Watch Kenneth Branagh’s ‘Swan Song’ and 7 More From the Most Important Year for Shorts at Sundance

David Wain’s Aisle Six

Wain’s short start directorial debut is a student film he made at NYU, which is where he got together with the group of friends he later made The State with and continues to work with and employ. Titled Aisle Six, it stars two members of that troupe, Thomas Lennon and Joe Lo Truglio (and features the voice of Kerri Kenney-Silver’s dad, Larry Kenney), and as an absurd teen movie where plumbing is a hobby for cool kids and electric work is rebellious activity, it kind of feels like an extended sketch from their later comedy show. Also collaborating with Wain early on is composer Craig Wedren, who is next scoring Wain’s upcoming feature They Came Together (debuting at Sundance this week). Only true Wain and Stella and Wainy Days fans will understand and get this weird foreshadowing effort:

Gary Fleder’s Animal Instinct

If you’re not as familiar with Fleder’s name, you’re at least aware of his latest feature, the recently released Homefront. He also made Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead, Don’t Say a Word and Runaway Jury. His short start, which followed the near-feature-length video Michael Jordan: Air Time, is another documentary work titled Animal Instinct. It’s about a boxer named Philip Paolina who dreams of being an actor and also features Mickey Rourke as the guy’s friend and idol. It’s a fine character study that definitely makes me sad that Fleder hasn’t done a doc since, especially when he’s done junk like Impostor instead. Watch it below courtesy of the filmmaker.

Matt O’Callaghan’s Itsy-Bitsy Spider and Eric Darnell’s Gas Planet

As for the two animators, neither are household names today, but you may know O’Callaghan’s work as the director of Curious George and Open Season 2 plus some recent Looney Tunes shorts that make sense coming from the guy who made Itsy-Bitsy Spider, which is more cartoon episode than short film and features the voices of Jim Carrey and Thora Birch. You can watch it on YouTube. As for Darnell, he’s the co-director of Antz and the three Madagascar features. His short is the rather stupid but still kinda fun Gas Planet, basically about farting aliens. You might have seen it on MTV back in the day. Now you can see it below.

Other shorts from that class that I’d love to see include a silly work of fiction from Jarecki, who is mostly now a documentarian, titled Season of the Lifterbees, which went on to win a Student Academy Award. Another student work was from then-animator Mitchell (he’d go onto features of live-action, animation and hybrid varieties) called Frannie’s Christmas, part of which you can see in a restoration sample on Vimeo.

Jenkins, whose Slums of Beverly Hills and The Savages also played Sundance, had a quirky black and white something called Fugitive Love. Sichel, who made the 1997 feature All Over Me with her sister and now teaches at NYU, had Amnesia, which was in the experimental shorts section. Demme’s short, only a start if you dismiss his Dennis Leary comedy special from 1992, is called The Bet and is about brothers, one of whom has a gambling problem and ultimately a mob problem.

1993 was an interesting year for short starts in general, some that debuted later on at the Toronto and Telluride Film Festivals. Outside of the Sundance program, we got Ben Affleck‘s embarrassing I Killed My Lesbian Wife, Hung Her on a Meat Hook, and Now I Have a Three-Picture Deal at Disney (previously written about here), Steve McQueen‘s Bear (an installation film) and Edgar Wright‘s Dead Right (previously written about here).

Christian Taylor’s The Lady in Waiting

I leave you with one more short to check out, and that’s Taylor’s The Lady in Waiting. It won the Student Academy Award and then, as I stated before, was nominated for the real deal Oscar. Taylor isn’t one to otherwise get a short start post all his own since he’s become a writer and producer for TV (Lost; Star Wars: The Clone Wars; Teen Wolf). The film is about an upscale elderly lady stuck in an elevator with a lower class drag queen. As simple and wonderful as that. It’s used as a model for short filmmaking, though while it’s great it isn’t exactly the best film on this post (the two Andersons’ are hard to beat). Watch below.

Rather than a reject, Christopher Campbell is a film school dropout. But he has since gotten a master’s degree in cinema studies and has been blogging about movies since 2005. Earlier, he reviewed films for a zine (a what?) that you could buy at Tower Records (a what?). He is married with two children.

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