest trees swallow up the sunlight and deprive their smaller brethren of nourishment, unique creative intent is not what attracts film-goers. It is the size of a studio’s advertising budget, franchise recognition, and popular actors that bring the profits. A film produced in this manner can certainly contain talent but interesting and unique characters, plotting, pacing, worldbuilding, cinematography, and above all storytelling, are no longer key factors in what gets a film off the ground, or even what makes one popular.
Ask yourself: when was the last time you saw a genuinely interesting film at a cinema – a film that made you think and question beliefs you never knew you held, or made you appreciate the world in some new light?
There is however a form of film, long underappreciated, which more than any other constantly strives to maximise the potential of art and storytelling, it seeks for such emotional resonance, and often finds it. It produces consistently wonderful content for no other reason than the sake of creating, and the people who work in this medium are enormously talented and dedicated to creating the best work of art possible: short film.
Live action and animated shorts contain what many feature films seem to lack – spontaneity, originality, and passion. Short films, ranging anywhere from five to sixty minutes, aren’t long enough for theatrical releases, and are usually independently produced – that is, the only people who have a stake in the film’s success are the artists themselves. The result is a uniquely satisfying series of stories.
Perhaps because of the restraints, both in time and budgetary, creators are forced to maximise every ounce of storytelling potential in every frame, and each scene is loaded with rich content and care. A second is scarcely wasted. Watching a short film is a constant stream of compelling communication from the storytellers to the listeners, drawing the viewer in deeper and deeper until they cannot help but feel melancholy once the credits roll. Animated shorts, such as Pixar productions or The Snowman similarly contain a beautiful degree of originality in their animation and story that is simply incomparable with mainstream releases.
Unfortunately, since shorts are generally restricted to film festivals, the best of them widely go unnoticed, but if you wish to retreat from modern movie culture, you may find your love for films in this genre.