Movie magic happens in an instant. It’s an alchemy of elements that, for whatever reason, creates something much more valuable than the pieces themselves. And like alchemy, the formula has been sought for generations. So far, no luck. But if there’s one thing we know movie magic does not require, it’s a lot of time.
When we were gearing up for the Filmsupply Challenge, we started searching for some great films under one minute. The films below are some that really stood out to us, both for their brevity and their impact. They’re 1/120th the length of the average feature film, and yet many of them deliver the same emotional punch, the same sense of wonder, the same movie magic as their much longer counterparts.
Super short films are like ants. Compact, but able to carry 5,000 times their body weight. They are an education in concision, implication, distillation, and the raw power of moving images. They follow their own rules, which is why it’s nearly impossible to find a formula for them. Often, they can be understood only in retrospect, as they play themselves over and over again in your head.
WHEN YOU SAY YOU’RE A SWIMMER
Like a swimmer, this film by Chris Shimojima creates ⎯ and is carried by ⎯ its own momentum. It tumbles out in monologue and imagery, giving the piece the same relentless force as the sport it represents. By the end, the narrator is nearly breathless, and so are we. It may seem like the film is telling us about swimming. In reality, it’s throwing us into the deep end. In just one minute, When You Say You’re a Swimmer conveys all the pain, panic, and glory of swimming itself.
It doesn’t take long to establish characters an audience cares about. Late uses its minute with poise. It takes its time. And for a second in the middle, it even seems to drag. But these extra moments with the characters are essential for its final punch to land. When it does, we feel a huge emotional burden for two people we’ve barely spent 60 seconds with. Without even realizing it, we bonded with them. As their world sinks, so does ours.
MEMORIES OF THE MASTER BREWER
Memories of the Master Brewer is an ad, but it’s so beautifully executed that it elevates itself into the realm of cinema. A journey into a brewer’s past told through the characteristics of beer, the film moves through time, space, and metaphor at the perfect pace (not plodding or breakneck), giving us a sense of history and significance in less time than it takes to down a cold one.
This hypnotic little film perfectly captures the quirky and colorful world of button making. Like buttons themselves, the beauty of this film is in its simplicity. It relies on composition, colors, music, and spot-on sound design to create its charm. Somehow, even without any characters, story, or dialogue, Giant Ant has managed to create a one-minute film we can watch over and over again, and still find something new to appreciate.
While brilliantly executed, Black Hole is truly a concept-driven piece. It’s the idea that sticks with you more than the film does. In that way, its one-minute run time works to its advantage. Just long enough to plant an idea in your mind, but not so long that it exhausts its possibilities. It makes you want more but refuses to indulge. And like all good films, it twists just enough at the end to provide a bit of closure.
WILDEBEEST cheats its one-minute constraint by allowing the story to loop in its viewers’ minds. The ending has a “song that never ends” quality, implying that perhaps this argument between wildebeests will continue down the line until the end of time. The film is essentially a gag, executed with no cuts, no music, and just two graphics to indicate dialogue. A brilliant little machine of a film.