Short Film Advice From Cannes' Alice Kharoubi

By Yash Thakur. Posted on May 14, 2015

While short films In Competition have been around for a long time, the Short Film Corner wasn't started at Cannes until 2004. This year, more than 40 Indian shorts will feature at Cannes. A few days back, we spoke with Alice Kharoubi, the head of the short films section at the Cannes Film Festival. Although she was really busy with the festival, Alice was kind enough to share a few words of wisdom with us on what they look for in short films at Cannes & her general opinion on short films from around the world. Here's the full transcript.

Cannes is the leading film festival in the world. But the focus is almost always on the feature film sections. Can you tell us a bit about the short film sections?

We have an entity called the Cannes Metrage and in this entity there is an Official Short Competition section and a Short Film Corner (SFC). The Competition section has 9-10 short films in competition with a special jury and the Short Film Corner is more like a meeting place for short filmmakers. The SFC was established 10 years ago and we created this program because we noticed that there were a lot of filmmakers that came with short films and there was no place to welcome them. Thus we decided to create this entity.

The Short Film Corner has steadily gained a reputation over the years. What was the vision behind it? 

For the SFC there is no selection per se; that is why we have a lot of short films coming from around the world. What we aim for in the SFC, is to find short films that have a potential to run at film festivals or films that have some vision. As for the Competition, there is a committee that watches all the films and then of course, there is the final selection. This year, we have 9 short films in competition.

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You get thousands of short films from around the world. What do you look for in a film while short listing it? Can you tell us a bit about the selection process for both the sections? 

At Cannes, we try to look for filmmakers that have something to say; directors that have a vision. For the Short Film Corner, we try to stay objective, put them through a filter. The films that are accepted, are of various forms: documentaries, animation, experimental. We try to bring forward different kinds of shorts. There is no specific kind of topic or focus area. For the official Competition we received over 4500 entries, around a 1000 more than last year, from over a hundred countries. For the Short Film Corner, the figures are not yet out because we are still finalizing the final submissions.

We get a lot of queries from filmmakers who’re confused about sending their films to festivals. In your view, what are some of the common mistakes that filmmakers make? What would you like to advise short filmmakers interested in getting their film into Cannes? 

Maybe, it’s just a thought but a filmmaker should show his/her film to an audience before (sending it) to Cannes. To gauge their reaction. Another important thing is that the filmmaker should try to make the film with a producer because then, after that, the filmmaker can really focus on what he is supposed to do. And that is, how he/she wants to shoot the film. All the other problems like getting funds, fall on the producer’s shoulders.

I think filmmakers should also try to look at all the films that get into Cannes. They should watch more short films, which will be great for them.

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There is a lot of interest globally in the short film format. How do you see the format evolving? What are some of the trends that you are excited about? 

It's a question that we can talk about forever! I think the short film format is really great because it encourages creativity.

What is happening at the festival this year?

There are different activities happening throughout the festival. We have a market, that is organized for the filmmakers to meet with professionals, festival programmers, distributors & investors. We also have workshops (two of them), where filmmakers can get some advice on how to pitch their films. One workshop has an expert talking about festival strategies, new media, crowd funding etc. The other workshop is called ‘Truth or Dare’, where two experts (a festival programmer & a distributor) will watch a film, give an analysis of the film and advise the filmmaker. Also every day between 4 to 5 PM, we have a conference which is followed by a happy hour. It is a typical day at Cannes.

Your view on Indian short films?

I have been watching a lot of films from India and I can tell you that it splits in two different kinds of films; films that are clearly influenced by Bollywood and films that are influenced by world cinema.

What should filmmakers keep in mind while sending their films to Cannes? How can one make the most of the Cannes experience?

When filmmakers are at the festival, they should have a goal. It could be meeting festival programmers, getting funding, watching new films or meeting a film crew. Set a target. We try to inculcate this in them, provide them with a base, so that they can find the person they want to meet. We encourage them to participate in the activities we organize.


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