The word ‘short’ has many meanings.
Pair it with ‘pants’ and it evokes memories of childhood summers. Match it with the syllables ‘and sweet’ and it conjures up a pleasant feeling but when you partner it with the word film, as in short film, you open up a world of possibilities. Just ask Tim Burton, Paul Thomas Anderson or Sam Raimi.
Each of them started by making shorts, several of which were later expanded upon to become well known features.
Burton’s Frankenweenie first saw life as a Disney short way back in 1984. The Dirk Diggler Story is the 1988 mockumentary short written and directed by Anderson that became the basis for Boogie Nights and Within the Woods was the short calling card that helped Raimi get Evil Dead made.
This weekend short films inspired two big releases.
The Babadook is the feature directorial debut of Australian Jennifer Kent. The horror movie plays up the most terrifying aspect of a primal relationship—the bond between mother and child—coupled with a young boy’s fear that a storybook beastie, the titular Babadook, is going to spring from the page and eat them both. The ideas that make The Babadook so unsettling first took shape in a ten minute short called Monster that screened at 40 festivals worldwide.
“I had a friend who had a child that she was really having trouble connecting with,” Kent told Den of Geek. “He was little and he kept seeing this monster man everywhere. The only way she could get him to calm down was to get rid of it as if it was real. And then I thought, well what if it was actually real? That’s how the short idea came about.”
Eleven years ago District 9 director Neill Blomkamp’s short Tetra Vaal asked the question, What would happen if we could build a robot to police developing nations?
The answer may lie in his new feature, this weekend’s Chappie. The South African-born, Vancouver-based director said Chappie is, “basically based on Tetra Vaal,” with the spirit of the South African rap-rave group Die Antwoord infused in the story. The minute-and-twenty-second short features Blomkamp’s signature mix of gritty realism and high tech computer generated images and stars the “ridiculous robot character” with wild rabbit ears—inspired by Briareos from the manga Appleseed—played by Sharlto Copley in the big screen adaptation.
Blomkamp said he made his shorts as “a collection of work so I could get representation as a commercial director,” but they soon opened a world of possibilities for him when they caught Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson’s eye. To paraphrase Dave Edmunds, “from small things baby, one day big things come.”