THE LIMITS OF SCI-FI IN SHORT FILMS
For the first ever episode of Make It Short - a show where we bring together critics, experts, and filmmakers to discuss independent short films and give constructive feedback to new directors and writers - we selected a list of original and ambitious short films from different countries that share something in common: the passion for speculative fiction and the imaginative worlds of the beloved science fiction genre.
One of the most popular film genres among emerging filmmakers and those trying to find their way into the crowded and competitive film market, sci-fi stories are perhaps the most common type of narratives found in short films - together with the ever popular horror genre. And that was one of the reasons I selected four incredible sci-fi shorts to make up the first installment of the exciting new series at CenterFrame. Joining me were CenterFrame co-founder and filmmaker Bernhard Pucher and Silver Bear winner Petros Silvestros.
We started by talking about Sky Fighter, which is a superb sci-fi short sent to us by Lukas Kendall, its director. It has a lot of action and it succeeds in building a tense atmosphere with the use of convincing visual effects and solid acting from most of the cast. It has a more traditional sci-fi tone with some familiar clichés, but they are mostly well employed in this complex story. It surely has all the elements to seduce every hardcore sci-fi fan. Luckily, we also had Lukas Kendall himself with us to answer some of our burning questions about his short. We discussed the original inspirations behind Sky Fighter and the process of bringing it to life. While we all loved the grandioseness and the ambition of the story, we felt the film tried to include too much - which makes sense, since its script was originally for a feature length movie. We also had a chance to discuss the visual elements of this work, and the score, together with the inspired casting choices that made the short even more engaging.
Next up we had In Full Bloom, directed by Maegan Houang, which is a gorgeously shot sci-fi drama that came to my attention as I was looking for unique science fiction perspectives online. I was amazed by its originality and its camera work. The set design also felt vivid and complex, and the creative story felt very singular and sober, even if the visual effects and stop-motion work seemed a bit unsophisticated at times. Another highlight of the short in my opinion was the performance of the main actress, which was very effective. All in all, we all adored In Full Bloom and the ways it discusses themes of loss and grief. While we felt the film could have been shorter, it was pointed out that some of the aspects of the film are specific to Asian culture and we might have missed them because of our Western perspective. It’s a typical “show, don’t tell'' kind of story that, together with great acting and successful directing choices, make it an outstanding short film.
Our third short film was Child: Indigo, a creative sci-fi narrative directed by Trei Hill. It tells the story of young kids with superpowers trying to run away from their captors. With a lot of well thought-out set designs and good use of visuals, the film does a good job developing its universe and the background to the events we're following in the movie, although we felt it bites off more than it can chew as we dive into the protagonist's drama and leave the action behind. One of the things that holds Child: Indigo back is that there are too many plots thrown together, and it feels like the story could have been simplified. While it brings together many great ideas, they cannot be properly developed in such a short story. We got into another discussion about the film’s score and we also talked about the amazing performances by some of the young actors.
Finally, we had A Hundred Kills, a short film sent to us by its director, Austen Mathieson, who also stars in the film. It mixes genres like action and sci-fi to tell a gruesome story of an assassin who has a change of heart. With an effective script and good use of narration, the film uses visual elements to bring a more sophisticated tone. The objectives of the protagonist are not very clear, though, so it's a bit hard to connect with him and the use of visuals feels a bit pointless at times. There are plenty of interesting ideas behind A Hundred Kills, but while it tries its best to create a cohesive story, we felt the amount of exposition makes it less effective. We also commented on some technical issues, particularly how important sound is for the final product, even if you do not have the most advanced type of equipment.
Make sure to hit play and take a deeper look at our conversation to find out all the details about these astonishing films and their creators. You will certainly find valuable tips and interesting insights on filmmaking and on how to bring a story to life. We had a lot of fun discussing these creative science fiction films full of heart and with tons of potential. If you are a filmmaker and have directed any kind of short film, be sure to send it to us and have a chance to feature your work in one of the next episodes of Make It Short.
And see you soon for our second episode focusing on horror films!
Film & TV Critic
How about sending us your Short film?
You can submit shorts from anywhere. Please make sure English subtitles are available if that's not the original language of your production.
We'll try to feature as many shorts as possible in the upcoming episodes of the show, but please be aware that it might not be possible to do so if we receive an overwhelming number of films.