Oscar nods shine spotlight on short films

Fri Feb 20, 2009 3:54pm EST
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By Nichola Groom

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Short films have quietly been picking up Oscars since the 1930s, but this often overlooked art form is enjoying a boom these days thanks to the rise of online video sites that have drawn in young viewers.

At the 81st Academy Awards on Sunday, animated, live action and documentary films under 40 minutes will again be recognized by Hollywood, albeit below the radar of many viewers.

Most film fans will want to see whether "Slumdog Millionaire" takes home the top prize for best film, and if Mickey Rourke can beat out Sean Penn for the best actor statue, among top honors that will be given out.

Still, makers of short films say the genre has made big inroads with audiences in recent years, especially among the YouTube generation.

"Short films are essential to the Academy because that's where their future audience is, more even than features," said Carter Pilcher, chief executive of London-based short film company Shorts International. "If you talk to somebody who is 18 or 22, short films are kind of what they are used to."

In the last three years, viewership of Oscar-nominated animated and live action shorts has surged 223 percent a year, Pilcher added. Currently, they can be seen in 112 U.S. movie theaters and also downloaded on iTunes for $1.99 each.

For the filmmakers themselves, short films' inclusion at the Oscars, and the buzz they generate, is critical to supporting up-and-coming artists with small budgets but a lot of creative drive.


<p>Nominees for live action short films Dorte Hogh, director of the Danish film "The Pig", Jochen Alexander Freydank, director and producer of the German film "Spielzeugland", Tamara Anghie and Steph Green, producer and director of the Irish film "New Boy", Reto Caffi, director of the Swiss-German film "Auf der Strecke", and Tivi Magnusson, producer of "The Pig", (L-R) pose for photographs at the 81st Academy Awards Shorts! reception and screening at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California February 17, 2009. REUTERS/Phil McCarten</p>