The Virgin Media Shorts Awards 2011

Feature films generally get all the coverage, but at the 2011 Virgin Media Shorts Awards, the champagne was being popped for the best films that were far, far shorter. Given a mere 2 minutes and twenty seconds to work with, the filmmakers managed some truly special things to get into the top twelve.

(We apologise that all the films have the Virgin Media spiel at the beginning. Feel free to skip it – we won’t tell.)


#1 – Bistro

(Sean Gray)

A lovely little bite of surrealism. The only one on the bill to star some really recognisable faces in the form of Peter Capaldi and Alex Macqueen. This must be what Salvador Dali’s lunchtime looks like. We really liked this one, although we couldn’t easily tell you why…


#2 – By Hook

(Laura Evers Johns)

Easily the most visually striking of the shorts, this haunting little piece is a cut-down version of the original 5-minute film. Unfortunately the cuts show, and the tale of a lonely fishmonger who catches a mermaid becomes somewhat confused, despite a deeply haunting atmosphere and stellar aesthetic.


#3 – Coasting

(Federico Forcolini)

We dare you to not crack a smile at this one. We double dare you. It’s just too adorable. A realistic (we like to think) look at a hobby that keeps of couple of old dears active, it’s got a real heartwarmer of a payoff. That said, the cheese conversation: what’s that all about?


#4 – Don Justino de Neve

(Daisy Jacobs)

A monologue about being beautiful and evil. Simple as. The script and voiceover blend together seamlessly, silky, smooth and viscous, hitting some spot-on pop culture marks. The animation doesn’t quite do it justice, though, as the drawing style never syncs up the words as well as might be hoped.


#5 – The Dreamers

(Matt Maude)

What’s that? Your heart’s a bit chilly? Then why don’t you warm it right the fuck up with this little number about a bunch of sleepwalkers who wander by night to the same place. Why? To make out, of course, as they dream of their first kiss. Awwww… Excellent use of the ‘city by night’ style, as well.


#6 – First Press

(Mat Laroche & Jonathan Brooks)

Good direction and a solid idea are let down by a mediocre script and acting in this short, where an east London gang turns out to be more than it seems. A real shame, because they’ve perfectly captured the look of the Get Carter school of classic British Gangster films. But the cast never quite sells it. That said, the song at the end is our new favourite thing.


#7 – The Friend Catcher

(Lucy Campbell)

You remember school lunchtime as a kid? You’d all run to grab your lunchboxes so you could sit down, open them and they’d be full of butterflies or ferrets or science or… What, you guys never had that? Well, then catch up with this charming little film exploring the symbolism behind lunch. Our hearts are now uncomfortably warm. Plus, pirates save the day. Hooray!


#8 – The Good Samaritan

(Ryan Vernava)

When a stag night party leaves a young groom slightly the worse for wear, his only hope is an angry, angry woman. Not really much to say about this one except it’s really funny. Check it out and have yourself a good old chuckle.


#9 – inaniMate

(Micheal O’Donoghue, Soulla Josephides & Ying Hui Tan)

“OH GOD MY HEART! IT’S TOO WARM! MY BLOOD IS BOILING ME TO DEATH!” That should be you, right about now, as you watch this CGI animation about a lovelorn alien. Following the Pixar principle of ‘everything animated should be painfully cute’, this short does what it sets out to do and does it well. That said, I question whether any lifeform advanced enough to master interstellar travel would be dumb enough to fall in love with a cactus.


#10 – MES

(Ian Gamester)

This one’s absolutely brilliant. Cath “Kitty” Gamester is the director’s gran. She has a rather interesting disorder, and would quite like to tell us about it. In all honesty, one wonders about whether it should qualify, as there’s no real direction or writing, it’s just an interview with this guy’s grandmother. That said, we’d love to have a cup of tea with her.


#11 – Saloon

(Tom Pietrasik)

Are you hungry? No? Well, too bad, because you’re about to get served up a nice juicy slice of life. What we have here is a two-minute peak into the workings of a barbershop in suburban New Delhi There’s nothing here in the way of story or narrative, but that doesn’t stop it being a fascinating glimpse into the minutiae of another culture.


#12 – 2:20

(Jason Wingard)

A nice little film with a strong concept, this short revolves around a man who’s given a pair of glasses that let him see how long people have left to live. Alas, solid direction and good pacing are undercut by the obviousness of the twist. You’ve probably guessed it just from this description without even needing to watch the film.


The Virgin Media Awards:

TiVo® Award 2011Coasting
Fair enough. In terms of gentle fun, the old ladies were great, and I can completely see why the Viewer At Home would pick it. Nicely done.

The People’s Choice AwardinaniMate
We’re not sure what People chose this one, but they’re obviously not as dead on the inside as us. It was well done and all, but it was a wee-bit over-cutesy.

The Grand Prize2:20
Ok, if you’re giving out £30,000 as the prize, I can see why you pick this one. It’s a nice, safe choice and no-one’s going to deny that Jason Wingard’s got talent. Still, let’s be honest, it’s not the undisputed best by any stretch of the imagination.


The Best For Film Not A Real Award Awards:

Best VisualsBy Hook
Haunting imagery and a brilliantly terrifying face on the protagonist, all lit by the dull orange glow of the streetlamp. Yum.

Just Plain LovelyMEP
Kitty Gamester is amazing, and we’ll literally murder anyone who disagrees.

Best MusicFirst Press
“We are the East Grinstead Flower Pressing Society,
Pressing all the flowers in every single variety.
Sometimes stood up, sometimes we’re sat.
Taking a flower and making it flat.”

Grand PrizeThe Friend Catcher
A kid gains social acceptance in a new school by turning everyone into LUNCHBOX PIRATES! Is that the best thing in the world? Yes. Yes it is.


What’s your favourite? Tell us in the comments below or we’ll make a short film about how lame you are and GIVE IT ALL THE PRIZES!

About The Author