For many young filmmakers looking to make a name for themselves, short films are a great way to get their foot in the door.
“I view short films as a great opportunity to practice your craft,” said Matt Ross, director of “Captain Fantastic” and star of HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” told TheWrap founder/editor-in-chief Sharon Waxman during a panel discussion at the ceremony Wednesday for the 2017 ShortList Film Festival.
“Digital technology has put the means of technology in everyone’s hands,” said Ross, one of several industry figures who served on the jury for the ShortList’s Industry Prize this year. “I made a film that was entirely digital… It went from my camera to my computer to the internet and it cost me almost nothing. But I did it to practice the craft and to use as an example of a tone I was playing with.”
When asked if there are any options available to short filmmakers to make money from their work, the jurors said that monetization isn’t really the end goal for narrative filmmakers making shorts as much as creative experimentation and presenting their craft to studios looking for new talent.
But for documentarians, the short documentary format is becoming more profitable as digital media companies look for short docs to commission and distribute. This year’s winner of the Oscar for Best Documentary Short, “The White Helmets,” was a Netflix release, as was fellow nominee “Extremis.” Another nominee, “4.1 Miles,” was released by The New York Times as part of its online Op-Docs program.
Ryan Heller, VP of Acquisitions at First Look Media, noted that his company has a new site, Topic, that is currently commissioning short docs that can elevate rising filmmakers looking to tell important social stories.
“There are certainly brands out there commissioning and paying filmmakers to make short work,” said Heller. “Obviously that’s not the main reason the filmmakers who work with us are doing it, but there are ways to recoup your budget and ease the burden of making this incredible stuff that’s hard to make.”
Joining Ross and Heller on the jury were Lisa Bunnell, President of Distribution, Focus Features; Lesley Chilcott, Director (“CodeGirl”); Misha Green, Writer and Showrunner (“Underground”); Alec Shankman, Senior VP & Head of Alternative Programming, Digital Media and Licensing, Abrams Artists Agency; and Stephen Ujlaki Dean, Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television.
This year, the jury’s Industry Prize went to “The Silence,” a drama by Farnoosh Samadi and Ali Asgari about a teenage Kurdish refugee in Italy who struggles to pass the news along to her mother, who only speaks Kurdish, that she has been diagnosed by her doctor with a life-threatening illness.
The jury called the film “a simple, beautiful and entirely human drama about a mother and daughter in a quiet moment that will change both of them forever. We loved this film as much for what it didn’t say as what it did.” The filmmakers won a week-long RED Epic Dragon $6,000 rental package provided by RED and AbelCine.
Check out what the jury had to say at this year’s ShortList in the clip above.