Short films can be a good way to get noticed and, depending on the duration, easier to finance. That's according to South African filmmaker Rob Demezieres, who made a number of short films as a student in the early 90s. One of his shorts, 3o minute Shooting Bokkie, was turned into a full feature and released in 2005.

Rob Dimezieres
In Focus spoke to Demezieres about the short film as an entry into the industry and the accessibility of the genre to aspiring filmmakers.

He says young filmmakers with nothing to their credit should explore the genre and send their productions to the many film festivals around the world looking for shorts.

"If the film is fresh, original and ground-breaking, it could garner awards and launch the career of its director. And with today's digital camera and editing technology, making a short is more achievable than ever," he says.

Although he does not have accurate figures on the size of the local short film industry, he believes it is "substantial", considering the existence of many film schools and courses out there, together with filmmaking being a very popular choice of career at the moment as well as the increasing supply of affordable digital cameras.

"There's no set standard for a short film in South Africa or globally - I'd say anything between one and sixty minutes is a short. Anything more, is leaning towards a feature film.

"The downside for short films at the moment is that they do not generate revenue. There's little or no market for short films, especially locally, unless one of the broadcasters creates a slot for them (like M-Net's New Directions). I hear there are some online companies buying and exhibiting digital shorts, for a filmmaker producing a short that might be worth looking into," comments Demezieres.

However, he stresses that the short film is not necessarily the best way to rise in the film industry as there are many paths to producing and directing. "It depends what kind of career the filmmaker is pursuing. Some producers and directors come from writing, camera, or editing backgrounds. Others come from television, commercials, documentaries, SFX, stop-motion, animation, fine art, or even law. And then, some just go right out there and start shooting their first feature with little or no money, and sell the film to an international distributor."

Demezieres feels the best way to prepare a young filmmaker who hasn't produced a film is to give them nothing. "Let them do it all themselves. Stand back so they can throw themselves in the deep-end, then watch them sink or swim. It's only when faced with adversity that the artist truly flourishes. And cream will always rise to the top."

This way, he says, filmmakers who are passionately committed to getting their film made will do so. And when they do, if their film makes money and/or wins awards, then government and the private sector will support them further.

"Short films shot on digital need not be expensive. With the affordable technology available today; cameras, computers, editing software, etc, aspirant filmmakers have no excuse for procrastination. The film, SMS Sugarman, was shot on mobile phone cameras - and secured a theatrical release.

"The South African producers of Twist approached 1000 investors and raised R1000 from each of them - the film may have had the longest list of Associate Producer credits in cinema history, but it got the film made. The point is there are all kinds of ways to finance your film, just get out and do it."