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Alone in the big city, will she notice him? (short film)

December 11, 2009

On the lookout for more great short internet stories, I found a real gem today. It’s already gotten more than 3.3 MILLION views on YouTube, and has its own facebook fan page. You might have seen it already. In case you haven’t, I have included this link to the facebook video version of “Signs,” which has better resolution than the YouTube version (which is a little blurry). The film runs just over 12 minutes, making it the longest one I have posted so far, but I can guarantee if you like good stories and great cinematography and editing, it will be worth your time to watch.

Click the poster to watch the film (12 min)

This short film by Patrick Hughes is one of the 2009 Cannes Lions winners. Here’s a link to the director’s website if you want to see more of his work.

“Signs” has many things going for it:

…a great script, likeable characters, a full dynamic range of ups and downs building slowly to a climax and satisfying resolution, great cinematography, pacing, and lots of interesting and memorable moments. And it does all this without spoken dialogue, except for short messages written on placards. It has all the features of a romantic feature film, but the story begins and ends in a little more than 12 minutes.

Studying well-made shorts is a great way to get a good overview of story structure, because you can clearly see how the parts are tightly interwoven to hold your attention and get you into the world of the characters while building your internal emotional attachment to them. This happens in the extreme short world of commercials as well as in shorts and full-length features.

The tighter the time frame, the more you have to make the characters instantly likeable and engaging. Notice in “Signs” how the main character is an “everyman,” and by putting him in familiar situations, we build sympathy for him, so that when he “meets” his sweetheart, we’re rooting for him and hooked deeply into the story to see what happens next.

This film would be easy to translate into other languages with short subtitles, but the fact that it’s mostly a non-dialogue film gives it really broad appeal, which may account for the huge number of views on YouTube. In this, it resembles the animated short “Elio” I posted earlier this week.

Have you seen any other short films like “Signs” that share some of its successful characteristics? I’d love to see more of this kind of work. Let me know in the comments section below.

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