17th January 2015
This week I thought I’d adapt my approach to The Weekend Binge. Instead of picking a series you can delve into whilst curling up in a duvet and consuming your bodyweight in Doritos, I am going to provide a selection of websites where you can find hundreds of short films and other short form content. As a scriptwriter and producer I have worked independent filmmakers and also created content for broadcasters and as much as I enjoy both, when you’re putting an independent production into the world you can be liberated by the freedom of not having to adhere to editorial standards and scheduling restraints. It’s also a place you can be experimental, perhaps producing something that could never work in any other format than a short film. It’s no surprise that so many others have found themselves addicted to making short films and watching them. Fresh. Yes, that’s the word I’ll use. Followed by ‘Perspectives.’
In my previous ‘binge’ features on Babylon, Black Mirror and Arrested Development I really wanted to dig deep and give readers a broad preview of a show they may commit their weekend to. However, short films and other short form content can be tailored to niche audiences and with that in mind simply directing you to some sites where you can explore in depth shall do for now. Of course, I will throw in some recommendations along the way and do some outrageous self promotion at the bottom of this article.
Short Of The Week is a website that, no surprise here, picks a short film every week to take the much sought after pathway to mass hits and wide range appreciation. As you can see by the image above, which is only the tip of the iceberg, there’s a diverse range of genres, sub genres and styles with hundreds, maybe even thousands to choose from and watch for free. ABE, which can be streamed at the top of this page, is a sci-fi about a sadistic robot, which is beautifully shot and uses fantastic CGI and it came to my attention via this website. This short has paved the way for a feature length film about ABE, which is something I find truly inspiring; effectively, they’ve created a teaser and used the hype generated online to add weight to their claims to get funding to venture further into the story.
Another short that has stuck in the memory for me is Similo, a Spanish film that is stunning in the visual sense. Here’s a synopsis, not written by me:
2065. THE ENTIRE PLANET IS HIT BY THE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE. ONE OF THE FEW PLACES THAT REMAIN HABITABLE IS ANTARCTICA, WHERE BIG CORPORATIONS HAVE BUILT PRIVATE CITIES. HEBE AND CIRO GET BACK TOGETHER AGAIN. SHE IS LOOKING FOR LOVE. HE IS SEARCHING FOR HIS OWN IDENTITY. (NSFW)
Forward thinking, mischievous and utterly genius at times – whilst I don’t always agree with the ethics behind some of the content that this network commissions their programmes often seem to be the most talked about here in the UK. When commissioning for Shorts, Channel 4 were looking for 3-5 minute programme ideas to make up a series of 8-12 episodes and these wouldn’t include fictional content. There’s a wide range that one would suppose could be developed and commissioned across their networks. For me, The Complete History Of Sexting was a highly amusing scripted contradiction to that in The Complete History Of… series, whilst one memorable programme in the Home Truths series showed the story of a woman bought a house for £1. Intrigued, aren’t you?
Online and Lying was a standout series for me, again contradictory with episodes being around the 11 minute mark, as it explored the way that we behave online and the effect it has on ourselves, our friends and our families. Presented by YouTube star Emily Hartbridge, the programme touches on subjects such as selfie obsessives, social media hacking, trolling, cyber bullying, cyber self harming, constant ‘self editing’ and more. I’m a believer that if you’re going to try and educate the masses and keep their attention then it has to uncover the subject and leave enough intrigue that some viewing will explore it further; Online and Lying is very quick, sharp, a little bit silly and irreverent but really uncovers some shocking truths that all of us who use the likes of Facebook, Twitter and even Tinder could do with knowing about.
Shorts on Channel 4 is a god-send for people like me and my company, still relatively new in the ‘industry,’ to get funding to produce content that COULD lead to a bigger commission on one of their channels. I’m marginally under 30 (there’s a few months to go so I’m gonna say that while I can) and I know that many of those writing, producing, directing and presenting these shorts are, which is surely exciting for the younger audiences coming through. We need fresh material don’t we? Funnily enough, I was speaking to a filmmaker who had a proposal backed and then shelved by Channel 4 in the late 80s and the reasoning was that they “couldn’t quite find the right slot in the schedule” but you’d presume that nowadays with on demand TV and a website that can host content on mass they’d be more likely to experiment. If experimental content is perceived as a success then the quality of what we actually see arriving on TV is going to be a lot higher. That’s what I believe anyway. I’ve been told that Daughters & Fathers, which quite simply shows what fathers really think of their daughters and vice versa, is completely compelling and programmes such as Two Players, a fly on the wall exploration of the social aspect of computer gaming, is also worth a watch if that’s what you’re into (not for me, personally). Comedy Blaps, 2/3 episode stand alone comedy shorts that can either stand up alone or be developed further is also on Channel 4’s website and recent commissions such as Bad Robots was bread there first…
Now this is awkward…
In late 2013 I released a series that I wrote and produced called The Awkward Conversations We Have and they’re all online still. I’m not going to say, “they’re brilliant, you should watch them” but if you want comedy/drama that will make you cringe then hopefully this is for you. The series was directed by my pal James Barber and was a huge learning experience for us as they were our first short films together but we enjoy them and I was blessed that the writing received praise and opened opportunities up inside the industry. Parents telling their son they lead a life of swinging, trying to reclaim a DVD lent to a now-dead girl back from her parents, necrophiliacs arguing over a body in a field and more at awkwardconversations.co.uk
Arran Dutton (arrandutton.com)