Short films, long neglected for their perceived lack of commercial potential, are rapidly re-gaining popularity with film-makers and sponsors alike, with the format having recently received several boosts in funding and profile.
Festival sponsors Jameson Irish Whiskey, last week announced the first of several independent initiatives to boost short film production in Europe. Through the expansion of its Short Film Awards in Europe, Jameson is offering prizes of Euros 6,000 at 10 short film festivals this year, including Tampere (Finland), Vila do Conde (Portugal) and Brest (France).
Meanwhile, The UK's FilmFour Lab and the Film Council's New Cinema Fund have also launched a $71,500 (£50,000) shorts completion fund. Managed by Maya Vision International, the fund aims to support short films through their final stages.
This latest initiative joins three existing UK funds - Cinema Extreme, Comedy and Internet/Viral - which form part of the Film Council's wider short scheme set up last year. A total investment of $315,125 (£250,000) will be divided between the four schemes.
The UK sets the standard for investment in short film production in Europe. On average 17% of British government cinema funding is ploughed into the format each year. The short film fares particularly well with UK regional funding bodies who spend a massive 43% of their annual budgets on short films. In comparison, the Australian government invests only 3.1% of its total annual film budget on shorts, according to an Australian Film Commission report.
The Spanish government has also recently introduced new subsidies for production and distribution of short films. Following the success of the "Spanish Panorama" section at last year's Clermont-Ferrand festival and the subsequent 60% increase in short films being made, the Ministry of Culture is offering grants of Euros 12,000 for each short entered at a big international festival.
At the Clermont-Ferrand festival this year (1-9 Feb) France's film production and distribution centre (CNC) revealed a new investment of Euros 642,000 for the distribution and promotion of short films.
At the same time, established filmmakers are responding to the growing status of the short film format: Paris Je T'aime, a Novem Productions project, comprises a series of twenty shorts about falling in love in Paris, bringing together directors like Woody Allen, Tom Tykwer, Agnes Varda, Walter Salles, Jean-Luc Godard and Sally Potter.
And finally, Johannes Kiefer's phone has been ringing off the hook ever since his short film Gregor's Greatest Invention was nominated for an Oscar last week. "As I wanted to become a film director, I started out with a short," said Kiefer, who also works as an assistant director. Gregor, the story of a young man whose invention helps his grandmother walk again, took three years to make and has been invited to more than 30 festivals, including Saarbrücken and Los Angeles, where he won first prize.
It was made on a budget of Euros 50,000 with help from Filmboard-Berlin-Brandenburg and Arri Film. Most of the cast and crew took deferments.