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Research Into Short Films

In order to create a professional looking short film, I need to see what other short films look like and understand what makes them effective. I will compare these films to the steps that I have previously researched from Script in order to find out which of these steps are vital in making an interesting and well made short film.

The first film I watched was called From 1994 and depicts a mother typing a letter to her son and placing it in a time capsule; we see him open the box and go about his daily life as the character of the mother reads the letter over the top. At the end of the film the mother says to her son ‘I will see you in another lifetime’ as she walks out of the door away from her child.

I found that this film was particularly cinematically beautiful. Through utilising the calming music with the gentle voice of the mother, the director made this a visual medium. Through the use of a warm filter, the film has a nostalgic aesthetic and suits the happy mood of the film. The film only follows the journey of two interlinked characters, the mother and the son, meaning that the short film isn’t bombarded with characters and we get to build a relationship with the mother and son, making us as an audience more empathetic towards the characters. From 1994 doesn’t include any elaborate props or special effects, meaning that it could be made for a reasonable price whilst allowing it to feel like it was based on your average family. The film doesn’t necessarily include a twist at the beginning but it does at the end, as we realise that the mother has presumably died or run away. I consider this to be a twist as the boy seems to be living a perfectly happy and normal life, despite the absence of a mother in his life. Due to this fact, it also seems highly optimistic too which is another quality of short films according to Script. These characters too are quite memorable; particularly the mother. She seems particularly loving and has a very gentle and calming voice which emphasised her motherly character. Overall, I think this is a really interesting short film and I like how beautiful it looks, which is something I’d like to experiment with in my own short film

This film is a little different to the first one. It follows a man named Ethan, who initially steals a packet of nasal spray and whilst putting it into his coat, he bumps into a man with a broken arm. Whilst bumping into this man, he steals his wallet and takes out his prescription and ID. Whilst waiting for this mans prescription for what presumably seems to be a strong pain killer, he sits next to a woman named Karen and they chat for a couple on minutes. They exchange numbers as Ethan goes to collect the tablets. As he is leaving the drug store, he bumps back into Karen whilst trying to hide from the man who he initially stole from dropping everything from his coat onto the floor. Whilst they both pick up their belongings, she sees that he’s taken her bracelet and she storms off. On his way out, he goes to pay for some crisps, but realises she’s taken his wallet. I wouldn’t say that this film was a visual medium as it uses quite harsh lights and the store is quite grey in colour, it also doesn’t seem to feature any sort of background music. The film does however only follow the stories of three people, meaning that we can begin to learn a little about each of them and build up a relationship with the characters, although Ethan is the clear protagonist. Again, there is only twist at the end of the film, revealing that Karen had stolen Ethan’s wallet, which also relates the film to the title. There doesn’t really seem to be an optimistic ending to this film but more of a moral outcome; what goes around comes around.

I didn’t enjoy watching this film as much as I did From 1994, as the first film seemed calming and more visually interesting which is something I want to replicate in my short film.

This film features a man and a woman in a laundry room. He asks her for change but when she doesn’t have any, he goes to ask a man sat at a desk at the other side of the room. When he returns, he notices a gun in his washing basket that wasn’t there before. Confused, he picks it up and explains to the girl standing opposite him, Amy, that it’s not his. She tells him that she finds guns sexy and asks to hold it, and he gives it to her. With that, she jokingly tells him to ‘put em up’ and to dance whilst pointing the gun directly at him, and he does so. She then asks for his wallet and in the spirit of the joke he gives her it. She then walks out of the laundry room, leaving the man amazed that he’d just been robbed by a girl he gave the gun to. This film had some aspects of a visual medium as it had a jazz sounding background song and a very bright filter over it, giving the impression that something wasn’t quite right. I like the idea of utilising an abnormal soundtrack and a coloured filter that doesn’t quite fit the nature of the setting to portray the sense that something will go wrong. Again, the film only features a small selection of people meaning that we are not bombarded with characters and their background stories, only two young adults who appear to be flirting with one another. There is definitely a huge twist at the end in the fact that Amy actually steals his money when neither the man or the audience was expecting it. There doesn’t seem to be much of an uplifting finish but maybe some underlying lesson that you shouldn’t hand guns to complete strangers.

Both From 1994 and The Laundromat are stylistically very different, I found them both really fascinating and enjoyable to watch. This may be due to the use of post production effects such as filters and appropriate backing tracks which Full Circle didn’t really include. I intend to consider the use of filters and colour pallets when I come to create my A2 coursework, and I will bare in mind not to feature too many major characters so that the bond with the elderly man isn’t weakened by this.

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Qualities of Short Films

In order to create a short film, I ought to have some idea as to what they might typically contain so that I can make my coursework as realistic as possible. I will do this by researching online and in the school library and analysing what I find, and after doing this I will watch a couple to see how these aspects have been put into place and whether or not all qualities I find in my research are essential into creating a well made short film.

According to Script, these are the ‘seven simple secrets into making an outstanding short film’:

  1. They need to be a visual medium. This means that they shouldn’t just include dialogue, but also utilise music, atmosphere, colour and should be manipulated to evoke emotions. Through including these aspects, the short film will be enjoyable to watch rather than just feeling like an omnipresent person in a two person conversation for the duration of the film.
  2. The writer needs to have a personal connection with the film. Since I will be taking on the role of writer, director, camera man, editor etc., I really need to enjoy what I’m creating and be immersed in the process completely. That’s why I will carefully think about my idea before I commit to anything, since I need to be 100% behind it all of the way.
  3. They tell the story of one or a couple of character’s journey- no more. Since my short film will only be a duration of 5 minutes, it really needs to be centred around one main protagonist or maybe a couple if they have a strong interlink. In such a short timeframe there’s not enough screen time to create a Magnolia like plotline, and through only featuring a handful of characters I will be able to fully explore their story rather than just only briefly introducing them.
  4. The films utilise available resources. Obviously this will change from one director to the next, but for me, my short film needs to be created to a fairly low budget cost and utilises the equipment available to me from the school’s media department. I think this will be best achieved by creating a film in the Drama genre, as these focus on real life people in real life situations, meaning that I will not have to go to elaborate extents to create a 1920s inspired flapper party when really I don’t have the access to much set design, costumes, actors or anything other than the things I already own or can be bought for a reasonable price.
  5. Include a twist at the beginning and at the end. Most cinematic pieces (including television shows and short films) set up an expectation and then ultimately subvert this, thus keeping the audience on their toes. I’m not quite sure how to include this into the initial ideas that I’ve already considered but if I find this is a recurring theme in short films I will find a way to make it work.
  6. Has a largely optimistic outlook or ends up on a high note. I can understand this reason since they are so short that they ought to include something positive, rather than just a short snippet of a seriously depressing story. I feel like this could easily be incorporated into my film, possibly by turning it around into a moral lesson of some sort if anything seems suitable.
  7. They feature memorable characters. Script advised that I…

“Give your characters strong personalities, quirks, wants, and goals. That way, we’ll care about them, and willingly follow them on their journey.”

… which I feel is an incredibly important aspect in creating a short film, since there’s such a short amount of time for the characters to make an impression on the audience, so by making them very distinct individuals they may stick with the audience even though the film is a much shorter length than normal.