What Makes The Perfect Short Film? London Short Film Festival Tells Us

By Stuart Black Last edited 27 months ago
What Makes The Perfect Short Film? London Short Film Festival Tells Us

Londonist is proud media partner to the London Short Film Festival.

The London Short Film Festival's Philip Ilson and Jo Duncombe with Ludvig the cat (who will be playing a special part in the festival). Photo by Elle Sillanpää.

Having watched around 2000 short film submissions this year alone, Philip Ilson and Jo Duncombe have a pretty good idea about what makes a short film work. As they say: “It’s an incredible craft to be able to achieve something complete in 10 minutes.”

Together they’re in charge of programming the upcoming London Short Film Festival (LSFF), a 10-day cinematic smorgasbord, now in its 13th year and well known for spotting up-and-coming talent. Lauded directors such as Andrea Arnold, Peter Strickland, Clio Barnard all featured early work there.

And Londonist will be part of the next festival too, handing out an award for the best London Short Film. We caught up with Phil and Jo in a spluttering coffee shop in Dalston near the LSFF office (Jo also lives in area while Phil’s over in Lewisham) and we asked them what makes the perfect short.

Phil: The shorts I get really excited about are the ones where you’re not quite not sure what you’re watching. I think it’s more about creating a world and an atmosphere that draws you in, the sort of thing David Lynch might do.

Jo: You aren’t necessarily given all the answers, but you get someone committed to a particular vision. Often it’s a space for artists and filmmakers to do what they want without the restrictions of a feature film budget so they really get to try out their voice.

Phil: Aneil Karia’s Beat (below), which was filmed around here in Dalston with Ben Whishaw, is a great example that could be classed as experimental because it doesn’t have a linear narrative, but it’s this idea that you’re not sure what you’re watching that’s exciting.

Jo: I think what’s special is when you see a short film that’s committed to being a short film and wants to achieve something within those parameters rather than point towards something else.

Phil: I don’t like the ones that try to fit everything into 10 minutes, where they want to have an action-packed heavy drama thriller plot, so it’s basically like a show reel. I’m more interested in the ones that are windows on life. Our slogan this year is from the film Gummo: “Life is great, without it you’d be dead.”

Jo: I think the London Short Film Festival is popular because we screen stuff that people might not automatically think to watch. We really want people to engage with something new so it’s not necessarily about being entertaining, it’s about being a bit challenging and out there. Cinema has a responsibility to be more than just entertaining because otherwise why bother? It needs to step up and be more.

Tickets for the London Short Film Festival will be available in December. Ahead of that, LSFF is also encouraging filmmakers to participate in the Jameson First Shot competition in which you can get a short film made with the help of Kevin Spacey, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal (more info here).

And if you want to watch more short films about the capital try our London Shorts selection.

Last Updated 20 November 2015