However much one supports independent film (and if you do, you’ll be with us at the Independent Filmmakers Ball), a blockbuster may sneak in your watch list every now and then. Every time Deadpool or The Avengers show up on the big screen, we come running. And after all, why not?
Last year, this blockbuster short film got noticed and it has since garnered nearly 300,000 views.
A short film is all about an idea expressed in a short length of time, and it’s a format that has launched the career of many directors. Why has this one short garnered so many views? Let’s count the ways.
1) It starts on the page
No surprise there. The story is not exceedingly original and that short is far more about form than it is about substance. It has adopted an idiosyncratic style which works perfectly with the theme.
Yet it does start on the page, before the visual style. It follows familiar beats. In a short film you can’t really be “out there” (unless you’re already halfway to another galaxy in which case we should go there together). So this is a story of boy meets girl, of boy and girl falling in love, and of having your heart broken and having a happy ending. The beats are familiar and beautiful and relatable: that’s solid. And in three minutes, you need to have solid foundations: the added value comes from elsewhere.
2) Be musically literate
What about the music in there? It’s charming. It’s French -very much so -stereotypically so! So that definitely sets a mood: French, old-timey, charming, romantic.
That’s what music is supposed to do, right? For instance, if you look at Interstellar (another blockbuster) the music is grandiose (like space) and doesn’t have percussion, because the sound of percussion is conveyed by air, and there is no air in space. So the intensity rises with other layers.
And using a song that, if not known itself, sounds familiar, helps set the mood in a familiar setting for the viewer -which relates to our next point:
3) Play with our dreams
What this short film achieves particularly well is to sweep us off our feet and charm us. What’s Paris about? Romance. It’s the most romantic city in the world. Everyone who’s ever seen a film is bound to know that; it’s steeped in our collective unconsciousness.
So once we see the image of the Sacré Coeur in the opening shot, we know what we’re in for (we’ve all seen Amélie). Playing with familiar images is one way to make your audience relate, especially in a short. You don’t have much time to subdue familiar circumstances. So why not go straight to the heart and aim at hopes, dreams, moments that we’re familiar with? This way, you’ve already got your audience in your grasp -and that’s when the fun begins.
4) Know how to use your budget
There’s a saying according to which whatever your budget is, you’ll find ways to spend it. You may not have $250million lying around, but you do have imagination and that’s a never-ending resource. (Unless you’re currently struggling with writer’s block, in which case you have my deepest sympathy.)
That short film above? The budget was €40 (so in pounds it’s much less). Yet it has awesome production value, doesn’t it? It’s colourful, vibrant, has an amazing setting, so many locations…
The fireworks? Shoot on 14th July in Paris, and the surprise is if you don’t get fireworks.
The key to your budget is not to start out by what you need, but by what you have at your disposal (and what the friends starring in your film are willing to share with you). You’ve got a phone? Shoot on iPhone.
There’s literally nothing that stands in your way of making a film. You’re going to make mistakes, but you if you spend enough time brainstorming ideas you’re bound to find something original and unique, and you will garner immense viewership. All you have to do is make your place, and you could have the next blockbuster short film. Want to get people to watch it? Submit to one of the world’s top festivals for shorts. Then there is Raindance Film Festival’s great shorts programmes.