Ohina Short Film Showcase / There’s really only one rule when it comes to great short films: They can’t be long. In other words, shorter is better. Take Marv Newland’s famous 1969 short Bambi Meets Godzilla, which runs about a minute and a half from start to finish. With more than 50 seconds of opening credits and nearly 30 seconds of closing credits–which are totally worth sitting through, by the way–the story itself is only about 13 seconds long.
“It’s just Godzilla crushing Bambi, but it’s probably one of the most popular short films ever,” says Gerard Elmore, executive director of the Ohina Short Film Showcase. “It’s just unique and so funny.”
The film festival, which celebrates locally made short films, is making a return to Honolulu after a four-year hiatus. While the showcase is scheduled for August, Elmore and other organizers are making a last call for entries ahead of the June 4 deadline for submissions. Elmore, a local filmmaker who got his start with the showcase nearly a decade ago, says it offers an opportunity for local artists to present their work, as well as an opportunity for local audiences to enjoy community talents. Entry rules stipulate that eligible films must be made by Hawaii residents or filmed in Hawaii.
“Whether you’re a Hawaii resident or you filmed it in Hawaii, it has to have a reason enough to be called local,” says Elmore. “It’s only local short films. Period.”
Entry is open to filmmakers of all ages and with all levels of experience, but there are additional stipulations: Films must have been made between January 1, 2009 and June 4, 2010; and they can’t be longer than 30 minutes. The length requirement has made for a tagline that organizers can’t resist.
“Shorter is always better,” says Ohina Short Film Showcase spokesman Lance Rae, who adds that while the local short film project Showdown in Chinatown requires filming and production to span 48 hours, Ohina participants–even with some three weeks to go at this point–are given more time to work their entries. “With Ohina, there are fewer restrictions, a quality screening and a chance to re-edit and maybe even recast your film after you shoot.”
Of course, just following all of the rules doesn’t guarantee a film will be selected. An independent panel of judges will be tasked with making selections in order to ensure a process that’s so fair, even Ohina insiders have been excluded by it.
“I’ve had my films rejected,” laughs Elmore. “I submitted my own this year, too, and I don’t know if it’s going to get in. We’ve made it so no one can bribe the judges, no one can influence them on how or what gets in.”
But, Elmore says, there are ways for entrants to tip the scales in their favor. He says those films that are shorter–around 10 or 12 minutes long, ideally–are most likely to be accepted.
Shorter may be better, but as any good storyteller can tell you, shorter can also be more of a challenge. No matter, Rae says: Brevity merely requires a willingness to deviate from the conventional.
“In a short film, you can actually skip the beginning and middle, as long as you have a unique hook or it’s interesting in a way that makes it fresh,” he says. “Like if I were making a porn, I would begin at the climax.”