- Back in 2011, Terry Gilliam’s shared ten lessons for directors — given to a Master Class to Moroccan film students — which was re-printed in Filmmaker Magazine. Tips include anecdotes like “surround yourself with improvisers” and “all you’ve really got in life is story.”
- Feature filmmakers behind “The Guest” decided to give away their soundtrack for free. According to a promotion on their Tumblr, by hashtagging their film with a photo of your ticket stub, you could get the digital download. The effort engaged early fans well enough that they extended the promotion for longer than planned.
- Mike Monteiro (Design Director of Mule Design Studio) recently wrote 13 tips for designers to not screw up client presentations, which can easily apply to anyone in work-for-hire professions, like “[don’t] talk about how hard you worked” and “[don’t] ask ‘do you like it?'”
Steven Soderbergh showcased an experiment in cinematic staging yesterday on his website, Extension 765. For educational purposes, he notes, Soderbergh put online a full copy of Steven Spielberg’s “The Raiders of the Lost Ark” that he easily converted into black-and-white, and then also replaced the entire audio track with a wall-to-wall soundtrack.
Why would you want to watch “Raiders” in black-and-white with electronic music? Soderbergh’s point is regarding the visual staging via the cinematography and the edit, and how it affects how the film is consistent and iconic. Like a silent film or a foreign film without subtitles, Soderbergh believes “a movie should work with the sound off” and wants us to watch and “think only about staging, how the shots are built and laid out, what the rules of movement are, [and] what the cutting patterns are.”
The original 1981 film was shot in color by Douglas Slocombe, who before this picture lensed several black-and-white features. The replaced music is the soundtrack of David Fincher’s “The Social Network” by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, as well as “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” by the same director and musicians.
We would include the video here but the file’s embed settings appear to be limited to only Soderbergh’s website. View the feature film on the original article at Extension765.com.
(Thanks to Charlie Beckerman for the head’s up on this effort.)
An editor by day, filmmaker Tony Zhou has a series of videos that are both entertaining and educational, especially “A Brief Look at Texting and the Internet in Film.” In it, he’s taken excerpts of films from the last decade and provided a voiceover commentary to his compilation about which highlights how the portrayal of text messaging and the internet on screen has evolved.
According to Zhou, the best examples utilize motion graphics rather than literal shots of phones and screens. Sometimes the text is by itself and sometimes it’s wrapped in bubbles, emulating the user interface design of various apps we’ve come to recognize.
One of the most well-liked example in this video spanning decades of examples comes from the BBC’s “Sherlock Holmes” series and Netflix’s “House of Cards.” In the former example, we see things like a character blowing while the text message reactions to the motion; in the latter, we see letters being typed as the character types them.
Since Zhou’s trimmed-down “explainer” video is intentionally not an exhaustive list of use cases, commenters have added to his list, referencing examples like “Man on Fire”, in which a character yells as the text gets larger. Other cinephiles brought praised films like “Her” and “The Departed” for their portrayal. Surprisingly to some, usages of texting and the Internet in “The Social Network” just didn’t make Zhou’s final cut.
After the edit went up online, a debut trailer for an upcoming film made yet another unique use of the texting monograph. Take a look at this from Jason Reitman’s “Men, Women, and Children.” The film just premiered at Toronto.
This isn’t just a conversation for the fans – other filmmakers and designers are also joining in on the conversation. Screenwriter John August, who we interviewed recently on the FWD:labs blog, also brought up the piece in a recent blog post, saying:
In ten years, some of our choices will look quaint and foolish, but that’s the fun and challenge of making new things.
Screenwriter John August wasn’t content with the tools of his trade, so he teamed up to make his own company — Quote-Unquote Apps — to deliver better results. Despite a handful of apps for screenwriters already on the market, they made Highland, Weekend Read and several others. Here’s our interview with John and his lead developer Nima Yousefi on their work, their challenges, and their ideas for the future.
John, you’re a successful screenwriter, so what led to making apps on the side with forming Quote-Unquote Apps?
John August Most of the apps we make are things I needed. Or at least wanted. For example, I’m constantly looking up credits on IMDb, but the site kept getting more and more overloaded with ads and cruft, so we made the browser extension Less IMDb.
I wanted to be able to take a screenplay PDF and melt it back down into a editable file. So we made Highland. Along the way, it became a great general-purpose screenwriting app.
I needed to watermark fifty scripts for Big Fish, so we made Bronson Watermarker. I wanted to read scripts on my iPhone without going blind, so we made Weekend Read. It’s all about fixing the things that bug me.
Apps John Wants isn’t the most profitable niche in the App Store, but these apps genuinely help me with my screenwriting work, so they’d almost be worth it even if we never sold them to strangers.
How did you team up with developers and designers to create apps like Highland and Weekend Read? What’s your involvement with the actual apps — creative director or coder?
John August Nima Yousefi had volunteered with an early web-based project called Scrippets, which ultimately grew into the open-source screenwriting format called Fountain (developed in partnership with Stu Maschwitz, who went on to make Slugline).
Nima agreed to do the coding work on Highland, then eventually joined us full-time in Los Angeles.
I’d hired Ryan Nelson to do web stuff, but he clearly had skills for everything visual. Between Ryan and Nima, there was a lot of app talent.
As in film, I’m a writer and director for our apps. I describe what I want, then we all collaborate to figure out how to achieve it. I’m not a coder, but I’m good at whiteboard logic. I’m not a designer, but I know what I want it to feel like. The challenge of the job is giving direction without stifling inspiration. I steer the ship, but I don’t run the engines.
You’ve been doing the Scriptnotes podcast for a while now. How has that built a digital-first following for you that pairs well with digital apps for desktop and mobile?
John August Scriptnotes is sort of its own beast. I never expected it would get as popular as it has. But it’s interesting that so many app developers are also podcasters; I love guesting on their shows.
As someone who makes apps for screenwriters, it’s obviously helpful to have a platform like Scriptnotes for talking about what we make. But I’m careful to never let it feel like an ad. I want screenwriters to find the tools that work best for them.
Highland is your flagship app. How do you feel it’s evolved since coming out in 2013? Knowing what you know now about making the app for screenwriters, rivaling staples like Final Draft, what would you have done differently — if anything?
John August Highland was never meant to be a full-fledged screenwriting app. We saw it mostly as a conversion utility. In fact, we added the editor pretty late in the process. But over the months, I found myself doing more and more of my daily writing directly in Highland. Its minimalism really helps me focus on the words, not the formatting.
With hindsight, I would have been more ambitious about allowing Highland to be a “real” screenwriting app right out of the gate. Many people still think of Highland as that thing that melts PDFs, when in fact it’s for daily writing. You can talk about apps and websites pivoting, but once you’ve established yourself as one thing, it’s hard to change people’s perceptions.
How do you see the future of screenwriting apps, either with Quote-Unquote or the industry at large? What hurdles do you hope to overcome?
John August I think the first wave of screenwriting apps — by which I mean Final Draft and Screenwriter, mostly — focused on getting the formatting to work when printed on the page. For the most part, they succeeded. But they did it by forcing writers to work in unnatural ways, by declaring what type of element (dialogue, action, transition) a piece of text was before it was even written. It’s like trying to typeset a book while you’re writing it.
Fountain apps like Highland focus on the words instead, and for most screenwriters I think it’s a much better experience. But we can go further. The same processing power that makes it possible to interpret text for formatting should be able to interpret text for meaning, and give us new ways to look at our scripts. (Charles Forman has been doing some experiments along these lines.)
I believe we’re also near a tipping point where we’ll stop using simulated paper pages for everything. PDFs are terrific, but they’re frozen in amber. Keeping text as text allows collaboration, editing and version control that helps both writing and production.
Nima, you’re the lead coder at Quote-Unquote. How did you first begin to work with John?
Nima Yousefi Around 2008, John put out a call on his blog for someone to help put together a WordPress plugin to convert short, plain text screenplay bits into nicely formatted HTML. I was a long time reader of John’s blog, and this was actually something I had thought of before, so it wasn’t very difficult for me to come up with a working solution. We released it together as Scrippets, and continued to work together on growing, maintaining, and supporting the project.
Your apps are all Mac, mobile and desktop. How has that been helpful for getting first to market and evolving? How has Swift changed up the roadmap for future efforts?
Nima Yousefi It’s been extremely helpful. By focusing on Apple technologies we’re able to continuously build on our previous work, both in terms of reusing existing code (as is the case with our Mac app Highland, and iOS app Weekend Read), but also in terms of being able to build on experience with Apple’s frameworks. This means each new app can get off the ground and iterate faster than the previous, even if all the code in it is new.
Swift hasn’t really changed our roadmap. Although Swift is immensely exciting, we’re going to hold off on making the jump to building apps in Swift until the dust from its 1.0 release settles down.
How do you best collaborate on these apps with Ryan Nelson and John?
Nima Yousefi Collaboration with them has been great. The most important thing for any team effort is for everyone to want to get to the same place, and that’s true of the three of us: we all want beautiful, usable software that makes it easier for people to get work done.
How do you see the future of screenwriting apps, either with Quote-Unquote or the industry at large? What hurdles do you have to overcome?
Nima Yousefi Honestly, the biggest hurdle for screenwriting software is the (mostly) standardized screenplay format we all need to adhere to. John and his podcasting partner Craig Mazin have discussed this on their Scriptnotes podcast: we need a new screenplay format that embraces the rich capabilities of digital content. Embedded movies, notes, images, storyboards — these are the types of things screenwriters should want from their screenwriting software, but incorporating these into the existing screenplay format is difficult, if not impossible.
This is a nut that’s going to get cracked, eventually, and when it does we’ll see a tremendous leap in what screenwriting apps can do, and more variation in how they’ll do it.
The digital bulletin board called Pinterest has flourished for a lot of generalists (e.g. foodies, fashionistas, et cetera), but I’ve found a few ways it can work well for filmmakers.
1. Mood Boards
When I don’t have the luxury of face-to-face production meetings, explaining ideas in e-mails, documents, or even PDFs can be cumbersome. Instead, I’ve made either public or hidden “boards” to build off a single link. I’ll then either upload or curate image-based content that exemplifies a visual style or color palette for jobs where I direct the photography. I can easily invite the production keys to review the link, comment on the looks, or even add to it themselves.
In making my music video with Aaron, I relied heavily on Pinterest to communicate visual ideas online. When team members live in different cities or can’t be together in the same room for all that brainstorming and visualization meetings, a tool like Pinterest makes collaborating possible. It’s also so much easier to find visual references online rather than in print, so Pinterest gives you that digital bulletin board or mood board you normally had to create out of paper.
For another project that used a board called Mood board for a Short Film Inspired by a Comic Book, I sent a few still frames over to illustrate some visual styles over to the project’s director, Thomas Faustin Huisking:
While prepping for the short film, “Poor Joey,” Aaron and I were trying to coordinate the look of the piece. We live on opposite sides of Los Angeles and there wasn’t enough time to meet repeatedly prior to shooting. Aaron mentioned Pinterest; I checked it out. I had described wanting a contrast-y, almost graphic novel look for parts of the film, “like when Calvin (from Calvin and Hobbes) imagines himself as an adult.” Aaron was able to effectively grab stills and looks from multiple films and other art in order to build a suitable mood board for the film. In that way we were able to decide long-distance on cyan and straw as opposing light color sources, which ultimately played a huge role in the final look of Poor Joey.
2. Social Bookmarking
While Facebook just rolled out their “Saved” feature this week, and I’ve been a proponent of Delicious for years, I’ve found more interaction with content I’ve shared on a public Pinterest board. It’s also fairly easy to search, which is hit-and-miss sometimes with social networks… (looking at you, Instagram, Tumblr, and Facebook).
Every artist likes to be credited. Unlike most users on Pinterest, who have no requirement to be so formal (or ethical?), if I have the time I’ll take the time to correctly annotate and attribute the link, picking the best and most official source for the image that I can find. Here are some that I’ve enjoyed curating, to benefit others besides myself:
Tip: When I come across something that’s been shared to infinity and beyond, I’ll jump over to Google Images and do a search based on that image itself — either the image file or it’s URL. I’ll then often fine it points me to the best and/or original source, rather than somebody’s Tumblr or other attribution-less service.
Other boards that provide a useful, visual reference:
- Women Directors (curated by director Destri Martino)
- Guerilla Filmmaking (curated by photographer Martin Taylor)
- Tech Articles & Videos (curated by film company AbelCine)
- DIY Filmmaking Projects (curated by The Black and Blue blog’s Evan Luzi)
- Social Media for Film (curated by film publicist Reid Rosefelt and independent film marketing consultant Sheri Candler)
- Indie Filmmaker Kit (curated by Film Independent)
Much like other social media, many brands have a presence on Pinterest. For example, Kodak heavily uses Pinterest to highlight trailers, films, and articles from their online magazine — all, of course, shot on Kodak film.
I think this is helpful to filmmakers. It turns web content into a visual repository that’s linkable unlike Instagram and infinitely scrollable unlike most websites. However, on the flip side since no social network is perfect: the image resolution is limiting, the click-thrus require a double-click, and all of the visual content is ripe for being re-shared without attribution nor linkage.
Other active brands:
- Carl Zeiss Lenses
- Film Independent
- Fox Searchlight
- NFL Films
- Paramount Pictures
- Sundance Film Festival
- Universal Pictures
- Walt Disney Studios
- Warner Bros. Entertainment
4. Other Filmmakers
Looking for other avid Pinterest users for inspiration on starting your own? I’ve come across several other filmmakers who use Pinterest for professional promotion, reference, and connecting. Here are some of my favorites of who to follow on Pinterest for professional pins:
- Andrew Blodgett (animator)
- Art DepartMENTAL (curated by production designer Rose Lagacé)
- Boyd Hobbs (cinematographer)
- Cybel Martin (cinematographer)
- Edwin Nieves (director)
- Fruitvale Station (feature film)
- James L. Neihouse (cinematographer)
- Kevin Coyne (cinematographer)
- Lance Weiler (artist)
- Ted Hope (executive, producer)
Or perhaps you’re selling your style and personality. Here are some projects and people to follow on Pinterest that rock their full identity:
- Ashley Benson (“Pretty Little Liars” actress)
- Felicia Day (“The Guild” actress)
- Julie Benz (“Dexter” actress)
Pinterest is a mostly public, generalist social network. It’s not for everyone, especially it’s visual-geared design. However, the ease of browsing and simplicity of uploading make it a player to consider for filmmaking productions.
Additionally, in terms of self-promotion for your own projects, adding stills and other visuals can be set up to link to your website. While it doesn’t give an SEO boost (due to a rel=”nofollow” tag in the link), it does boost incoming traffic to your site if people click the linked image for more. Furthermore, captions can have visible links as well that are automatically clickable when typed.
Like many of these start-ups, Pinterest grows in unusual ways. Originally, you could only have a few private boards, but recent upgrades have removed the cap on the number of private boards a user can have. This helps for confidential projects since this social network operates under a opt-out / follow-all paradigm. In other words, every public board is broadcast to every single follower, unless they manually opt out of either the board or the follow.
What are your thoughts on Pinterest? And any favorite links to recommend?
Digital and disc distribution of cinematic content needs to catch up with the music industry. Cost, time, and access are getting closer but still fall short despite some technological advances. Here’s a look at iTunes, Amazon, Netflix, Popcorn Time, and Aereo when it comes to accessibility to the same kinds of content.
Poor Quality Assurance in Digital Delivery via iTunes
I recently wanted to see the film “Snowpiercer.” Even in Los Angeles, the screens playing the film looked sub-par: sticky floor, soft focus projection, and squeaky chair kind of places. Some colleagues who went to see it in theaters even commented that nobody else was there. Fortunately, the distributor decided to release the film on iTunes an unprecedented two weeks after it opened in theaters. The film cost $16, which was fine to own the digital file, however, and on a business DSL line it took a massive 3 hours to download. To make matters worse, the non-streaming digital file had intermittent glitches: lo-res frames that would stutter every few scenes, which led me to complain to Apple about poor quality assurance.
Irregular Disc Distribution via Amazon
Unrelated, I recently needed a physical, disc copy of Malcolm in the Middle Season 5, which was made in 2004. The only available copy was an Australian copy that would either need a region-free player, or take a bite out of my DVD player’s five “reset” options (which sure is archaic, huh?). The shipping time was estimated at 1-2 weeks. And, other than a massive series DVD set, it seemed the distributor wasn’t interested in providing even U.S.-based customers with access to content that’s a mere decade old.
Disappearing Titles via Netflix
For streaming only content, Netflix sure has a market. When I load up Amazon Instant, it pales in comparison. But one thing that has bothered me for years is Netflix’s transparency. They once published expiration dates for all of their titles. Third-party sites could tap into this, like InstantWatcher.com, and I could see which films on my queue were going to expire soon. When they pulled this feature in the wake of thousands of titles expiring at once, prompting negative headlines, their head engineer blogged about how the feature was unsustainable. But that doesn’t make sense: they have that data and they just didn’t want it public anymore. Now, when I cruise though my queue, I might get a few days notice, buried in the film’s description, that the title won’t be available after a certain date. But I can’t search or sort for this, and that’s a shame.
Illegal Content via Peer-Assisted, Legal Networks
Meanwhile, there’s Popcorn Time and Aereo, two services that shut down soon after launching. Popcorn Time provided a new face to accessing torrents, or free peer-to-peer file sharing that’s a fine line on copyright infringement. Aereo was a television streaming service that offered paid access to cable content without the bundled programs; but it was recently called illegal by the United States Supreme Court.
When Popcorn Time shut down on their own terms, they did two things. Their founders wrote a public letter explaining that the piracy problem is the service problem, not a people problem:
[T]ons of people agreed in unison that the movie industry has way too many ridiculous restrictions on way too many markets. Take Argentina for example: streaming providers seem to believe that “There’s Something About Mary” is a recent movie. That movie would be old enough to vote here.
They also released all of their source code on Github, which spawned two clones run by others — http://time4popcorn.eu/ and http://popcorntime.io/ — which are all apparently completely legal as infrastructure networks.
When Aereo was sued by Walt Disney Co., which led to the Supreme Court decision, it highlighted a problem with the technology platform. According to NPR, Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia calls “it ‘troubling’ to see the majority opinion’s suggestion that companies seek action from Congress to clarify how new technology interacts with U.S. copyright laws.”
In the dissent, Justice Scalia noted the service was like a library card to an antenna, rather than a specific video-on-demand service. All told, it highlighted a dated take on copyright laws for an otherwise very innovative idea that paying customers may have preferred for their cable.
Somehow the music industry got it. After Napster, iTunes and other efforts made the MP3 a gold standard. Now you can get almost everything in music quickly and legally. It’s not great, but it’s accessible and economical for big and small time artists.
The film business at large doesn’t yet get it. Instead of engineering or nurturing more competition to Netflix and iTunes, we hear about knee-jerk lawsuits. Instead of creating more customer-centric tools, these cutting-edge services get called Hollywood’s worst nightmare because they’re still connecting to illegally distributed content, even though the service infrastructures are fast and organized.
I feel we’re close. There’s clearly interest and demand, even to pay to play. Creative minds are engineering new routes and breaking old models. Inconsistent disc distribution and hidden expiration dates are utter failures, going against the grain of accessibility to a hundred years of cinema.
I have to applaud the distributors of “Snowpiercer” for trying a multi-pronged distribution, which tops the iTunes charts when it’s not necessarily going to top the traditional box office. And it’s incredible what Popcorn Time and other have engineered, even if to just prove a point.
While they’ve not necessarily provided a sustainable model for the business of show business, perhaps there’s going to be a breaking point soon, balancing the fairness of legality, cost, and accessibility.
- Jason Zada is the director behind “Turbocharge the Everyday,” an interactive ad for Volkswagen and agency Deutsch LA featuring 150 GoPros and utilizing cutting-edge “choose your own camera” interactivity (on youtube.com via desktop only) in a single video timeline, which solves the woes of page refreshes
- “Dolby Vision” is a video about how TV manufacturers can improve brightness, colors, and contrast (via Gizmodo via Leonard Walsh)
- “Is the Feature Film Dying?” by Short Of The Week compares the total running time of multi-season TV shows with multi-episode feature films, such as “Star Wars” (800 mins.) and “Harry Potter” (1,176 mins.) versus “Breaking Bad” (3,000 mins.) and “The Sopranos” (4,000 mins.)
“You can’t get away from your heart. Because life is a paradox. It’s a mirror of confusion. So, love now.”
Framed by some sites and social media posts as a video featuring “inspiring advice from a mentally insane person,” something felt off. Student film? Branded content? Or somebody’s rush to judgment?
Sure enough, this is a performance artist named Matthew Silver and this is his schtick, in a video made by Enlisted Films uploaded last week. The filmmaker — who was unattributed by most social media shares due to how Facebook hosts unsearchable video (except Gizmodo) — notes that it’s a piece about “a man who runs around NYC in underwear saying and doing radical things. A friend and I stopped and actually listened, and he said some beautiful things.”
One commenter, Raj Marathe, notes that Silver “puts on unique performances and is good at being effective and acting. He is not a bum, a homeless person or anything like that– like some [point] him out to be. His day job involves editing wedding videos and being a filmmaker. He attended Ithaca College. His message is spreading awareness of loving yourself and others, to stop judging people, and other social awareness issues. You will hear him often refer to the ‘Love Movement’ in his discussions and presentations.”
Silver’s website features Gothamist’s video interview with him, which really explains his methodology in his own words:
In regard to the “viral” video, it’s a testament to the power of editing — and the rush to judgment that is easily made when presented out of context and without attribution.
I was recently asked if short format work could lead to big picture deals. Instead of laughing off the incredibly unlikelihood, I looked at the data.
If you exclude filmmakers who just make a killer short film and subsequently get notoriety thanks to their name or affiliation (e.g. Disney’s “Paperman” by John Kahrs, who is now directing the feature “Shedd”), as well as commercially/celebrity-driven projects (e.g. “Dr. Horrible” by Neil Patrick-Harris), here’s a breakdown of the rare instances where independently-made short films and long-term web series garnered enough festival attention and/or fans to lead to feature film and broadcast deals, respectively.
- Watch the short on YouTube. “Within The Woods” (1978) by Sam Raimi was the short made over three days for $1,600, which led to the feature film “The Evil Dead” in 1981.
- “Frankenweenie” (1984) by Tim Burton became a feature by the same name in 2012. Watch the short on YouTube.
- “The Dirk Diggler Story” (1988) by Paul Thomas Anderson was the precursor to “Boogie Nights.” Watch the short on YouTube.
- “Milton” (1991) by Mike Judge was a series of animated shorts that led the way to “Office Space.” Watch the short on YouTube.
- Watch the short on YouTube. Anderson also did a short called “Hotel Chevalier” (1997), although it was more so a supplement than a building block for some of his other feature films with the same cast and production aesthetic. “Bottle Rocket” (1992) by Wes Anderson was a short film that went to Sundance before getting the opportunity to become a feature film with the same name in 1996.
- “Joe’s Apt.” (1992) by John Payson was originally a short before becoming an MTV-produced feature film (1996). Watch the short on YouTube.
- Watch the short on YouTube. Anderson also made a short in 2003 called “Couch” which starred Adam Sandler was somewhat related to his later feature, “Punch-Drunk Love.” “Cigarettes and Coffee” (1993) is 24-minute short from Paul Thomas Anderson (who we mention above) which led to the feature film “Hard Eight” in 1996, which was his directorial debut.
- “Some Folks Call It A Sling Blade” (1994) by George Hickenlooper was the precursor to “Sling Blade” (1996). Watch the short on YouTube.
- “The Hard Case” (1995) by Guy Ritchie was the 20-minute short that helped make “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels” (1998), which then led to a single-season TV series called Lock, Stock… in 2000. Watch the trailer for the short on YouTube.
- “The World of Tomorrow” (1998) by Kerry Conran was the 6-minute short film that was the 2005 feature film, “Sky Captain: The World of Tomorrow.” Watch the short on YouTube.
- “Five Feet High and Rising” (2000) by Peter Sollett was a successful 30-minute short film that — after winning at Cannes, Sundance, SXSW, and more — eventually led to “Raising Victor Vargas” (2002). Watch the short on YouTube.
- Watch the short on YouTube. “Peluca” (2002) by Jared Hess was the short before “Napoleon Dynamite” in 2004. There was even an animated television series in 2012 on Fox, who eventually cancelled it mid-season after six episodes.
- “Saw” (2003) by James Wan was originally a short film before it became one of many feature films by the same name. Watch the short on YouTube.
- “Cashback” (2004) by Sean Ellis became a feature by the same name in 2006. Watch the short on DailyMotion.
- Watch the short on YouTube. “Two Cars, One Night” (2004) by Taika Waititi was an Oscar-nominated short film before it was a baseline for the 2010 feature, “Boy.”
- “Gowanus, Brooklyn” (2004) was the 19-minute short that led to “Half Nelson” (2006) from both Ryan Fleck (co-writer and director) and Anna Boden (screenwriter). Watch the short on YouTube.
- Watch the short on YouTube. “Alive in Joburg” (2005) by Neill Blomkamp was the short film whose story loosely became that of “District 9″ in 2009.
- “The Customer Is Always Right” (2005) by Robert Rodriguez was the 3-minute short made both as a proof-of-concept (to get Frank Miller interested) and as a promotional piece, using a single scene as leverage before production started on the whole film, “Sin City” in the same year. Watch the short on YouTube.
- Watch the short on the director’s Vimeo. “9” (2005) by Shane Acker led to a feature by the same name in 2009.
- “Oculus: Chapter 3 – The Man with the Plan” (2006) by Mike Flanagan led to the 2013 feature film, “Oculus.” Watch the trailer for the short on the director’s YouTube.
- “The Replacement Child” (2007) by Justin Lerner was a 25-minute film so well received at film festivals, it led to the character portrayed by Evan Sneider being expanded in the feature film “Girlfriend” (2012), which received theatrical and also DVD/VOD distribution. Read our interview with the director or watch the short on the director’s Vimeo.
- “Machete” (2007) was a fake trailer by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, which Rodriguez turned into the 2010 feature by the same name. Watch the trailer on YouTube.
- “Jay and Seth versus The Apocalypse” (2007) by Jason Stone was a nine-minute short that led to the feature film “This Is The End” (2013). Watch the short on YouTube.
- Watch the short on YouTube. [Link updated 6/5.] “Mama” (2008) by Andrés Muschietti became a feature film in 2013 by the same name.
- “Excision” (2008) by Richard Bates Jr. helped pave the way for the 2012 feature-length horror film by the same name. Watch the short on the production’s YouTube.
- “Panic Attack!” aka “Ataque de Panico” (2009) by Fede Alvarez was a showcase piece of his VFX work. The YouTube upload that garnered so much interest in his work that he was given the studio feature film “Evil Dead” in 2013.
- Watch the short on the director’s Vimeo. “Short Term 12″ (2009) by Destin Daniel Cretton began as a short film before becoming a 2013 feature-length film.
- “Mary Last Seen” (2010) by Sean Durkin was a prequel to the feature film “Martha Marcy May Marlene” made in 2011. Watch the trailer on Vimeo.
- “Hobo with a Shotgun” (2010) by Jason Eisener was made as a fake trailer for a contest, yet it led to the 2011 feature by the same name. Watch the trailer on the director’s YouTube.
- “Fishing Without Nets” (2012) by Cutter Hodierne led to the feature by the same name in 2014. Purchase the short video-on-demand (VOD) at Vimeo.
- “The Annoying Orange” (2009-Present) by Dane Boedigheimer was a weekly web series before becoming a TV show (2012). Visit the YouTube channel or read an interview with Boedigheimer on FastCoCreate.
- “Broad City” (2009-2011) by Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson spent two years as a web series before becoming a Comedy Central show in 2014. Visit the YouTube channel or read an interview with Glazer and Jacobson on FastCoCreate.
- Visit the production company’s YouTube. “Video Game High School” (2012-Present) began as a web series via YouTube superstar “FreddieW” (Freddie Wong), which led to three heavily sponsor- and crowd-funded seasons of shows. The show has since been included on Netflix — which is on TV and wins Emmys, so perhaps you can call it a network nowadays.
- “Burning Love” (2012-Present) by Ken Marino and Erica Oyama was a web series on Yahoo before becoming an E! show (2013-Present). Visit the Yahoo channel or read an article about Marino and Oyama on FastCoCreate.
As you’ll see, it’s very rare to make this work, and not as common a model anymore as it was 10 years ago. Today, if not just to do short-format work for the merits of the work itself, there’s now more than ever the opportunity to sell a short film download online, as a VOD business model. Or consider the commercial / branded content route, such as “Touching Stories” for the iPad in 2010. Either way, it’s super rare to walk away completely profitable from either approach.
Food for thought when making something to get somewhere else.