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  • Kimberlee Bassford

Short films rock!

My friend Jackie McGinnis (left) and I at the 2017 HIFF Gala where I helped present the short film award winners.

Why do filmmakers always want to make feature-length films? Sure, it's prestigious to say that your film is a feature. But really, short films rock!

I had the honor of serving on two film juries this past summer. The first was for the ‘Ohina Short Film Showcase, which exclusively presents short films, and the second was on the Shorts Jury for the Hawai‘i International Film Festival (HIFF). Between the two, I saw more than 50 short films.

The films varied in genre (most were narratives but there were a few documentaries and animated films) and subject matter. But there is clearly an art to telling a story clearly and succinctly yet with richness and depth.

Many of the short films were powerful. Even in 10 minutes, they told stories with memorable and intriguing characters and moving, emotional arcs. The HIFF jury I sat on ended up giving the Best Made in Hawai‘i Short Film Award to a film called Wilder Palms that we all thought was subtle, visually elegant and thoughtful, with beautiful cinematography and authentic performances. I was in awe.

As an educator, I now actively seek short films for my classes. Features are so hard to screen during my 75-minute class periods. To have enough time to show a film plus have a meaningful discussion or activity, I have to split a feature over two, sometimes three class periods, which isn't ideal. But a 30-minute gem is perfect to have an introductory activity, screening and also a discussion.

Now, these "mid-length" films (20 to 50 minutes long) are often the hardest to get into festivals since they might be too long to pair with a feature or to include in a shorts program and too short to screen on their own. So that discourages filmmakers from making them. But besides educational settings, these shorter films can also be a good match for broadcast depending on the venue. And they're great for streaming online. I notice that Netflix even has a few short films in its catalog.

So festivals, broadcasters, filmmakers and film-goers, let's all support short films. I know I plan to make more shorts in the future too.


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