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When Short is Long Enough
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When Short Is Long Enough
by Brent Roske

"Nobody ever paid 12 bucks to see a short film.” 


Corinne Becker and Sally Kirkland in African Chelsea
This is the basic – and completely accurate – argument against producing a short film. Why go through the stress, heartbreak, highs and lows of filmmaking if the completed project doesn’t have any fiscal value? Well, I’m so very glad you asked. Here’s a couple reasons why producing a short film may be just what you need:

1. Career Boost?
Possibly. In my experience there are two types of people in Los Angeles: people who make things and people who talk about it. Producing a short film is a tangible goal and puts you in the category of "Doers.”  And once your short film is completed, you never know where it could lead. Napoleon Dynamite started as a short film and then went on to become a feature and gross $45 million at the box office. (‘Jenny Craig’-type disclaimer: Results May Vary.)
   

2. Work With Your Heroes.
  As all you fine and gifted PGA members know, asking successful people for favors in this town – even the ones you’ve known for over a decade – can be a herculean task. But to ask that same person for just a few evenings to work on a short film can be that easy favor that makes them feel all fuzzy all over.  Know a famous actor? Maybe a DP with some great credits? Coordinate a weekend and have fun on set. We all made movies with our friends when we were kids – keep it
light and enjoy "Doing for Doing’s sake.”  And always have good food on a gratis set.  Comfortable chairs, too.


3. Awards Are Sexy.
  When you finish your short film (and keep it under 10 minutes to help with festival placement) and you actually like it, you’ll be surprised at how many people will want to show it places. Withoutabox.com has quickly turned into the clearinghouse for every festival in the world, and in an afternoon of clicking your laptop, you can enter all the biggies. This year has seen a drastic increase in the number of fests that accept digital screeners as well, so you won’t even have to drive to FedEx in your jammies.

4. Oscars Are Really Sexy. So it breaks down like this: Every year, of the thousands and thousands of short films that get made, only a relative few get qualified for the Oscars. Last year, only 76 short films made it to qualification.  To qualify, you have to have either won a major festival (Sundance, Cannes, Toronto, etc.) or have your short shown theatrically in Los Angeles for three ticket-selling days. Your film also has to be transferred to a ‘DCP’ file for the theatrical run. These hurdles aren’t cheap, but last year you had a 1 in 7.6 chance of making the Academy Short (short) List of 10. Some notables with Short Film Oscar nominations: Walt Disney, Peter Sellers, Jeff Goldblum and even Taylor Hackford.

So – is producing a short film for you? The above are a few reasons why it may be. Here’s one more: It felt pretty good at Cannes telling Gus Van Sant that my short film African Chelsea was playing at the Palais the next morning. So get out there and do it. Make it happen. Build your wagon. Do or do not – there is no try.

 Brent Roske is an Emmy-nominated director; his short film African Chelsea, starring Corinne Becker and Oscar nominee Sally Kirkland, is qualified for this year’s Oscars.