Those of us outside of the film industry are often limited in what we can see of short films. They are here, and they are gone. Sometimes film shorts serve as a calling card in the industry, showing what a particular film production professional is capable of doing. Sometimes the pieces are gems, equaling or surpassing the quality of a more widely-known film production.
Knowing where to find these little bits and pieces is difficult, since the lifespan of your average film short is so ephemeral. Luckily, we have the Internet and channels such as YouTube for such pieces. One place to find short films is YouTube’s Vancouver Film School channel.
The Vancouver Film School is one of many schools for film production around the world. The film shorts produced and then displayed on YouTube are of a very impressive quality, and are kept on the channel for approximately a year. Whether you the viewer are looking for animation, live action, documentary or fiction pieces, this YouTube channel is a good place to start. The following films are currently playing and rank among my favorites, but there will undoubtedly be other film shorts to explore as time goes on:
Pas de Deux
In what looks to be a combination of drawn and computer animation, this film short by Juan Carlos Lopez de la Torre tells a tender story of a soldier, in the middle of an intense battle, who has a vision of a beautiful dancer that sustains him. It’s a tender moment that is rendered beautifully in a very interesting style of animation, and runs for 2 minutes 24 seconds.
This piece looks like it might have been taken from War of the Worlds, a short struggle between alien and man. The special effects and live action are integrated well, and after the short clip is the breakdowns of the different layers of effects that came together to form the film short as a whole. It was an interesting educational behind-the-scenes look at how the film short was created, and lasts a total of 1 minute and 42 seconds.
Our Son is a…
At once an insightful and scathing societal commentary, as well as a wicked piece of black humor, this short piece has an ending I cannot divulge in good conscience, but one that I highly recommend to those who have strong stomachs. It’s good to remember that these short films do not carry ratings such as the long films do, but those film shorts that may carry objectionable material often come with a warning of their own in the beginning for viewer guidance.
Forget Me Not
The Writing program at Vancouver Film School culminates in a number of short films that are put together in a production lasting 3.5 hours. That means that these films are made up of one incident, short conversations that can sometimes get fascinating. Such is the case with “Forget Me Not”, a short film by Yvon Menard. It’s a conversation on a park bench between a writer who’s blocked, and a beautiful woman who becomes his muse. The dialogue is in French with subtitles. Charming enough in English, the French positively makes this piece sparkle with romance.
Rendezvous with Rama
Some films are from students in the Sound Design Department at Vancouver Film School, with added visual effects from other departments. An excellent example of one of these films is “Rendezvous with Rama” by Philip Mahoney, which is reminiscent of “2001: A Space Odyssey”. From the enhanced footsteps to the breathing of the astronauts to the lighting of the flares and the ensuing explosion, the depth and breadth of the sounds explored cannot be taken for granted in films such as these, which run a total of 3 minutes 50 seconds.
Copying with Death
Written by Pete Ryder, this 7 minute 6 second movie follows the unfortunate Steve as he does battle with the office copy machine as it tries to kill him for his many wrongs against it. If you’re confused, then trust me; this one’s absolutely worth a click and a few minutes of your lunch hour. It’s very well written, acted and directed, and another great example of what can be done in a 3.5 hour shoot.
Lots of different computer animation styles are represented in the short films of Vancouver Film School. “Kibble Kat”, by Daniel Farrera, is one you should watch with the nearest small child. The characters are very broadly drawn, but with a simple and watchable appeal. Kibble Kat is hungry, and decides to take matters into its own paws when the beloved owner is just taking too long. This film short runs 2 minutes 21 seconds.
Some students at Vancouver Film School specialize in visual effects. The best example of this that could be found was a recent upload entitled, “Ladybird” by Christopher Harrell. It’s not a story in and of itself, but the title sequence to a fictitious movie whose story we can only imagine. It’s a fascinating image of hundreds of ladybugs crawling over different landscapes, with a bit of a shocking ending. This short piece comes in at 1 minute 53 seconds.
A Culture Lost?
The Film Production Program of the Vancouver Film School creates a great variety of films, including some thoughtful short documentaries. This one is a good representation of that genre, which centers on the residential schools for Native American youth and the damaging effects on their lives and culture. Interviews with historical experts are interspersed with survivors and films of children taken during that era. This documentary short runs a total of 7 minutes.
The Modeling Reels
The graphic design of films today is another aspect, like sound, that is easily forgotten, especially when it’s done well. Looking at the computer animation within these short modeling reels placed by Vancouver Film School on its YouTube channel, it’s hard to take it for granted anymore. Computer animation has become so much more sophisticated over the last two decades that students are capable of producing breathtaking pieces.
There are too many pieces to review all of them (over 600) and eventually these film shorts will make way for new ones as new students make new films. If you like movies, then exploring film shorts can add to that enjoyment in ways that don’t involve a large investment of time and open new vistas of appreciation for art and the power and beauty of filmmaking and computer animation. Places like the Vancouver Film School channel at YouTube are making such pieces more available to the public, and are well worth a look.