- Following a viewing of the 2013 Bafta nominated live action and animated shorts, currently touring UK cinemas, writer Cox took time out from providing criticism of the individual films involved to aim one broad swipe at the industry. Undeservedly, suggesting that filmgoers aren't interested in short films because they "aren't usually worth watching". The journalist went on to label Eamonn O'Neill's I'm Fine Thanks as "too vacuous to be endearing", Johnny Barrington's Tumult as "too absurd to stir shock, amusement or wonder" and Will Anderson's The Making of Longbird as having "nothing interesting to say". Before the opinionated scribe decided to conclude his article with a provocative statement, seemingly based on nothing but his own personal response to the films:
- "All this amounts to an accurate reflection of the state of British short films. They rarely succeed in exploiting brevity to make a story compel. Instead, they flaunt technique. Sometimes this yields shafts of ingenuity that deserve to inform mainstream film-making. Often, however, the results are derivative, soulless and humourless. The films can seem like sketched ideas waiting for someone more excited by them than their inventor to invest them with life".
Whether written out of serious concern for an industry he cares about, or written just to elicit a response, Cox's article has certainly stirred up a debate online. Here's how Guardian film and David Cox decided to launch the article on Twitter:
- Following the release of the article, a number of the Bafta nominated directors, took to Twitter to voice their opinions:
- Intent on delving a little deeper into how Cox's comments resonated with filmmaker Anderson, I dropped the director an email to discover if he felt the articles claims were at all justified:
"In my opinion, short films should test and push the medium. I am in agreement that they should experiment, and further it with the suggestion that it is short films duty to experiment. In regards to Cox's comments, I think it's a matter of changing the parameters of what successful means. I feel it is more important to be able to take risks that challenge the form, than to replicate tried and tested formulas that produce beautiful John Lewis ads. Mainstream advertising is a refinement of previous innovations in filmmaking.
I believe I am part of an exciting progressive industry, fuelled by passionately skilled people."
- It wasn't only filmmakers eager to join the debate; plenty of film festivals and film organisations were also quick to offer a differing view to that of Cox's:
- Interested to hear more from the festival scene, we spoke to Encounters' Jude Lister to find how one of the UK's leading lights in discovering and promoting short films felt about the current state of the British short film industry:
"We're certainly not worried about the health of British short filmmaking, thanks to the range of creative talent we witness each year. Assessing a whole sector on the basis of a single screening demonstrates the inaccurate perception of this format caused by its limited exposure outside the festival circuit. High quality shorts are finding increasing success online, although their opportunities for theatrical release are few and far between - especially in comparison with countries such as France and Germany. We would encourage film critics to attend and support short film festivals to fully experience the richness, variety and tremendous talent at play within this field."
- Cox's odd decision to select John Lewis ad 'Always a Woman' as a reference to the quality he expects from short films also seemed to provoke a reaction:
"Film students have to practise; film-makers need to experiment. The rest of us can carry on ignoring the format. All the same, this seems a bit of a pity. Commercials, music videos and amateurs' parodies demonstrate all the time that short can mean brilliant. The John Lewis Always a Woman ad knocks spots off all of these Bafta contenders. It's hard to believe that we couldn't have better short films."