The major league of film schools isn’t a brick-and-mortar institution. It’s an online platform where the best in student-made short filmmaking is put to the test and everyone is invited to watch, comment and share.
About three years ago San Francisco-based public TV & radio station KQED came into some money and got into the student-made short film racket, with an aim to connect student filmmakers with festivals and awards shows as well as the world at large. The resulting online platform (it was launched in 2012) which is integrated with parent company KQED’s site and Youtube, is dependable and visually-impactful. A derivative of KQED’s online radio and TV services the Film School Shorts site boasts a lot of movie choices watchable through a Youtube linkup as well as a weekly news show in which new films that have been accepted for streaming online are discussed.
Student filmmakers can submit their work to the site for consideration anytime–there are no deadlines. KQED’s Short Film staff looks for short narrative films on any topic and in any filmmaking genres, whether it’s comedies, dramas, character studies, science fiction/fantasy, thrillers or sociopolitical films. But there’s one important caveat, however: you’ve got to be, or have been, enrolled in an American film school when your film was made. Those films that get selected will get their own profile page and streaming place on the site, thus increasing the up-and-coming filmmaker’s visibility.
For the last few days I’ve enjoyed bouncing around this platform for several reasons, all of which align with my own professional interests: cinema, education, journalism, social media, and the human-friendliness side of technology. Concerning the latter I’ll want to acknowledge some of the site’s elements, big and small. Firstly, the ergonomics, which are optimal (this means, how easily you can get around the website, what recent or alternative content is on offer in the sidebar, whether there’s too much or not enough text, the menu’s directionals, readability [contrast of text versus background], coherence and continuity of design throughout the site), social media chicklets placement (the one cardinal rule for this is, above-the-fold, above-the-fold, above-the-fold. Oh. And above-the-fold); and how visually-appealing the color scheme is (the bright orange works for me: 10 out of 10!). One item of note, however: articles in the NEWS section are missing the posting’s date and time.
Here’s a sample from an interview with a Columbia University (@columbia) filmmaker named Nisan Dag:
Dag was most recently seen at Slamdance 2015 supporting her new film “Across the sea” (follow her @nisandag).
On the movies tip, the first thing that jumped at me is the high production values of the shorts on offer: less Tommy Wiseau, more David Cronenberg. That these student films boast champion-league production values isn’t a coincidence, however. Many of them were made at the best film schools in the country, namely, NYU, UCLA, University of Texas and my alma mater, Columbia University.
Destin Cretton (San Diego State), whose film “Short Term 12” was written about in the pages of Screen Comment by our writer Lindsay Kennedy in 2013 (see the article here https://screencomment.com/2013/09/short-term-12/) is one of those student filmmakers whose work was showcased on Film School Shorts. “Short term” was initially a short that was later expanded into a feature-length film, grabbing the Jury’s Prize at the 2009 Sundance Festival. In addition to working on a new project he’s actually been directing some of the TV series presented on Film School Shorts (@destindaniel).
The Film School Shorts social media reach is impressive: its Twitter follower count is respectable (nearly 3,500 followers) and tweets are sent out regularly (4,700 messages since December 2012 creation). Their twitter engagement is low but the social media folk at Film School Shorts tweet plenty of photos and related links and hashtags. One drawback: where’s the photo-tagging? The site boasts a Tumblr that looks like a Tumblr (and not another site), and includes the usual-but-fun GIFs parade and an assortment of visually-eclectic images for those days when absolutely no assignment or project is going to get done and you’ll want to just sit at home, do hammer curls and look at Tumblr.
The Film School Shorts platform is integrated with its parent-company KQED’s site. The platform was launched in 2012 thanks to a new grant from Maurice Kanbar, a San Francisco-based entrepreneur who launched the SKYY vodka brand and founded the QUAD cinema in New York, among others (Kanbar was born in Brooklyn). In 1997, Kanbar donated $5 million to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, which then named its film school after him.
THE LATEST NEWS: a fourteen-minute short called “I feel stupid,” which was written by Iranian-American UCLA Film director Ana Lily Amirpour (“A girl walks home alone at night”) and directed by Milena Pastreich (@milenapastreich) went live on the platform on Wednesday, April 1st.