Film programmer Matt Lloyd has spent the last few months watching up to 1000 short films from all over the world, only a fraction of which have made it to a screening at the Edinburgh Film Festival. He told us what they look for in a short, and why the festival champions the format.
So many films are submitted to the festival, how do you decide what to select?
It's difficult to say - it's easier in a way to say what we didn't like. When you're watching all these films you tend to see a lot of themes coming up again and again. You wouldn't believe how many films there are about goldfish [laughs] and also people who are being stalked by the ghost of their ex-lover. Some of these films are great, but when you see [the same themes] again and again, it can be quite gruelling! The best short films, the ones that stand out, are the ones that are not features in miniature, but have something about them that is totally distinctive. A good short film is as different from a feature as a short story is from a novel - they don't have to be technically outstanding, but something that shows an independence of vision and is a bit different.
Are there particular British films people should look out for?
Programming is funny because to an extent you just want to put in the stuff that you love, but then at the same time you've got to put in stuff you don't necessarily like but you think will play well to an audience. Inevitably there are always going to be favourites. One that springs to mind is Blake's Junction 7 (pictured above and directed by Ben Gregor, and starring, amongst others, Johnny Vegas, Mackenzie Crook and Martin Freeman). It's the cast of The Office and Blue Jam, as Blake's 7, wandering round a motorway service station. It's amazing.
Another one is Who Killed Brown Owl (pictured right), which is everything a short film should be - a nine-minute single take around a busy summer's day in a park. It’s one long shot and it's amazingly orchestrated. It’s so different from feature film and it’s experimental, but something anyone could enjoy. The Scottish programme is good as well, we've got stuff from the art colleges up here, and more established film makers as well.
Are short films popular with the public?
Shorts are always popular at festivals because it's one of the few outlets for people to see them. You get them occasionally on TV, and the internet has been great for showing short films. But in terms of actually sitting in a cinema and watching a programme of 10-minute films, when are you going to get to do that if not at a festival? So we always find they are busy. You also get industry interest as people are always keen to see what the latest talent is and what's up-and-coming. I think the British and Scottish in particular [will be popular].
So short films are an important aspect of the event.
Edinburgh has always been considered to be a festival of discovery -we've always gone for independent talent and new film makers. People like Lynne Ramsey (Ratcatcher, Morvern Caller) and David Mackenzie (Young Adam) started off making shorts [that] were shown at Edinburgh. It plays a great part in helping people getting to make their first feature because there's a heavy industry presence at the festival and people see these new talents and pitches are made and people then go on to bigger things.****************************************************
Interview by Jen Foley. You can see clips from just some of the British shorts that screened at Edinburgh, including Who Killed Brown Owl, via the links on the top right of this page.