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What exactly is a short film?

These days, the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences in the US define a short film as a movie less than 40 minutes in length. The British Academy of Film, on the other hand, reckon they can’t be longer than half an hour, but back in the early days of the moving picture, all the films were short. While the advent of the features film has changed all that, these flash fictions of cinema can still pack a pocket-sized punch. To see for yourself check out ten shorts long on drama, suspense and oh-my-word awesomeness.

1. The Gift (2010)                 Dir: Carl E. Rinsch

Although featuring a stunning futuristic Moscow, much of it was not actually filmed in the city – but incorporated clever CGI. It also won the Gold Film Craft Lion at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. The question on everyone’s lips – what’s in the box?


2. Vincent  (1982)                 Dir: Tim Burton

Burton’s expressive take on loneliness and isolation, would later characterise much of his work.  He had $60,000 to spend but he wanted the legendary Vincent Price to narrate it. Astonishingly, Price agreed!


 3. Panic Attack (2008)       Dir: Federico Alvarez

Alvarez took two years to make this £180 YouTube-tailored short. He arrived in Hollywood on a Sunday and had a film deal by Wednesday. Who would have thought that it could lead to a gig remaking The Evil Dead?


 4. The Black Hole (2008)    Dir: Phil Sansom and Olly Williams

Apparently this is shown in film schools as a ‘perfect short film.’ Not bad for a silent short shot over 24 hours. It is the actor Napoleon Ryan’s wonderfully expressive face that truly makes the piece.


5. Mama (2008)                                 Dir: Andrés Muschietti 

This seriously unsettling short inspired Guillermo del Toro’s recent film of the same name. Del Toro said it was ‘…One of the scariest little scenes I have ever seen…the claustrophobia, the craftsmanship and the horror made me want to produce the feature version.’


6. Alive in Joburg (2006)   Dir: Neill Blomkamp

At the age of 20, Blomkamp had known he wanted to be a film director. He had an interesting take on special effects with an ‘…experiment to completely degrade what is usually expensive CGI… to degrade everything to make it look like old documentary footage.’


7. 10 Minutes (2002) Dir: Ahmed Imamović

Winner of the Best European Short Film, it certainly packs a punch and is a masterclass in short narrative. Set in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Rome, it shows how life can be brutally different for people in those tiny ten minutes.


8. The Crush (2010)                        Dir: Michael Creagh

Creagh borrowed from the bank and his family. But it was worth it when his work was nominated for an Oscar. He gave the lead role to his son Oran, simply because ‘I promised the poor little bugger I’d put him in the film and I couldn’t go back on it.’


9. Miracle Fish (2009)        Dir: Luke Doolan

Lots of excited pupils from Annandale North Public School got to play extras a film of great tonal twists. Doolan has talked very publicly about enjoying the collaborative process – the ‘weird alchemy of finding the right group of people.’


10. Portal: No Escape (2011)  Dir: Dan Trachtenberg

There are a lot of holes in this movie, which was based on a video game. No – real holes…as in portals. The music featured was composed by Mike Zarin, who also composed for the first Inception trailer. Next for Trachtenberg? Directing an adaption of Brian K. Vaughn’s graphic novels Y: The Last Man.


As you can see short films, done right, really can blow your mind. If you’d like to get in on the act, you’ll be happy to hear we’ve recently teamed up with Sundance London to launch the Nokia Music Short Film Competition. The brief is simple: To showcase the amazing, the unusual and the unknown music happening underground around the world.

Mad for mobile music movies?


Filmmakers need to simply upload a short video trailer (15 to 60 secs) by March 24th visualizing the underground music scene in their chosen city. Think of this trailer as an audition, which showcases your concept. If your idea is chosen, you’ll receive two Nokia Lumia 920s and a $5,000 budget to shoot your film. What’s more, both films are guaranteed a special screening at the Sundance London Film & Music Festival (2013) in April, and one lucky grand prizewinner will walk away with $5,000 and a Nokia Lumia 920.

Think you’ve got what it takes? Then why not start making short movie magic today!

Image credit: Håkan Dahlström