Short films are often undervalued and overlooked within the film industry. Sure, they can represent the first shaky steps of a filmmaker but they can also show the magnitude and versatility the medium has to offer. Short films can play a huge hand in launching careers, much like they launched film as a whole back when the Lumiere brothers screened their first creations. Many of today’s most acclaimed directors first dug their nails into film through shorts and a few found those efforts lead directly to some hugely successful feature films.
1 – Whiplash
Despite having worked in Hollywood before, in 2014 Damien Chazelle was relatively unknown. His film Whiplash turned out to be a critical and commercial success, winning three Academy Awards. Three years later, Chazelle has a Best Director Oscar under his belt for La La Land, the most nominated film in Golden Globes history.
Whiplash was the film that launched Chazelle on to everyone’s radar but the journey to making the film was rocky. Despite having connections in the industry, Chazelle found difficulty gaining the right financial support to produce his breakthrough film. It was then that Chazelle decided to take a scene from his screenplay and produce it, entering it into short film competitions and presenting it to producers for financial backing. The short ended up winning Sundance’s Jury Award for Best Short Film in 2013 and the rest is history.
2 – The Babadook (Monster)
Although Australian director Jennifer Kent had experience in the film industry, she normally found herself in front of the camera. After being particularly struck by Dancer in the Dark, Kent took a chance and wrote to Lars von Trier asking to shadow him during the production of Dogville. Her experience with von Trier inspired her to make her own short film, Monster: a black and white supernatural horror film that would later find wide critical acclaim as The Babadook.
Although not a direct adaptation, Monster served as the conceptual brainchild for Kent’s debut feature, helping raise $30,000 for additional sets on Kickstarter.
3 – Saw (Saw 0.5)
Whether a fan of the franchise or not, one can not deny that the Saw films revolutionised the horror genre. In an attempt to find producers, Australian director James Wan filmed a scene from what would be the first film showing the intricacies and depth behind the life-and-death game so central to the franchise’s narrative. Wan used the short, cleverly titled Saw 0.5, to pitch the films to Lionsgate. Almost a decade and a half later Wan’s short has spun into a seven-part film franchise with one of the most dedicated cult followings.
Although there are many short films that have either been adapted for a feature or given inspiration to a big screen film, the three listed here show the importance short films serve in the film industry. A beautiful tool for helping students grasp filmmaking’s basics, short films are also an incredible medium for inciting inspiration and passion into all filmmakers with eyes on bigger prizes.