The recent confluence of short film and theatre heralds an exciting step in digital storytelling for theatre. Long before the advent of YouTube theatre companies were experimenting with video production to advertise their work. Now, in 2015, almost every new stage production has a trailer.
But a more recent and interesting development is the use of the short film format as an extension of the stage play; a fresh interpretation of the themes. As a form of digital content marketing it’s what marketing moguls call digital storytelling; extending the conversation beyond the live performance for existing audiences and involving new audiences.
It’s no coincidence that this trend mirrors the the rapid ascension of the short film format as a mainstream art form. Online, audiences are more accessible than ever and the amount of online video they consume grows astronomically each year. Branded or otherwise, the amount of video hours watched by people on YouTube is increasing by 50% every year*.
In response to this trend, the BBC launched iPlayer Shorts last year, a series of six short films to be produced over two years by new filmmaking talent. Head of TV content at iPlayer said the venture “Explores storytelling outside of a scheduled TV slot or duration. Audiences will be able to discover, share and enjoy these dramas whenever and wherever they choose.” Three of the films have been made and are available on the iPlayer now.
Theatre makers who have worked for a while with video production have cottoned on to the broad appeal and accessibility of the short film format. In 2014 The Royal Court Theatre collaborated with The Guardian to produce six short films responding to six current British issues. ‘Off The Page’ short films are all viewable here on the guardian website.
The Guardian describes them as ‘microplays’ conceived as a meeting of minds between journalists and theatre makers and it’s encouraging to see how theatre makers are using the medium to generate interest around their craft and in new writing.
Young Vic Shorts is another high visibility stage to screen program – again in collaboration with The Guardian – but it differs slightly in that it uses the short film format to directly extend the narrative or reinterpret a stage play that’s currently on stage. Since 2012 the Young Vic has created six short films to accompany their main house productions. Find the full set here.
Their most recent short was The Departure, inspired by Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, in which Gillian Anderson directs and stars, and for which we were commissioned to make a behind the scenes video (below).
There’s no doubt these high profile collaborations are bringing new audiences to the theatre as well as spotlighting new playwrights. The exciting part for existing theatre audiences is that by embracing the visual language of filmmaking, creators are reinterpreting and refreshing, instead of simply repeating. Audiences’ have a huge appetite for digital storytelling across platforms, and short film is an ultra-accessible medium ripe for experimentation.
At Impact Video we are interested in producing film content that responds to theatre using cinematic language. Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org to talk about theatre trailers, short film, or other collaborations.