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Short Circuit: Short Film Oscars - “I’d like to thank The Academy…”

At some point, every screenwriter has fantasized about standing up on the stage - that golden statue clenched in their fists, uttering poignant and, perhaps, poetic words that will be remembered for all time to come (or, at least, until the post-award parties are over).

In the past two years, the best original screenplay award has been claimed by writer/directors: Woody Allen and Quentin Tarantino. That's great news for all you hyphenate filmmakers out there. But there are a couple probable, and quite meaningful, differences between them and you. Both Woody and Quentin already had Oscars at home. And Woody’s new film had a budget of “only” $17 million, while Quentin’s came in at $100 million.


For the average indie screenwriter/director, that a fair chunk of change. So, unless you have a buddy in a financing entity, that kind of budget (and film) is probably out of your league.

Fear not. For a best short film statue is within your reach. That's right - YOU can be an Academy Award-winning filmmaker!

While Quentin and Woody were accepting their accolades, Terry and Shawn were receiving their own. For live-action short films. 

Let's take a quick look at the live-action short film Oscars over the past two years.

Terry George shot The Shore over the course of a week at his family cottage, using relatives and friends for both cast and crew. In fact, his daughter raised the money needed to make the film. Based on a story told to him by his uncle, George (a very successful feature film writer) had intended to write it as a feature, but finally chose to make the film himself as a short. And an Oscar winner was the result.

For Curfew, last year’s winner, Shawn Christensen (also a successful screenwriter) used Manhattan and Brooklyn locations, working with crew members from his previous short films. The shoot was accomplished in about a week, but went a different funding route than The Shore, at one point going to Indiegogo to raise money for needed post-production work. Christensen ended up doing some of the editing himself on his MacBook Pro laptop, using Final Cut 7.

But Terry George and Shawn Christensen weren’t the only ones to take home short film Oscars for those years.

Academy Awards were also issued for documentary short films and animated short films. That’s three Oscars a year for short filmmakers!

So, what do you need to know to get into the game?

Short films are limited to a running time of forty minutes or less, including credits. In order to be considered by The Academy for this category, a film must have won a qualifying award at one of more than 75 listed film festivals (which take place in almost all corners of the world). Last year's list can be seen on the Oscar site.

A reviewing committee consisting of Academy members and volunteers will watch all of the short films submitted to The Academy, rating each in multiple categories, until the top six have been selected. That list is then sent to the Branch Nominating Committee (consisting of all active and life members ) where their ballots will select three to five films to be considered as nominees.

And the rest is a well-kept secret until that announcement, “And the winner is...”

Could it be your name in that envelope?

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