TIFF is back, and with it a bucket load of films. TIFF is known for its spectacular programming line-up, each film with its own unique storytelling ability. However, to me, short films have always been my primary interest. Not because they are short, but the various things that short films accomplish that major feature films simply cannot.
To first address a major point: feature films are always going to be the big daddy of all projects. Everyone wants to do a feature film, star in one, or be associated in some form or fashion. It’s cool, its something major you can add to your CV, and definitely grow your career out of.
With that said, short films can be equivalently powerful. It’s why we as a content hub focus so much on short films throughout the year, attending events such as Lakeshorts and the Canadian Film Fest.
The first major reason short films are so powerful is because they provide an introduction to new talent. While a feature film requires a 2 million dollar budget on an indie level (I’m just trying to make a point with numbers), a short film requires but a fraction of that. This allows aspiring filmmakers to use the filming tools that are now widely available thanks to the evolution of technology, and really take a stab at realizing their creative abilities. There is nothing better than experience, and short films give those who want to share their art a simple avenue to make it happen.
I’ll give a good example: Aidan Shipley. He and his co-director Grayson Moore are presenting a short film at TIFF 2015 called Boxing, part of Short Cuts Programme 3. Shipley is an actor I’ve interviewed before when he was at Ryerson University studying directing. Using crowd-funding, he funded his third short film Dorsal, a spectacular little character study that featured actors Peyton Kennedy, Jonathan Goad and Christine Horne. Instead of waiting for traditional opportunities, Shipley has kept the momentum going, showcasing not only his love for the arts, but his passion in the field of directing. That makes you want to watch his films because there is passion for the work that is being done.
It can be said: “but this makes it difficult to differentiate between good and bad content”, as a dear friend clearly pointed out. The beauty of short films is that as an audience member you only have to commit a small amount of time to immerse yourself in a story. If it’s good, you feel pretty good watching a well crafted film. If it’s bad, it was just a couple of minutes versus a full 2 hour feature, many dollars, and a stomach full of very not healthy popcorn.
Another angle to look at short films is the rediscovery of talent. How many of you know Julian Richings? Better yet, how many of you know Kayla Lorette? Well, funny enough, they are both in a TIFF 2015 short film called She Stoops to Conquer, a “doppelgänger rom-com”. Lorette has been in a bunch of big productions, but here she gets a chance to be centre stage, an opportunity to see her dig deep into character. Richings needs no introduction, especially if you are a horror fan. In this short, you get to see a very different side of him, not something you’d traditionally see in the larger feature films. Lorette and Richings are two very different talents, people you’d even think that wouldn’t necessarily have on-screen chemistry. You watch this short and you instantly go into the Adam Samberg “whhhaatttttttt” from Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Veteran talents use short films to put forward their acting abilities, and it gives audiences a chance to either reconnect or make fresh introductions to those very abilities.
Let’s take an example that everyone is talking about these days: Tatiana Maslany. Yes, the amazing talent from Canada who is rocking the world with her million performances in Orphan Black started out in the film space with short films and TV Movie’s. I would not be surprised if every major actor in the world has a short film to their name. They deliver similar elements as feature films, but in a less time consuming, productive, and structured manner. For those of you who are curious, Maslany has a number of shorts to her name including Up & Down, Waiting For You, and Darla.
Finally, I revisit the overarching concept of a short film. Unlike a feature film where every talent is hand-picked through crazy auditions and what have you, short films are more relaxed and often feature a group of friends who just love their art. Let’s revisit Shipley’s TIFF 2015 film Boxing. Its a group of fantastic homegrown talent, each with their own little part to play in the film. The obvious is to go to the focus stars and be like, “oh they were great”. They are great, and are spectacular performances. But I’m going to do the opposite. Lara Jean Chorostecki. She has a small part in this film, but her being there is very awesome. I’ve known her for a few years now, and have had the pleasure of seeing her in productions such as X Company. What I particularly love about her role in this short is simply her participation. When you hear stories of big hollywood names rejecting smaller projects for larger ones, you think that’s normal. You know, the ego kicks in and that’s that. When talented individuals such as Chorostecki take on very small roles, you build a level of respect for them as artists. When you see the community come together for the love of their art, you respect them and their work even more.
There is a lot that can be said about short films. With hundreds and thousands being produced each year, audiences have a variety to choose from. However, festivals like TIFF offer a unique opportunity to dig deep and really watch a handful of them created by artists in Canada and from around the world. Most of you are going to want to watch the endless number of features playing at TIFF. Please do, but also try to make it out for one of the short film programmes.
They are worth the watch.