LONG STORY SHORT: DIGITAL SPACE GIVES NEW LIFE TO SHORT VIDEOS
In addition to all the many films at the 2012 LA Film Fest, there were a number of panels and conversations as well. Long Story Short looked at the new life being given to short films by the onslaught of digital media. Guest blogger Pamela Ezell was on hand to report:
In his keynote address for the 2012 LA Film Fest, Chris McGurk, Cinedigm Chairman and CEO, said we’re in the middle of an indie renaissance. That renaissance extends to the digital short form too, according to the panelists of Focus Forward’s LONG STORY SHORT: The Art and Power of Online Storytelling.
“The short film has been neglected and is hard to monetize,” began moderator Holly Willis as she opened the panel, but added that online “it’s undergoing a radical transformation.” She mentioned the New York Times’ Op-Docs, Hulu’s Battleground, and Netflix’ Lilyhammer as examples.
Amber Lawson, who chairs the Interactive Media Peer Group for the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, shared her own online project, Transforming the World Through Comedy, which raises funds for charity during a 24-hour virtual comedy marathon.
Eddie Schmidt screened his new short Good Bread about L.A.’s Homeboy Industries. He noted that he’s come full circle by making shorts at this point in his career, having had great success in feature-length documentaries and television. “Now, there’s an amazing market and appetite” for shorts.
It was an interest in sustainability—and not knowing what to do “beyond recycling and driving a Prius”—that led Peter Glatzer to co-found SHFT.com with Entourage’s Adrian Grenier. Their mission is to use media to promote sustainability. Glatzer shared several shorts, including the spot they produced two years ago that helped pass the ban on plastic bags in Los Angeles.
The Big SHFT is their latest project, a 10-part online documentary series made in conjunction with Ford Motor Company that profiles innovators and game changers. “Every company in the world needs to create content,” Glatzer said, adding that a short “can bring authenticity to a brand” that a traditional commercial just can’t match.
And over at Yahoo, Thomas Zadra heads business development for their original video online network. Yahoo distributes digital projects featuring a host of recognizable film and television personalities like Tom Hanks, Niecy Nash, and Morgan Spurlock. They’ve got a women’s slate, a men’s slate and a plethora of comedy and reality programming.
So, what works and what doesn’t work online?
According to Lawson, it’s got to be “timely, topical and trending,” while Schmidt said, “You have to grab people with heart and humor.”
Glatzter focused on keeping your shorts short, pointing out: “Three minutes is the SHFT sweet spot. You have to grab your audience in the first few seconds.”
“Make sure you’re doing something that works for digital,” Zadra added. “Have a distribution plan for different types of content.” Specifically, know the difference between “what works on YouTube and what works on Yahoo.”
To be, or not to be, a social (media) butterfly
As might be expected during a panel on digital filmmaking, the concept of social media came up. How important is it for filmmakers to brand themselves and their content through Facebook, Twitter, etc?
Very important, according to all the panelists, especially when it comes to monetizing online content. “There are a lot of good ideas,” said Zadra, “but my ears prick up when I hear ‘there are this many million followers on Twitter.’”
All panelists agreed the digital space was liberating for filmmakers. Because the economics of digital and online filmmaking are inexpensive compared to traditional filmmaking, Zadra had this to say to would-be filmmakers: “Make something. Learn some lessons. Put it in 20 different places and see what works.”
—Pamela Ezell for Film Indpendent
July 2nd, 2012 • No Comments