Short Films

An Island of Peace and Quiet

“You have to be at peace with the fact that something might happen, and you might not make it through,” says Alexandra de Steiguer, the caretaker for the Oceanic Hotel, in Brian Bolster’s short documentary, "Winter’s Watch." De Steiguer has spent the past 19 winters tending to the 43-acre grounds of the hotel, on Star Island, which sits 10 miles off the coast of New England. In the long, wintry off-season, she is the island’s sole inhabitant. (via)

Reminds me of The Light Between Oceans, the book not the movie (that was terrible) and really makes me want to visit the hotel during the winter months.

Can you imagine what you could do and think up with all that time?

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Humanity  :  On Living : Short Films

Wasted Space, A short Film

Great films have a habit of forcing me to scratch my head. And this one left a pile of dead skin on my shoulders. (gross. I know.)

Gene Roddenberry claimed at that “all art was an attempt to answer the question, ‘What is it all about?’” and I have taken that claim and held it up to almost every piece of worthy art I have come across.

For this one, I’m struggling to find an answer.

Here’s one take:

Negative Space is practically perfect. Like so many shorts I admire, the film incorporates multitudes of seemingly contradictory qualities: at a mere 5 minutes, there is really no wasted space, and yet it is exceedingly spare. Based off a celebrated Ron Koertge poem that clocks in at only 150 words, it allows for moments of subtlety and contemplation that are so necessary in visual storytelling—those perfectly blocked shots, held for an extra moment, that drive home the rich emotional interiority of its characters. It’s simultaneously one of the most humanistic films of recent memory, but it also stars no humans. Its stop-motion animation is expressive, detailed and grounded, and yet it has no compunction about taking off on flights of fancy, segueing via delightful transitions into fantastical asides that play with scale and setting.

And, most remarkably, none of these elements are simply stylistic choices, excuses for technical bravado, or kludgy compromises to the process of adaptation. They are all deep reflections of the film’s core themes, representing and enriching them. Adapting work from another medium is rare for shorts, but rarer still, in any medium, is an adaptation that exceeds the original. Negative Space fills in the subtext of Koertge’s poem, but doesn’t bludgeon it, and the insights and personal experiences the film’s creators bring to the source material prove additive rather than incongruent, elevating the work." - S/W Curator, Jason Sondhi (via).

But that doesn’t help. What themes are reflected? Enriched?

I agree that the artistic nature of the film is spot-on and “nearly perfect.” But what about the message? What is he trying to say?

And what poem does it help fill in? . . . oh. I found it. It’s called, Negative Space (huh) and is the narration to the film:

My dad taught me to pack: lay out everything. Put back half. Roll things
that roll. Wrinkle-prone things on top of cotton things. Then pants, waist-
to-hem. Nooks and crannies for socks. Belts around the sides like snakes.
Plastic over that. Add shoes. Wear heavy stuff on the plane.
We started when I was little. I’d roll up socks. Then he’d pretend to put me
in the suitcase, and we’d laugh. Some guys bond with their dads shooting
hoops or talking about Chevrolets. We did it over luggage.
By the time I was twelve, if he was busy, I’d pack for him. Mom tried
but didn’t have the knack. He’d get somewhere, open his suitcase and text
me—”Perfect.” That one word from him meant a lot.
The funeral was terrible—him laid out in that big carton and me crying
and thinking, Look at all that wasted space.

So what is the wasted space? Was it time spent apart? Wasted opportunities? Is his dad nothing more than a packed item now and no longer human . . . because he never was? Because he was only just a figure or title?

Now we’re getting somewhere.

Is he crying at his father’s funeral because he’s acknowledging that he should be thinking about something else? That he should be mourning the loss of his father and not the wasted space? That he should have a coffin full of memories to think about and talk about, rather than a phone full of simple texts that read “perfect” but which meant so much to a lonely son back home?

Should they have meant so much to a lonely son back home?

Maybe. Probably.

What do you think?

Man I love stop-motion films.

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes : My Grandfather, and the tools he left behind : Short Films

Islandia : unparalleled beauty

Islandia — is a Latin name for Iceland and relative to the old language since this film portraits primordial and rough nature of Iceland. For the short duration of the film, you will be transported to a place that easily could be a million years ago. From unbelievable landscapes and vast valleys to painting-like terrain and majestic waterfalls and lakes - this film shows the unparalleled beauty of Iceland and its unearthly glory (via)

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Humanity  :  On Living

The Memory Book

My grandfather didn’t leave me any journals, but he did leave me tools, and I cannot thank him enough.

I love these short videos - for a myriad of reasons. But what draws me to them the most is the idea of simple acts that carry with them great and lasting consequences. How we can live on beyond our days when we create or make something beautiful.

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Open Thoughts  :  On Parenting : My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes

Neighborhood Golf, a film by Nicolas Heller

For the past 10 years, street photographer Patrick Barr aka Tiger Hood has become a local legend known for bringing golf to the streets of NYC.

It’s a game that requires only three items: a golf club, a newspaper-stuffed milk carton, and a crate. What was initially just a way for Barr to pass time has gained traction from major news outlets and celebrities on a global scale. However, street golf seems to overshadow his true passion… photography. Barr’s archive consists of thousands of mind blowing film photographs of NYC from the 1990’s to 2000’s.

His goal was to preserve a time and place that he predicted would dissolve in the coming years. With his archive as evidence, he predicted correctly (via).

In a time that likes to embrace a, “Be content with what you have,” or, “make the best of what you’ve been given,” Tiger Hood is an example to us all.

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Inspiring films about Humans  :  Documentaries  : The Tables, a short film by Jon Bunning

Caroline : a short film about love, misunderstood.

Urban Kids.jpeg

A few years ago, my wife and oldest son left me and my two youngest at the time home for 265 hours. I had a stable job, was on vacation from school, and help from various friends. My wife was coming home soon.

When she finally did make it back, I was sitting on the balcony of our 7th floor apartment, trying to process the time. Here’s a piece of what I wrote:

If you know {a single parent}, show ‘em some love. Make them dinner, wash their dishes, or babysit their kids. At the very least, by their coffee because I promise, they drink more than you. A beer wouldn’t hurt either:)

If you are one, you’re my hero. (via).

This film has all the same feels. Only worse.

This film is terrifyingly brilliant. I literally feel the heat, the fear, and the panic in the little car, and I cannot help but ache for everyone involved.

The mother loves her kids, no doubt. But she’s stuck. No babysitter, no grace from work, and three little kids who need their mother to work, pay the bills, and rush them to the bathroom.

The spectators want to care for the kids. Because they’re good and decent people. Yet, they don’t see the whole and perfect picture.

The child loves her mother.

And everything is absolutely not okay.


How many situations like the above could be avoided if we all acknowledged the single parents around us and gave them an extra helping hand? How many children would be saved in the process?

If you know a single parent, show them some love. Make them dinner, wash their dishes, or babysit their kids. At the very least, by their coffee because I promise, they drink more than you. A beer wouldn’t hurt either:)

If you are one, you’re my hero. Sincerely.

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Short FilmsOn Parenting : Single Parents

The film Caroline is produced by ELO films, a “co-writer / director duo Celine Held & Logan George. Their work as a team has premiered in competition at Cannes Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, and at South by Southwest. They were named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s ’25 New Faces of Independent Film’ of 2017” (via).

You can see more of their work here.

A Turning Point : Rebekkah's Story

“If making my detox public is gonna help somebody, even, literally, just one person, I’m all for it.”

With so much detachment and insincere living, I feel like these types of videos and “putting myself out there” moments will become more and more the norm. Which means the pendulum will be swinging into radical realism.

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Real People  :  Short Films

Chanel just called, to say . . .

“Maybe not everything is supposed to be comfortable?”

Heavyweight “is the show about journeying back to the moment when everything went wrong,” and then trying to pick up the pieces, make amends, or seek forgiveness. It’s a brilliant show. I’ve listed some of my favorite episodes here, or you can listen to all of them on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Podcasts  :  Short Films

9/11 : Falling Man, and how we honor that infamous day

Most images of 9/11 depict destruction on a massive scale. But Richard Drew’s quiet picture of one man falling from the towers conveys the tragedy of every life lost that day (via).

For seventeen years, I’ve struggled on how teach this moment. Is it enough to watch a short documentary? Facilitate a discussion? Spend a moment or two in silence? Because it never does.

As the date gets further and further buried in our minds and history books, I fear we will lose this moment, this terrible occurrence that immediately changed America (much like Pearl Harbor) to “something that happened a long time ago.” To something future generations can no longer relate to or learn from.

Then, a recent email from a great teacher provided a possible solution.

It read:

Over the summer, I read this creative nonfiction account of one man's experience on 9/11. It's incredibly good for teaching language and rhetoric while also honoring those who lost their lives in New York City seventeen years ago, and I will be giving it to my AP kids tomorrow. Give it a read, if you're interested; it makes for such a perfect teaching tool on such an important day. 

“Leap”, by Brian Doyle

The Falling Man is a critical moment because it “it’s a very quiet photograph . . . {and} people react to it . . . they feel they can relate to this photograph. That they might have been in the same situation and might have had to make the same choice the man in the photograph made.” Taking the time to consider the perspective of him and them and those around honors them because it remembers them.

And perhaps, that is all anyone can ask for. Remembering and honoring those lost on 9/11.

The Tables, a short film by Jon Bunning

A look at the powerful connection between a pair of outdoor ping pong tables in the heart of New York City and the unlikely group of people they’ve brought together, from homeless people to investment bankers to gangbangers (via).

Love this documentary. The cinematography for sure is fantastic, but also it's message.  It reminds me a bit of the kids in Detroit who are waging paintball wars as a way to battle against gang violence. Give people something to do, a purpose, and a way to find community, and they will (I believe) stop destroying neighborhoods, their neighbors, and themselves. 

Also, Sergio is my favorite. 


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Documentaries  :  Short Films