Short films have served as an avenue for aspiring feature-filmmakers to make a name for themselves for decades, and the path shows little sign of slowing down.
The Tribeca Film Festival, one of the more prominent film festivals in the United States, received over 2,800 submissions for the 2012 contest, and the number grows every year, according to the festival.
Steven Spielberg, Brian De Palma, and Christopher Nolan all began their filmmaking careers with short films. While some directors have successfully made the jump to the silver screen after starting out making music videos, or transitioned from acting to directing, a large contingent of film students continue to follow the paths of legendary filmmakers by making films as short as two minutes or as long as 25.
In 1967, Academy-Award winning director Martin Scorsese directed “The Big Shave,” a film that lasted roughly five minutes and involved just a man shaving in a bathroom, who continues to shave despite bleeding profusely.
Scorsese had done two other short films while in film school at New York University, “What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This?” and “It’s Not Just You, Murray!” but “The Big Shave” stood out as the film that helped propel the renowned director into features.
Scorsese, 69, continues to represent the type of filmmaker that many film students aspire to become. Forty-five years after “The Big Shave,” young filmmakers still draw inspiration from Scorsese’s simple and artistic first film.
Like “The Big Shave,” aspiring filmmaker Marco Chiavarelli wrote and directed a short film in 2010 with a premise nearly as simple.
In “Bubblegum,” a 14-minute film, Chiavarelli presents a boy desperately craving chewing gum, but is consistently denied by his mother and others. “Bubblegum” won the Audience Prize at the New Hope Films Festival in 2011.
Chiavarelli, 30, represents the type of young filmmaker who writes and directs artistic short films with the intent of establishing himself for larger projects. While he is one of many in the field, he at least has garnered some traction.
Born in Rome, Chiavarelli moved to England in 2003 and graduated from the University of Buckinghampshire with a degree in Film Studies and Video Production. He moved to New York in 2009 and attended the New York Film Academy in screenwriting.
“Filmmaking is a passion I’ve had my entire life, and New York is a great place to get started,” said Chiavarelli, a Queens resident. “I remember watching ‘The Big Shave’ for the first time when I was young, and becoming instantly enthralled with the film and yearning to become ‘the next Scorsese.’”
The journey for filmmakers like Chiavarelli is sometimes frustrating. The cost and labor of putting together a film can be emotionally and financially draining. The chances of winning contests are difficult, as well, as Chiavarelli was selected at the Big Apple Film Festival, Garden State Festival, and Amsterdam Film Festival, but failed to take first prize.
The costs of submissions to festivals are another financial burden for these filmmakers. The project might be excellent, but the judges have thousands to choose from so quality work may often be overlooked, making the submission process rather exhausting.
Fortunately, the creative process has its rewards. There is also some help from understanding friends and investors. Chiavarelli raised $3,000 after a teaser for his latest short film, “Oblivion,” was uploaded on www.indiegogo.com.
It’s also a labor of love for filmmakers like Chiavarelli.
“It’s cathartic for me,” said Chiavarelli, who will also soon release a 25-minute documentary, “The Bird Man.”
“I love content, and being artistic. Making a film drives me, and whenever I’m done I’m eager to make another,” he said.