"In general, people think that short films are made by amateurs or are experimental projects. In our programme we really have well crafted stories about people - really professionally made films. So, don't be scared, don't worry, you will really find a nice piece of film. Not just one story in one programme but 7,8, or even 10 stories in a programme. So, when you pay 50 crowns for a ticket, you get a film for 8 crowns each. That's fantastic!" - Stefan Urik, Prague Short Film Festival Artistic Director.
The Czech capital has a new annual festival. Thursday saw the official opening of The Prague Short Film Festival at which, until Sunday, viewers are able to enjoy the best of short film from around the world at three cinemas - Svetozor, MAT, and Lucerna.
"In general, people think that short films are made by amateurs or are experimental projects. In our programme we really have well crafted stories about people - really professionally made films. So, don't be scared, don't worry, you will really find a nice piece of film. Not just one story in one programme but 7,8, or even 10 stories in a programme. So, when you pay 50 crowns for a ticket, you get a film for 8 crowns each. That's fantastic!"
...says Stefan Uhrik, the festival's Artistic Director. The new project, largely supported by the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, aims at filling a gap in the Czech world of film where short films seem to have disappeared from theatres and are only shown on Czech TV screens on very few occasions. So why should short films be promoted? What makes them just as fulfilling as feature length productions and how was this festival born?
"We have been working for the Karlovy Vary Film festival for over ten years and my wife - Hana Cielova - and I are in charge of the programme of Independents there. For years, we have had a special programme of short films and felt it would be a pity not to show more. We have to keep some miracles and secrets for the next festival but we have 21 programmes of short films.
"The beauty of short films is that it is not only unknown filmmakers who are featured. Sometimes well established filmmakers make short films too. We are screening a film, which was premiered at the Venice film festival this year. It is called 'All the Invisible Children' and directors like Emir Kusturica, Spike Lee, Ridley Scott, and John Woo were asked by the producer to make a short film about the children of the world. The proceeds of the screening at the festival will go to UNICEF."
Is it easier for filmmakers to experiment with short film?
"It is easier because you do not expect the money invested to come back. That's the first thing that allows you to experiment. Also, imagine watching an experiment for 90 minutes. That's quite difficult. But I think if you watch something that's completely crazy for eight or even six minutes - it's nice, you like it...sometimes."
Why would you say are countries like France and the Nordic countries, the Scandinavian countries, the leading short film producers?
"They support culture, in general. Once they support culture, why shouldn't they support young starting-off filmmakers who do not want to ruin a feature film budget? Art is not only useful to make you famous or represent a culture's budget. It can also be used to give young people an opportunity to do something other than smoke joints or hang around. There are also many film schools and it's sometimes difficult to make films there because the schools do not have a big enough budget. So, it can happen to you that you finish school and are a filmmaker without films! So, you approach organisations to ask for money and when you live in a country which is so generous to filmmakers, then you get it."
What about Czech productions?
"It's a difficult situation. In this country, we have so little money for established filmmakers to get state support. So, it's really hard when someone comes and asks for a bit of money for a short film. But this will change and I hope filmmakers who come with their ideas for short films will be understood. Sometimes you have a great idea which you can only turn into a ten minute film. Either you do it, or you struggle to find a way to put it into 90 minutes and that's bad."
For more information such as a list of films and when and where they are on show, please visit the festival's official website at www.pragueshorts.com.
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