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A still from "Honeymoon" directed by Leigh JaniakCourtesy of SXSW

Are shorts and genre horror the future of film?

Zombies and vampires are done to death (literally), but some interesting trends are emerging…

As part of our new summer US project States of Independence we've invited our favourite 30 American curators, magazines, creatives and institutions to takeover Dazed for a day. 

For 20 years, SXSW has risen to become America's cultural hotbed of emerging cinematic talent. With the finest selection of shorts, features and genre films and a fierce nurturing of new young talent, SXSW offers us an exclusive glimpse into how they've conquered the independent film scene.


"As a programmer, I watch a ton of films each year – mostly genre films and narratives – at different festivals and through the SXSW film submissions. I mostly see a lot of horror, but zombies and vampires have been done to death! Films like Exists and Willow Creek are breathing new life into the monster-in-the-woods film. The last film that really gave me the chills was Mike Flanagan's Oculus – it really creeped me out. What a scary ass film! Another great film at the moment is Honeymoon. We were lucky enough to premiere Leigh Janiack’s intense, slow-burn thriller.

“Zombies and vampires have been done to death! Films like Exists and Willow Creek are breathing new life into the monster-in-the-woods film” – Jarod Neece

As an audience, you do need to care about niche genre films as well as the obvious horror thrillers. A number of today’s mainstream films are starting out with a festival film or an independently made and distributed film. Festivals are the breeding ground for new talent and ideas, especially with genre and independent filmmakers. There are tons of new startups and sites that are trying to help connect independent filmmakers to their fans. We are living in a world where consumers want everything all at once, all of the time. The traditional window for content distribution doesn’t fit with the way they are consuming content.

My advice to young filmmakers is to ask themselves if they could not live without being a filmmaker. If they have any other motive for it (i.e. getting rich, getting famous, etc) then don’t do it. If you do love it and need to be a filmmaker then put everything you have into it and make original content."


"I am responsible for curating the ten short film programs the festival screens each year. It was my job to take the 4,200 submissions that we had this year and funnel them down to around 110. When I do that I’m looking for stories I haven’t seen done a hundred times before, or, if it has been done, I want to see it in a fresh way or from a unique perspective that lends something new. 

I’m most interested in showcasing filmmakers that elicit an emotional reaction from me. Films that make me want to show them to my boyfriend, my colleagues, my friends as soon as possible. That’s intangible. There’s no formula for it. Regardless of whether the emotion is love, hate, sorrow, disgust, anger, delight or whatever, if you don’t get a reaction, what’s the point? It’s thrilling for me to find a film I believe does that, a film I personally love, and to share it with our enthusiastic SXSW audience.

It’s a huge accomplishment to tell a story that engages your audience, draws them in emotionally, hooks them and satisfies them in only a few minutes. How boring would it be if all filmmakers made feature-length work? 

“It’s a huge accomplishment to tell a story that satisfies (viewers) in only a few minutes. How boring would it be if all filmmakers made feature length work?” – Claudette Godfrey

It’s not enough to just be able to make a film, you have to make a film that people want to watch. Technology now affords almost everyone the ability to make a film; the true challenge is making a film that’s special in some way. Random Stop – which premiered at SXSW 2014 – is a recent short film that completely blew me away. Director Benjamin Arfmann shot the entire thing in first person POV which makes it incredibly visceral. The intensity of this short commands the full attention of the audience while touching on two extremely relevant topics. It’s a powerful short film.

My best advice for filmmakers is don't take it personally. When a festival doesn't play your film, it doesn't necessarily mean that your film is bad or that you're a bad filmmaker. Every festival has their own taste and programming goals. The biggest change I see in the landscape is that the lines between commercial, television, web series, and traditional short and theatrical feature filmmaking are completely blurring. Those words have already started to become meaningless because everything is just becoming "content". The future is in is how that content will be produced, distributed, curated and used to make change in our world."