Who Is Making The Best Short Films Out There?

If you were going to give an award to the "Best Short Film Director", what would be the criteria? I think the director would have to have made at least three shorts. Maybe over a five year period. If a director only has made two shorts, my sense is that they aren't doing it for the love of the short, but more for their "career". Three shows a commitment to the form. Making one great, or even two great short films does not detract from the strength of those shorts, but again it does not show the devotion to the form. Now, as I believe that the dominance of the feature film form is on it's last legs, and that ending it is TGHOTFOC, I think we will see even more great short directors in the years ahead. Presently though, I am a bit at a loss to nominate multiple directors who have made three or more excellent shorts. Nonetheless, that limitation does not reduce my enthusiasm for my nomination.

I had the good fortune of being asked to be a judge at TropFest NYC this year. It was an incredible program, and in the highlights of years passed, I was reminded of how great Nash Edgerton's short work is (I also dig his feature The Square). Can you name a filmmaker who has made three shorts stronger than these:

LUCKY (Tropfest Finalist TSI "Umbrella")

SPIDER was the short film that brought Nash to my attention. I have blogged about it before.

BEAR is Nash's sequel to SPIDER and it's pretty f'n awesome too (although having set a high bar with SPIDER, I confess I wanted things to go even further with BEAR). Unfortunately I can only find this teaser online to share with you, but trust me. He hits the trifecta with these. Maybe if Nash wants to win the HFF "Best Short Film Director" Award, he'll have to put the full version online for you to decide...

Who would you nominate for "Best Short Film Director"? But remember, they must have done three excellent shorts.

PS. Nash's partners at Blue Tongue deserve some extra kudos for their entire body of work (Kieran Darcy-Smith "Wish You Were Here", David Michod "Animal Kingdom", Spencer Susser "I Love Sarah Jane"). If the film business had any sense, they'd give these guys a heap of money to do whatever they wanted... #Just Saying

Understanding Other Audiences: An Australian In America

Today's guest post is from Louise Smith, the producer of Nash Edgerton's THE SQUARE (out now in theaters in the US and highly recommended). I’ve just returned from a trip to New York & LA for the release of my film THE SQUARE.

In the lead up to the opening weekend, I was part of some Q & A sessions with Nash Edgerton (the director), and we were asked a couple of questions that I thought I’d share with you:

Had we ever thought to subtitle our movie (the lady who asked the question said she couldn’t understand our accents) Does everyone in Australia have a mullet Hmmm… no and… um, no.

The Square -Anthony Hayes (Smithy)-(p)MatthewNettheim_2

The cultural gap between Australia & America is always bigger than we Aussies anticipate – especially from the eyes of an American looking toward Australia. We however, consume American movies and TV all the time, so there’s no language or cultural things for us to learn about your characters when we watch them… we know them already because we’ve grown up on them.

This is my first feature as producer and my first experience of releasing a film in this market. It’s a tough gig to get an Aussie film on American theatrical screens – and I’ve been learning a lot, especially from Apparition, our distributors.

It’s corny to say it, but I feel very lucky to have this opportunity. It’s so different to releasing a film back in Australia. So many different things to consider – the population alone is staggering – and the number of key city centres across the country – just fantastic for a genre pic like this to hopefully find it’s niche.

It’s been a real treat for me (and relief considering the questions above) to have such a positive recognition and understanding of our film by so many American reviewers and industry professionals. I had an Australian film journalist ask me today why I thought this was? (ie that American reviewers understood the film in ways that reviewers in Australia hadn’t) and I don’t have an answer, other than to say that genre is a huge part of the cinematic experience for Americans in a way that it just isn’t for Australian audiences. I love how passionate American audiences are for genre.

I loved sitting in the cinema watching THE SQUARE and seeing the way people jumped and screamed and audibly yelled at the screen! (We are much more shy in Australia) and I loved the way in which people understood the dark humour that Nash brings to the screen. That part of our story telling needs no translation – and this excites me.

I love that we have been able to release Nash’s short film SPIDER along with the feature and that this is a real crowd enticer!

Actually, when we were trying to get a distributor on board for the US, Nash & I (along with Pathe our sales agent) set up 2 screenings, one in NYC and one in LA for various potential local distributors. We knew we wanted them to see it with an audience because we knew that it played at its best when there’s a full room reacting to the various plot turns. So we filled the cinemas with friends around the distributors.

We had also planned to show SPIDER prior THE SQUARE mainly to get people in the mood… let them know it’s OK to laugh at this film. However, right before our first screening, we hesitated. Someone had mentioned to us that we maybe shouldn’t show it to an American audience in this way and so we began to doubt our instinct.

Then in walked Chris Rock.

He had seen THE SQUARE in Australia when he was on tour and had gone out of his way to contact Nash to congratulate him on it. Anyway, the first thing he said to Nash was that he’d watched SPIDER on YouTube the night before and he thought it was great. (actually I think he said something about Nash’s talent for shocking people but I can’t really remember and I wouldn’t dare paraphrase Chris Rock!) I just know that suddenly the answer was clear… We ran up to the projection box and asked them to play SPIDER first.

And lucky we did – because it was the combination of these two films that made Bob Berney from Apparition sit up and take note. And here we are… our first weekend in the US and we had the 3rd highest screen average overall.

Anyway… it’s still a long way to go and my Australian sensibility says to delete that last paragraph… it’s too early to get excited… But maybe that’s one cultural thing I can take up from my American film friends… there’s no need to be shy.

Louise Smith has been producing  television commercials and feature films for over than ten years. Her debut feature film production THE SQUARE, just released in the USA, and was nominated for 7 Australian Film Institute  Awards as well as being only one of 12 films selected for Official Competition in the inaugural Sydney Film Festival‘s international Sydney Film Prize.

In 2002 she co-produced the feature film THE RAGE IN PLACID LAKE starring Ben Lee, Rose Byrne, Garry McDonald and Miranda Richardson. Smith currently has projects in development with directors Ben Chessell and Rachel Griffiths, with whom she has already made two short films.

Good Stories Well Told: "The Square"

I find it very rare that I end up telling stories of movies, particularly short films. That is what happened when I first saw Nash Edgerton's SPIDER, perhaps my favorite short of recent history. I found myself doing it again when he started making videos for Bob Dylan. This is his most recent video and it, like Dylan's Christmas tunes, has a good sense of goofy fun -- although I miss Nash's signature mayhem.

I am relieved that Mr. Edgerton's finally made a feature, because there's too much story inside it for me to ever tell well. You just have to see it. With no stars, no fancy VFX, just talent in craft, he spins an excellent yarn. Discipline, the avoidance of the unnecessary, the commitment to the declared agenda, has long been one of my favorite attributes in cinema, and this man's got it. The NY Times agrees ("Mr. Edgerton, with crack timing in the editing room and a sure hand on the Steadicam, is a coldblooded professional. His craft is frightening.") so hopefully this film will prove that people do care for good movies, even without the hype and star trappings.

As some of you might know from my tweets when I first saw it, I dug this movie. Someone once complimented me for making many films that captured the awkwardness in sex on film as it is real life. Film history is filled with the fluff in both sex and violence. Nash stages fights as the mess they are and it does wonders for bringing us in to the movie and keeping us there. It's just one in a number of approaches that makes this film work. He makes it look easy -- and is not. Still, it makes me wonder why we can't get noir right. This is good pulpy fun played for real without winks and nods.

Check out the trailer below, and please see it soon, as we have to vote for the work we want with our dollars.

Great Short Film, but "you always take things one step too far"

Thankfully, there are those among us who always take things one step too far.  It may be difficult for a relationship, but it is one of those things that the internet is really good for.  People always say, in terms of content, the web works for broad comedy and horror/gross out, but equally grabbing is the OMFG vein.

Nash Edgerton's SPIDER got a couple of exclamations out of me.  And it kept me away from my third cup of morning coffee -- which means it is a pretty strong dose.
I got turned onto SPIDER via Scott Macauley at FilmmakerMagBlog.  Or at least I thought I did -- Toni Collette actually got their first for me for the video he did of her.  But Scott's sourced other great work too, and gets full credit to turning me onto the work of Patrick Daughters long before he ever shot a music video.  It was Edgerton's recent clip for Bob Dylan that initiated Scott's posting.
Checking out Edgerton's work I was excited to see he is part of Blue Tongue Films in Sydney.  I had the good fortune of mentoring a feature project of theirs -- or maybe just related to them -- when I participated in the Aurora Screenwriting workshop earlier this year.  There's great new work popping up all over.  Here's hoping everyone keeps taking things one step too far.
P.S.  After I posted this I got a thank you note from my Mom who had just watched it and said that it had produced multiple screams from her.  She reminded me that I repeatedly placed a fake spider in our sugar bowl growing up.  I guess my connection to the work was even more primal than I recognized.