Not long after we finished shooting our first feature, The Big Something, a fellow filmmaker was in shock to hear that I still wanted to make short films. I was equally baffled. Had all these movies, these stories I’d told been stepping stones to a higher level of work? And now, were we somehow too good for them?
I’ll admit, the shorts were exercise for a bigger fight, but these stories were told with the same weight as any. The same person followed their first comment, saying, “Well now are you going to make real shorts?”
I didn’t understand the question and still don’t. What is a “real” short? And what is a “real” movie for that matter? Have we become so brainwashed that we believe there are only a few ways to make movies? There are infinite, most undiscovered.
The whole event conjured a plethora of ideas about where cinema is and where it could go. Regarding the short form, I wish it were not so abandoned. There are a few examples of successful filmmakers who occasionally return to the short but these are rare cases and often their work seems to be a light affair rather than a full effort. Most directors gave up on shorts as soon as they grazed success.
Damn that attitude. A story should be told at whatever length the story demands. And there is something equally valuable in all lengths. This is an attitude more appreciated in literature, where James Joyce’s short stories are looked on with as much depth as his novels. I feel that fiction writers have been and perhaps still are more likely to experiment with length throughout their careers.
One comes to mind: John O’Hara. This writer has been a milestone in my development. I read a collection of his shorts years back and began to grasp what the story was and what made it good. O’Hara said that he wrote short stories in the summer, waiting for winter when he would write his novels. I praise that attitude and the devotion he put into those works of few pages created stronger material than some of his novels.
Let features be our novels and short films remain a consistent part of our work as storytellers. If writers have poems, we should have these too. And essays and the like. We have to stop being limited.
I have not outgrown the short film and never will. I plan on making them for as long as I’m capable of telling stories with cinema.