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Amazing short films made by famous Filmmakers (Before they were famous)

Sep 9, 2022 5:45:00 PM Written by Diogo Brüggemann 8 min read

At the beginning there were short films. This would be the first sentence in a cinematic bible. The origin of everything related to moving pictures were short clips only a few seconds long, which then became longer and longer until we got to our two-hour-long cinematic experience.

Those who follow our Make It Short series have already seen my adoration for short films from all genres and formats, and they will recognise how important those types of films can be for emerging filmmakers struggling to be seen. So, in order to show the power of this kind of movie, I decided to put together a list of incredible short films that paved the way for talented filmmakers when they were still unknown. These short but powerful tales were early indications that those filmmakers would scale the heights one day, and it all started with the short format.

ViNCENT - TIM Burton

Vincent - Tim BurtonThis cute and funny animated short film by accomplished filmmaker Tim Burton is only around six minutes long, but it is able to tell a complete story that is a distinguishable Burton work. In this 1982 short film, we follow a seven-year-old boy called Vincent Malloy who dreams of being just like Vincent Price and ends up losing himself in spooky and ghastly daydreams. On this journey, he annoys his mother and fights against weird creatures created by his own mind, and we go along with him, helped by the distinct narration of the iconic American actor Vincent Price himself.



How They Get There - Spike Jonze

Screenshot 2022-09-09 at 16.36.05While this is not the first ever film made by quirky filmmaker Spike Jonze, it is certainly one of his most recognizable early works. In How They Get There, we follow a couple copycatting each other on different sides of the street. And that is pretty much it! The short film is less than three minutes long, but it is very effective at the same time. It shows how Jonze has always been able to play with humor and tragic romances in a way that would impact his more successful works later in life, like in the amazing Her (2013).


Small Deaths - Lynne Ramsay

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Known for her dramatic films about life, humanity, and death, Lynne Ramsay first made a name for herself with a potent short film that received critical acclaim and awards around the world. Small Deaths examines three events in a girl’s life. The first one shows her as a young girl watching her father get ready to go out for the night. In the second segment, as a teenager, she witnesses a horrid incident involving a cow. As a young adult with her boyfriend, she is surprised by a group of people playing a prank. All those moments are much deeper than they seem to be and help create the worldview of the main character in a way only Ramsay is able to do.



Brothers - Robert Eggers

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Currently one of the biggest names in horror and historical fiction, Robert Eggers has gathered a huge following of fans who love his craft and commitment to realistic settings, even in fantastical stories, like The Witch and The Lighthouse. Here we follow two brothers who have a “Cain and Abel” kind of relationship. The sound design, the cinematography, and the directing skills are superb, as we have come to expect from Eggers. But his strongest suit, perhaps, is the ability to create an atmosphere of tension and insecurity that makes us afraid of every next scene.




The Bread and the alley - Abbas Kiarostami

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One of the most famous Iranian filmmakers of all time, Abbas Kiarostami's early short film The Bread and the Alley has a simple, yet very compelling premise. It follows a young boy who, returning from an errand to buy bread, finds a menacing dog blocking his way in the alley he must cross to get home. As a kid who has been frightened by dogs during my childhood, I can identify with him from the get go. At a young age, a simple problem like this requires the most complex solutions sometimes and it can freeze you for a while. And in this stalemate situation, the protagonist has to find a way out by himself - maybe the first independent problem-solving moment of his life.




Cold Tropics - Kleber mendonça Filho

Cold Tropics - Kleber Mendonça FilhoThis Brazilian film critic turned filmmaker has garnered praise for his genre films full of complex topics and social commentary, like Aquarius and Bacurau. But even before those films moved large audiences in the movie theaters of Brazil, Cold Tropics had already proved that Kleber Mendonça Filho had what it takes to be the next big name in Latin American cinema. The twenty-minute-long short film is a mockumentary that tries to explain the strange events involving the sudden meteorological change in the otherwise tropical and warm city of Recife, in the Brazilian Northeast. Together with this absurdist scientific investigation, the film includes plenty of social commentary that perfectly describes Brazilian society at the time.




Two Cars, One Night - Taika Waititi

Two Cars, One Night - Taika Waititi

Better known for his Marvel superhero movies and his vampire mockumentary franchise, New Zealand multi-hyphenate filmmaker Taika Waititi has become one of biggest names in the industry in the last decade. Simple in its innocence, this ten-minute black and white short film features three kids waiting in a parking lot as they share experiences and worldviews. The script is funny and engaging, and it feels like a sample of Taika’s ability to capture small moments, which we all came to know and love. Maybe that is an early indication that his stories with children would go on to become his most successful work, as in the Oscar winning Jojo Rabbit.



Diogo Brüggemann

Diogo Brüggemann is a Brazilian film enthusiast with a Master's Degree in Cinema and Literature. He has written about films and their relationship with gender and sexuality, as well as the connections between cinema and foreign affairs. He maintains a website in Portuguese focused on film critique.

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