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For the Love of the Medium. A note to all short film makers:

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You want to craft something, do you not? So practice and develop your craft first.

Survival for the filmmaker is conditioned by the fact that film is an industry. Which doesn’t exclude art from happening; art as the true and free expression of self will always originate on its own accord with anyone who struggles and aspires to a better self.

However, there are confines of the medium, as well as those imposed by the circumstances which sustain and limit its coming about, that one has to be aware of and respect. This is a way of accepting the realities of a profession which everyone is free to take up – or to let be. But it is what you owe the craft you wish to honour through the quality of your own work.

Short film is a genuine art form in its own right. As such, it is highly developed, has a history and is alive. It is alive through the contributions every one filmmaker at whatever level of professionalism, accomplishment or expertise adds in. There may be different approaches and the genre is so exciting and rich because it allows for so much freedom of expression. But its prime virtue lies in each film’s being short! Every shot, every second of film, every frame counts and it will testify to your respect and inner understanding of the art form that you do justice to the thrill and benefits of brevity: the fitting argument, the precise observation, the concise expression and a measured tone. It is from there that a short film can take any risk.

Even with the apparent democratization through ready availability of digital equipment, processes and resources to the young generation of filmmakers today – your medium still is film! No effort is wasted if it aims at perfecting the result, your own invention.

Your creativity shall not be limited, every exploit and experimentation is fruitful – if and when it feeds back into the magic that is film. Your idea, your vision and your own voice on the big screen – this is the scenario which demands your utmost dedication to always exceed the commonplace, to rise above the average in whatever picture you frame to be your take, your personal rendition of reality and that which lies behind. Plainness is the biggest insult to the power you have with an image. Don’t waste it; use it with great care and single-minded dedication!

Less can be so much more if you know your scope – and limits. If you wish to penetrate the mere pleasant surface and proceed from imitation and description to representation and a powerful invention that has a life of its own, you need to exert control over your material.

To do that you need to be on intimate terms with it. The filmmaker has to feel and to understand what they are putting up, be it a show, a spectacle, a case study or any kind of inner or outward situation. The camera observes a loving distance that has the capacity to become so much more intimate than the everyday – that is why film has the power to touch and affect us so deeply. Be one with your material and your film will be an entity, organic.

Through observing these principal rules of the short film you will not only achieve a more satisfactory outcome for yourself but also show your respect for the audience. Films are being made in order to be watched by others. The unknown friend is the addressee of any work of art.

Do not fear criticism, for you are your own harshest critic. Judgement is never fully objective but every honest reaction is legitimate. The filmmaker lives off the public and exposure of their product, literally (and more than in just a material sense). Every viewer has a right to expect your best; and their time well spent when watching your film. It takes both sides to join and share your vision.

–– Mathias Ortmann

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