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New Life for Short Subjects
Web, Festivals Are Valued Venues for Short Films

audio Listen to the story as heard on Morning Edition.

July 30, 2001 -- It used to be that going to the movies meant more than a few previews and the feature film. There was usually a cartoon, a newsreel and often what used to be called "selected short subjects" -- films that lasted just a few minutes.

Home page of
Atom Films' home page
Courtesy Atom Films

Selected short film Web sites:
Yahoo Short Films
Atom Films
The Bit Screen
Rose Colored TV
Renegade Cartoons
Web Dance Film Festival

While those are no longer part of the moviegoing experience, short films haven't gone away. In fact, the phrase "short film" still encompasses an enormous range of material. Howie Movshovitz of Colorado Public Radio discovered that short films have a new home and a new audience -- on the Internet.

Commercials are the most widely seen short films. Automaker BMW began to blur the line between advertisements and short films with a recent series of five-minute films directed by famous filmmakers and starring, naturally, a BMW.

Lawrence Kardish, senior curator of film at New York's Museum of Modern Art, told Movshovitz that in the early days of movies, all films were short -- ranging from 10 seconds to about 45 seconds. But legal action and economics forced the short films out of commercial theaters by the late 1940s.

Short films found a new life on college campuses, art houses, and film festivals. They also became less commercial and more artistic, following a trend that began in the 1920s when painters and photographers began making short films. If full-length feature films were novels, these films were short stories.

But for general audiences, these films were mostly curiosities that were never seen outside film festivals. But the Internet has breathed new life into the genre -- especially now that bandwidth is finally growing enough to allow a wider audience to see the films without waiting forever to download them.

Some filmmakers, however, say that many of the short-film Web sites are more like resume services for up-and-coming filmmakers than actual venues for the works. And a few of the high-profile Web sites that featured short subjects have fallen off the Web. But they remain the only venue outside of the art house circuit where filmmakers can share their particular -- and short -- vision.