The Saratoga Film Forum’s weekend festival of this year’s Oscar-nominated short films continues tonight (Friday, February 24th) at 7:30 with the 2012 contenders for Short Film, Live Action. The changes in the actual name of this category track the evolution of cinema, in a way. When the category was first established in 1932, there were two categories, “Best Short Subject, Comedy” and “Best Short Subject, Novelty.” This lasted until 1936, when they changed the categories to “Best Short Subject, One-Reel” and “Best Short Subject, Two-Reel” and added a third “Best Short Subject, Color” category. The separate “Color” category was dropped after 1937, but the one-reel/two-reel division continued 1956, after which the category has been known as “Short Film, Live Action.”
Short films rarely if ever get any Oscar buzz, but it’s an important category for filmmakers. Many directors launch their careers with shorts, using the much shorter format and budgetary requirements to hone their cinematic storytelling skills before tackling a feature. The shorter format also lends itself to certain topics that may not be suitable for a feature-length production. Said Stefan Gieren, producer of nominated live action short, “Raju”:
Short film is an art form in itself and there are certain topics that I believe can only find their audience if they’re done well in short film. A feature film is something totally different.
In the dim and distant past, short films used to be shown before features (Pixar’s animated features are routinely preceded by a short, a rare exception these days), but film festivals are one of the only venues left to see some truly creative examples of filmmaking. And, of course, weekend screenings like the Film Forum’s.