Where Do Short Films Go After Oscar Night?
Why Short Films Are More Popular Than Ever Despite What Popular Culture Tells You
The stars have strutted their stuff on the red carpet. The envelopes have been opened (and thankfully the correct ones this year). And the winners have been announced…
…But one question lingers on through the morning-after-Oscar-night hangover: Where do all the short films go?
Fair question. After all, the 90th Annual Oscars, like so many before, mark the one night short films get to play on the same field with the big boys. It’s easy to forget those 364 other days, when any short film not made by Pixar gets put on the popular culture back-burner.
Or do they?
The Rising Demand for Short Films No One is Talking About
While you may not find short film news in your average entertainment magazine or while scrolling your Twitter feed, there are plenty of other ways this niche is heating up. Around the 88th Academy Awards, The Atlantic and Huffington Post both wrote feature articles affirming the life of short films over and against the generally dismissive cultural perception. The short film is seeing a surge across the globe, with sites like Viddsee in South Korea serving over 350,000 Youtube subscribers and 100,000 Facebook followers who want bite-sized entertainment that’s both smarter and more artistic than the typical viral video.
But the biggest numbers aren’t just in eyeballs; there is real money at play here too. Short film’s most indirect influence is on the world of higher education. Colleges and universities are a nearly $600 billion industry in the United states, and with film schools in every major state school program and video production courses in most junior colleges, a correlation cannot be missed. This doesn’t even include the many recognized film schools (AFI, New York Film Academy, Columbia College Chicago) that are in standalone institutions. When all added up, the numbers of film students being trained and entering the workforce are simply staggering, and something that wasn’t even conceivable twenty years ago.
With so much money and might behind film schools, all of which require student film productions, it seems unavoidable that some serious capital is needed to fund these projects and institutions: someone has to be watching these short films. Kickstarter and Indiegogo, the two most recognizable names in crowdfunding, have aided thousands upon thousands of student films and other independent short films in their own fundraising, resulting in many viral successes (like Kung Fury,a short film which received over $430,000 more than asked for in order to complete production and distribution). Yes, there is the common cliché that the only people who watch student films are the students themselves. But there is also another cliché: the numbers never lie.
And where else is the numbers cliché more true than in Hollywood, where the most important metric (even more important than Oscars) is box office. Short films are actually seeing increases here too. According to Box Office Mojo, the annual screenings of Oscar-nominated short films have a combined gross of almost $20 million. The increases since its inaugural year of 2009 have been over $400,000 year-to-year. In less than 10 years, Short International’s distribution of the Oscar-nominated short films have quadrupled in yearly revenue. The story of the growing hunger for short films is real, and it’s been told in the movie world’s favorite language: box office cash.
The Real Reason People Think The Short Film is Dead
The truth is that people are watching short films, even if they say they’re not. But what makes people say they’re not watching them in the first place? In large part because, especially in 2018, people often don’t realize they are watching short films.
With new technologies and those widely-touted short attention spans, we as a society have been asked to broaden our definition of what a short film can be. Late last year saw the release of Steven Soderbergh’s Mosaic, an app with the interactive ability to choose storylines to follow. Clocking in at over seven hours of total content, the experience has been called a Web Series 2.0 or the future of all our entertainment. Yet, the “movies” themselves within the larger story are typically only about 20 minutes long, just right for one’s daily train commute and for the traditional short film model.
Virtual Reality is also changing the way we understand what a short film is. There are companies like Felix & Paul Studios developing short films for the VR space, and winning awards along the way. The most notable development in VR short film came out of Cannes last year with the premiere of Alejandro Iñárritu’s 6-minute full-on VR experience, Carne Y Arena. Those who have seen it for themselves consider it to be one of the biggest steps forward in the history of film. VR short films show no sign of stopping, and should be winning major film festivals in just a few short years.
Like any good artform, short films must adapt to fit the new technologies available, and to please new consumer expectations for how we interact with our media.
The One Way to Keep Us Watching Short Films [and Keep Short Filmmakers Paid for it]
Keeping the short film alive and well has never been the problem. But it is true that in the age of streaming platforms and near-instant availability, short films are the type of media most hard to access.
When we ask the question “Where do short films go after Oscar Night?”, we are really asking ourselves why short films can’t be found in our Netflix queues or with our Hulu subscriptions.
If the great short films like those nominated in the 90th Academy Awards can have a life beyond the one-month theatrical window each year, it’s going to take a shift in perspective to see short films as equal to the feature film, and as deserving of instant viewing.
India, the biggest film production machine outside of Hollywood, has seen the greatest success in their short film market when those films are treated like features and get an expansive theatrical presence, in places like film festivals and beyond.
Now it’s time to go beyond forcing talented filmmakers to throw their project onto a video platform for free, with no expectation of making money back. It’s time to know where the best of the best short films go. It’s time to find them all in one place, for one small price. It’s what we now expect from all of our media.
We believe 2018 is that time.
And as Oscar night proves, no matter the circumstances, short films will always have their time on stage.