Chris Nolan launched his career with short film Doodlebug while Spike Jonze, long a master of the short form with his commercials and music video work, dipped his toe into Future World before making his Oscar-nominated Her with the I'm Here short. But in the U.S., short films still get short shrift outside the festival circuit, largely neglected by television programmers and movie distributors.
In Europe, however, short films thrive. This year's Academy Award nominees in the live action category offer a stunning range encompassing Spain's child soldier tragedy (That Wasn't Me); Finland's "I Love Lucy"-style slapstick (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?); a Danish fairy tale about a sick boy and his balloon toy (Helium); a French thriller detailing a woman's escape from an abusive husband (Just Before Losing Everything); and the U.K. twist-ending showdown between a psychiatrist and a lunatic who thinks he's God (The Voorman Problem).
After arriving in Los Angeles for Sunday's Oscar telecast, two nominated filmmaker told Co.Create the long stories behind their great shorts.
The Inciting Moment: Writer-director Anders Walter says, "I was a big fan of a Swedish children's book The Brother's Lion Heart. It's a fantastic story that also deals with death in a poetic and imaginative way. As a kid, I always had a great love for airships and hot air balloons, so when I decided to create the world of Helium I always knew that I would make it a place where things were flying and being held floating by balloons."
"Growing up," he adds, "I lived very much in my own imagination and knew that one day I would make my own tale about being too young to die. At the same time, celebrate fantasy and the way it comes to be one's best friend when things look the darkest."
The Star: "We didn't have that much time, so we only cast around 35 boys but I knew the first time I sat down with Pelle Krusbæk that he'd work great for the role," Anders says. "Pelle never tired, never complained—the perfect child actor for any director."
Why Go Short? "This was always written as a short," says Anders. "I don't think the premise of a boy dying would work for two hours. My gut feeling tells me that the story of Helium only works in the short format."
The Money: "There was no money," notes Anders. "My two producers Kim and Tivi Magnusson put in money to pay for food and some equipment but everybody worked for free. IM&M Productions have a long tradition of producing short film for the pure reason of making fantastic short films, not because they want to turn them in to features.
The Filmmaker: A self-taught artist, Anders started working as a freelance illustrator at age 16 creating comic books, posters, and storyboards. He's directed music videos for the past eight years and last year made Oscar short-listed short film 9 Meter.
The Inciting Moment: Screenwriter Kirsikka Saari says, "I'm a mother of two boys so I quite often end up saying, 'Do I have to take care of everything?' The story really came alive after one of those crazy mornings when I started to laugh at myself. Once I had found the right point of view, I just exaggerated everything."
The Star: "I didn't have Joanna Haartti in mind when I wrote the script but the director Selma Vilhunen suggested her immediately," says Saari. "Besides being a great comedienne, she also has warmth, which was essential for the role of the mother."
Why Go Short?: "This was meant to be short film from the very beginning," Saari says. "Of course, now we've started discussing the possibility of making a feature film of it. The mother is still inspiring us."
The Money: Finnish Film Foundation, Finnish Broadcasting Company and Centre for Promoting Audiovisual Culture funded the film after Saari won a short comedy script competition.
The Filmmaker: A former journalist, Saari is finishing her master's studies at ELO Film School in Helsinki. Do I Have to Take Care of Everything? is her first comedy. Saari says, "Before, I thought I'm too serious of a person to write comedy but now I enjoy it. After all, drama and comedy are quite close to each other—desperation is a good engine for both."