Boxer Short Films
Max Harding, our brilliant former Programme Assistant, was instrumental in very quickly shifting our short film programme online for Flatpack no.14, the Home Entertainment Edition. We recently caught up with him about what he’s been up to since the festival in May, which includes watching lots and lots of shorts (so no change there) and setting up the superb short film platform Boxer Short Films...
I’m all about short films, so my time at Flatpack - clocking up hours, days (weeks?) of short film submission viewing, researching what shorts were doing the festival rounds, and working with the programming team to put together five short film programmes for Flatpack’s first online festival - was exactly what I wanted to be doing. I was also given free reign to put together a programme of retro Japanese animation, which, though I probably spent too long researching, came out pretty well.
So when my contract with Flatpack came to an end, I was left with a predicament: I had nothing but time to watch shorts, but had nowhere to put them and no one to share them with. I began mumbling about a website of animation programmes, but took no steps to actually put one together. Left to my own devices the idea would’ve remained in the ether, but one day I came home to find my girlfriend halfway through building a website. And so, Boxer Short Films was born!
Before Flatpack, I was already pretty adept at trawling through sites like Vimeo, Short of the Week and (to a lesser extent) Youtube to find what films I wanted to watch. This is all well and good for older films, but my time at Flatpack taught me that when it comes to recently released shorts, the best course of action is looking at what other festivals were showing. As Boxer Shorts currently operates without a budget, I rely on films that that are already available online, so the newest of shorts are mostly off limits, meaning I spend time looking through festival programmes from a few years ago, in order to find films that have since been put online.
My research into Japanese independent animation has also resulted in my having a fairly extensive knowledge of the history, scene, and availability of a whole host of old films. The website is a great place for me to share some of the gems I uncovered, as well as validating all that time spent on an internet deep dive in the run up to the festival...
In the last year I have become much more confident in my ability as a programmer. Sorting out the shorts programme for the festival, and having people that have been doing it for years listen to and enact my ideas and thoughts has taught me that maybe some people will be interested in the films and programmes that I have to share. The weekly nature of the site means that the programmes can’t all be quite as well thought out as the ones at the festival, but I am now confident enough in my abilities to say “this is fine” and put it out there, rather than spend weeks and weeks tweaking every little thing.
I hadn’t really come into contact with securing rights for films before Flatpack. Luckily for me, the rights to a short film seem to be a lot easier to sort than those for a feature, and on Boxer Shorts there isn’t actually a need to secure rights, as the site is completely free and the films I embed are already online, so essentially all I’m doing is directing people to an existing video. That being said, I still like to get in touch with the filmmakers, partly out of courtesy and partly in the hopes that they might help market the site. A lot of people seem to make their email address all but impossible to find, and you have to spend a fair bit of time seeking them out - something I learned within my first few days as Flatpack, and now I’m a bit of an expert at getting the filmmakers’ contact info.
One other thing that I used to be particularly unconfident at was copywriting. For some reason, the short bio/description paragraph for a programme used to really rattle me. I wanted to mention all of the films, and convey my excitement for the programme in a way that didn’t sound lame. This wasn’t always possible, but by doing it again and again I got my head around it. Flatpack has a house style that works really well for this - it’s informal, but informative and it conveys the tone of the festival well. This style, which I spent eight months getting down, doesn’t work very well for job applications and cover letters however, and that’s a lesson I’ve had to relearn very quickly…
Boxer Short Films is an online platform with a weekly offering of animated short films every Saturday to kick start your weekend. Expect award winners, hidden gems, and anything in between.