Like the dinosaur blood found inside ancient, tree sap-encased mosquitoes, short films can often be cultivated and grown into something bigger and more rewarding: a feature film (sorry if you were hoping for a T-Rex).
Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, there are more and more quality short films popping up everyday (and we’ve been trying our darndest to pay them their due around here), many of them hoping to hit it big and make a name for the filmmakers. It’s not an impossible dream — in fact, while you have heard of most of these writers and directors, they weren’t all that famous back when they made their shorts.
Here are twelve films that started small before hitting the cineplexes:
Within the Woods
Grew To Be: Evil Dead
These days, everybody and their brother has the undead bug — who doesn’t love a day of face paint and “GRARARAR” noises? — but before the craze hit the DIY scene, Sam Raimi was out in the woods with his college pal Bruce Campbell hoping to sell his whackadoo horror concept to the masses. Within the Woods has a similar relationship to The Evil Dead that that film has to Evil Dead 2. Essentially, they’re all spiffy remakes of one another. Fine by us, we’re all for hell demons, killer trees and zipping point-of-view shots.
Alive in Joburg
Grew To Be: District 9
Neill Blomkamp had something to prove with his short Alive in Joburg: that, occasionally, special effect wizards can make films that are equal parts CG and heart. While the short film is dazzling in its use of documentary-style handheld camera work and motion capture effects work, it’s most compelling when it draws close parallels to South African apartheid issues. Fans of District 9 owe a lot to Sharlto Copley — not only did he star in the big screen version, but he also produced the short.
Grew To Be: 9
Tim Burton must have seen Shane Acker’s short 9 and had visions of Hot Topic merchandise…or maybe just a talented animator. One of those two.
The auteur filmmaker shepherded the five-minute short to feature length film, leaving it relatively unscathed in the process. Like the big screen adaptation, the original features steampunk-esque rag dolls surviving a post-apocalyptic universe. But Burton knew exactly how to improve on the already sound concept: the voice of Elijah Wood!
Grew To Be: Bottle Rocket
Wes Anderson’s short and its full-length counterpart don’t share too much in common with the director’s present day visual flair or dramatic style, but the seedlings are there. Anderson shot the black & white film on the cheap with his buddies Owen and Luke Wilson and spun the positive Sundance buzz into his debut feature which only Martin Scorsese saw in theaters.
The Tooth Fairy
Grew To Be: Darkness Falls
Usually a successful short film is a calling card for the director for future gigs behind the camera, but in the case of The Tooth Fairy, it helped Joe Harris land a job penning the feature version for future it-director Jonathan Liebesman. The feature version doesn’t carry over the short’s twisted sense of humor, which is unfortunate, because it’s notably difficult to make a killer Tooth Fairy legitimately terrifying.
The Dirk Diggler Story
Grew 10 Inches To Be: Boogie Nights
When P.T. Anderson was 17, he directed a mockumentary based on the life of Dirk Diggler, a porn star with a loose connection to the song “The Touch” from Transformers: The Movie. He was a kid from the ’80s. It made sense then.
Almost a decade later, Anderson would take his teenage concept, inject it with a little Mark Wahlberg and spit out the classic Boogie Nights. Someone obviously took to the young lad’s filmmaking skills after seeing The Dirk Diggler Story — we’re just glad they weren’t porn producers.