A Glimpse at the Best of the Underrated Indie Film Scene Part 1

 

For those of you who have been following my blog, you know how much I love and support indie film.  I’ve written about some of the goofy B-movies that I love, covered some awesome marketing campaigns for truly great films and given insight into how unit publicity can help films-and their primary storytellers-get the exposure and promotion they deserve. Promotion that will also help them achieve financing and distribution, which I’ve shared some ideas on and some truly awesome platforms that can help.

But what I haven’t done, is share some of the great short films & web series, done by deadly awesome directors who have some of the best creative minds I’ve ever seen. These films & web series span all genres from horror to comedy and film noir and even overlap on a few of them. They’re also from all over the world, from Canada and the US to internationally across the pond in the UK. I regularly chat with many of the production companies and directors on Twitter, sharing their latest projects, tagging them on some cool news and just generally talking about film.

If you know of any other awesome, thought provoking indie films I should check out, please let me know!

But without further ado, here’s the list, in no particular geographical, genre specific or likeability order.

Holding Back-Crossroad Pictures

In this short from the UK production company, directed by the talented Scott Lyus, a seemingly innocuous conversation between a young woman and her mother takes an interesting twist. You get the feeling during the conversation that there’s a lot in the young woman’s past that led to her estrangement from her family and that she’s trying to make amends. The twist comes out of nowhere but yet, is intriguing enough to make you sit down and go over everything you’ve just seen in your mind. Definitely a worthwhile 7 minutes.

 

The Missing Hand-23 ½ Films

The second short from the very first UK based production company I’d ever come across on Twitter, is a hilarious horror comedy. Without spoiling anything, it’s about two people who come across a missing hand and the unintended consequences of finding it. It’s the perfect mix of comedic timing and horrific circumstances. Definitely one of my top two faves from Daniel Harding and 23 ½ Films-top notch and worth the re-watch over and over again.

 

Play Violet For Me-Sunshine Boy Productions

 

For the third entry, we go back across the pond to the US, this time to an award winning film noir short from a LA based production company that I’ll be working with really soon. It’s the story of how smoke and mirrors can not only obscure the truth that’s right in front of your face but make you think of love that’s not really there. Foley Merrick’s obsession with the love of his life, Violet Dupree takes a tragic turn when he finds her dead on her kitchen floor. However, when he calls her twin sister Lila for help, things definitely take a darker turn and slowly, Merrick starts to realize that maybe what he believed to be true, was never true.

 

The Lobster-Guerrilla Motion Pictures

This absolutely gut-busting hilarious 5-part web series is from an Edmonton, Alberta based production company. There’s a chance you’ve probably seen my previous admiration of their short silent film, I Phub You on my Storyhive post.

But this series is definitely something different and it speaks to anyone who’s ever gone through a break up and you’re looking for some wisdom and advice. Here’s the difference, though, the advice guru in this series is a lobster! He bought the lobster from a grocery store and somehow, the thing doesn’t die and continues to dispense relationship advice through his break up! It’s the perfect series for anyone who might be feeling a little down and looking for an unconventional comedy to cheer them up.

 

Going for Broke-Red Castle Films

This comedic short film comes from slightly west of the previous web series, this time on the West Coast, in Vancouver. This production company, led by Jon Silverberg, was responsible for the awesome production values & effects on Static Alex, also featured on my Storyhive post and I’m super excited to see what their upcoming feature, Crypto, will bring to the table.

Basically, the premise of this short film is that a struggling semi-pro golfer struggles to keep things afloat financially for his teenage daughter following his divorce. He struggles on the circuit, losing his last few tournaments, before a hilarious suggestion from a friend results in a good performance. It definitely re-defines ‘going for broke.’

 

Two Pound Forty Pence-23 ½ Films

The second entry on this list from this uber-talented British filmmaker, it’s actually the first film I’ve ever watched from this production company. A man only has enough change on him to catch the last bus home and he’s pursued through the streets by a persistent homeless man. It’s 6 and a half minutes of great nightmarish tension and thrills-and the fear of being caught by someone is something I think all of us who have had to walk home late can relate to.

 

Coffee-Dark Tower Pictures

We’re going back to the US for this entry, this time to a production company that was created by two Elon University students in North Carolina.

Their short film, Coffee, is a film noir about a blind date-with an interesting twist. While I’m sure many of us have gone on blind dates, both good and bad, and might have even set our friends up on a few-I can guarantee that no blind date you’ve been on has a twist quite like this. The film may be just over three minutes long, but the noir atmosphere and the twist make you want to see what happens next.

 

The Face of Vengeance-Kessel Run Productions

We’re in the Land Down Under, in Adelaide, to be more specific, for the next film noir. A hard-boiled detective is driven to the brink to apprehend a suspected serial killer, who murdered his brother. The fact that the suspected serial killer is the mayor’s son makes him virtually untouchable to the law and the detective takes the law into his own hands to get revenge.

 

The Clown Attacks-Crossroad Pictures

Moving back to the UK with the second entry from the amazingly talented Scott Lyus, this film illustrates exactly why so many people hate clowns. On the one hand, you do feel slightly sympathetic towards the clown for being rejected but on the other hand, his reaction is why people fear clowns. So, if you’re not too afraid of clowns or you want something to ease you into watching IT, I’d recommend this gem from Crossroad Pictures.

 

Zombie With a Shotgun-Hilton Ariel Ruiz

 

We’re in NYC for this 5-part zombie web series, which also has a companion comic book series. This web series, which is also being turned into a feature, is about how a young couple sees their love tested when Aaron ends up infected with a mysterious virus. How he becomes infected is a bit of a mystery, although there is references to a doctor’s appointment and blood tests. But what’s more important, is how long he can fight the infection for, whether or not it can be reversed-and what it means for his relationship if he does turn into a zombie. It’s definitely a more sympathetic look at zombies, certainly a vibe closer to that of Warm Bodies, where zombies are not just mindless, hungry creatures. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how this series will progress.

 

The Killer Bird-23 ½ Films

The longest short film and the third entry from the UK based production company, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this one is another horror film or a thriller, similar to the ones from Daniel Harding that I listed earlier. However, the title is simply a metaphor. Wrapped in guise of a young man hunting for and attempting to capture a killer bird, it’s actually an interesting social commentary on some of anti-immigration sentiments that Daniel himself has overhead from people, based on what they hear in the news. The dialogue and the characters are heavily influenced by social groups, key political figures and people with far-right agendas. It’s not a conventional horror film but it’s horror more on a social level. And that, in some ways, is much more frightening. Give a watch if you’re looking for something more though provoking.

Honorable mentions go to the humorous Cupid and the intriguing Ring, Ring.

 

Dead of Night-Kessel Run Productions

For the last film on this list, we go back to Adelaide. This short film is has a more abstract story than the others. Basically, you see a man crouched in an empty room with a shotgun by his arm and a note that reads “The man with the key is the one.” Whoever opens the door in the house will get shot. It seems straight forward, but there is a twist and it keeps you on the edge of your seat.

 

Let me know if you think there are other awesome indie films I should be watching! Stay tuned for more posts on great films, publicity and the business of film!

 

 

 

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Cracking Open the National Film Board Vault of Canadian Films

For those of you avid readers who have been following my blog, you’d recall that a few months back, I posted about the amazing Storyhive library of animated & live action short films from the past couple years, showcasing film making talent out of BC & Alberta.

With this blog post, I’ve decided to expand beyond just BC & Alberta and touch on some amazingly awesome Canadian short films that have some historical (and childhood, to me) significance that are archived within the National Film Board’s library.

If you’re in Canada or abroad and want to watch these for yourselves, you can find them via YouTube. They’re also on NFB Telus app (for all you Telus subscribers). Without further ado, here’s some of the best short documentary films, animated films and other skits that I love from the NFB archives.

 

The Cat Came Back

I’m sure that by now, every kid of the 80s and 90s has heard the iconic song, but now we get the story behind it. In Oscar nominated, nearly 8 minute long animated short, we see a guy living alone who is fanatical about his house, his tuba, the rattle he owned when he was a baby and not much else. A cat appears mysteriously on his doorstep and he takes it in, only for thing to quickly turn sour. Then he spends the entirety of the short trying to get rid of the cat. The hilarity only increases the more he tries and while it’s responsible for one of the most prolific (and annoying) ear worms of my childhood, I can’t deny that it’s catchy.

 

Family Band

Turning to some of the icons of Canadian music, this nearly 8 minute short documentary focuses on the bonds of brotherhood between the long running members of the legendary band, The Tragically Hip. While I’m not a HUGE Hip fan, seeing their iconic performance on CBC last summer following the news of Gord Downie’s brain cancer diagnosis made tears come to my eyes. Not only was the performance legendary, it carried the emotional weight of possibly being one of the last times we’d ever seen the band on tour. And let’s be honest, in Canadian music, there are very few songwriters that can match Gord’s thought provoking songwriting ability. And who hasn’t sung Bobcaygeon on a camping trip? I know I have.

 

Inner Rush

Now onto arguably the OTHER most iconic Canadian band in history. This short 6 and half minute documentary pays tribute to Geddy Lee, Neil Peart and Alex Lifeson of Rush, featuring the band members talking about what inspires them and why they love music. It also featured a band of young men barely out of their teens who, inspired by Rush, perform their music live as well. It’s extremely uplifting to see Rush’s music still inspiring later generations and as a long-time piano player myself, I give anyone credit who can drum ‘Spirit of The Radio.’ Try it out for yourself if you don’t believe me on how hard it is, Neil Peart is one of the most iconic drummers of all time for a reason.

 

Roch Carrier’s The Hockey Sweater

Nearly every Canadian kid in my generation (and perhaps even 10 years younger) has to have read the book and seen this iconic award-winning short by now. This story literally exemplifies what it means to be Canadian as Roch Carrier recounts what being a Montreal Canadians fan meant to him as a child and how receiving a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater from Eatons instead was about much more than being a hockey fan. It’s about the essence of Canadian cultural identity and how hockey and language plays into that. It’s a must-read and a must watch for any hockey fan and certainly one of the major cornerstones of my childhood.

 

The Big Snit

This Oscar nominated animated short is hilarious and yet, somehow makes you think. In a nutshell, it juxtaposes a global nuclear war crisis with an argument a husband has with his wife over a Scrabble game as he sneaks a peek at her letters when he can’t seem to create a word. The hilarity ensues in the couples’ obliviousness to the chaos outside as well as the seemingly random TV show “Sawing for Teens” that the husband is a huge fan of. I mentioned that it makes you think to an extent, well, I can that I’ve never treated an argument with my husband as a nuclear war, so there is that. If you like twisted hilarity, this one is for you.

 

Neighbours

 For my last film on this list, I turn to a stop motion short film featuring live actors. It also happens to be the oldest film on this list (shot in 1952) an Academy Award winner and features an anti-war message of loving one’s neighbour. It was revolutionary at the time for the stop motion technique, though it did court some controversy with the violent actions of the neighbours that resulted in their deaths. Still, I recommend this film for anyone who’s interested in a slice of Canadian cinematic history.

So that’s my list (though I suspect I may have to create a second one, with how large the NFB library is). Any Canadian cinematic gems you’d recommend out of the National Film Board library? Sound off here!