Getting started as a Hollywood director is not easy. No matter how much talent and vision a filmmaker might have, producers and studios don't just hand over their money to anyone who wants to make a film. The biggest directors in the business all started out small, proving themselves with music videos, commercials, or even short films.
Short films can especially be an effective way to prove one's talent. One a more minimal budget and with a shorter story, filmmakers can show the kinds of movies they want to be making. Some of these short films prove to be so effective, studios want to see a full-length version of the story. Some directors use their shorts as a taste of the bigger story they want to tell. Some of the biggest and best movies originated in this form. Here are some movies you didn't know started as short films.
Boogie Nights is one of the most acclaimed films of the '90s. Set in LA's porn industry during the '70s, it examined the dysfunctional family that formed from the people working in the industry. Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, the film was nominated for Best Picture, served as a breakout role for Mark Wahlberg, and a comeback for Burt Reynolds.
Though Anderson had one feature film under his belt, he drew from one of his early short films, The Dirk Diggler Story. Though the feature adaptation is a much more complex story, you can see many of the same characters and aspects that Anderson brought from his short, including the funny/dark tone.
Wes Anderson’s unique and distinct style of filmmaking was first introduced to Hollywood with this fun crime comedy. The movie tells the story of a group of wanna-be criminals looking to pull off the ultimate heist. Anderson’s dry sense of humor and signature style was on full display. The film also helped serve as the debut of Luke Wilson and Owen Wilson (who co-wrote the film).
The film was made after Anderson and Wilson's short-film of the same name received significant attention. The short was recreated for the first act of the feature film which then expanded on the story. Both are fine examples of Anderson’s talents and the immense charm of the Wilson brothers.
Whiplash was the feature film debut of Damien Chazelle and started his amazing young career. The movie starred Miles Teller as a promising jazz drummer who deals with an abusive music teacher, played by J.K. Simmons in an Oscar-winning role. The film earned a Best Picture nomination and Chazelle earned his first nomination.
Chazelle wrote and directed the short film Whiplash just one year before his acclaimed feature was released. J.K. Simmons originated his role as Fletcher in the short which clearly showed that it would be impossible to cast anyone else in the role.
District 9 was one of the most inventive and memorable science fiction films in recent memory. The movie imagines a world in which an alien spacecraft crashes on earth and its inhabitants become refugees. The film was the feature debut of filmmaker Neill Blomkamp who would go on to make other less memorable sci-fi films like Elysium and Chappie.
The short film on which it was based, called Alive in Joburg, also directed by Blomkamp. It stuck to the documentary aspects that made up the first half of the feature. It also explored the parallels to real life refugee crises.
What We Do In the Shadows is hilarious and fun mockumentary from Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement. It is a heavily improvised comedy about four vampires sharing a house in modern day New Zealand. The fun premise proved to be popular enough to inspire a television series on FX.
Before all of that, the movie was a small short that Waititi and Clement made back in 2005. This was before Waititi had directed his first film and even before Clement had starred in Flight of the Concords. The pair clearly saw the potential in the idea and returned to it when they found success.
Short Term 12 is an emotional and heart-wrenching indie from filmmaker Destin Daniel Cretton. It deals with a group of young instructors at a treatment center for troubled youth. They attempt to help with the many problems of their young residents, as well as their own complicated lives. The film is most known for its incredibly talented young cast which includes Brie Larson, Kaitlyn Dever, LaKeith Stanfield, and Rami Malek.
Cretton wrote and directed the short film of the same name which was then made into the acclaimed feature. There are certain similarities in the two versions, most notably Stanfield who appears in both. But the feature created the main story which involves Larson and Dever's characters.
Office Space is a comedy from Mike Judge, the creator of Beavis and Butthead and King of the Hill. The film follows a bored and aimless officer worker who suddenly decides to rebel. The movie was a bomb when it was released, but has since gone on to become of a beloved cult classic thanks to its memorable characters and endlessly quotable lines.
While the movie was Judge's first foray into live-action filmmaking, the story started with an animated short. In a similar animation style to his other popular work, the short focused on the character of Milton and his disgruntled reaction to losing his favorite stapler. Though a small clip, this served as one of the funniest characters in the feature.
12 Monkeys is a mind-bending time travel movie from the visionary filmmaker Terry Gilliam. The film is set in a post-apocalyptic future where a convict is sent back in time to find out what led to the end of civilization. The movie was highly acclaimed and featured a great Oscar-nominated performance from Brad Pitt as a madman with a secret.
The film is based on a French short from 1962 called La Jetée. The time travel elements of that story as the same as in Twelve Monkeys. More importantly, the flashback sequences to the airport are kept intact which lead to the film's brilliant ending.
This is the End was a wild concept for a film that could have gone very poorly but ended up being a hilarious and vulgar comedy-horror gem. The movie stars the likes of Seth Rogen, James Franco, and Jonah Hill as exaggerated versions of themselves. When the biblical apocalypse begins, these self-centered celebrities need to find a way to survive. It's a hilarious, violence and raunchy film.
The film is based off a short called Jay and Seth versus the Apocalypse, starring Rogen and Jay Baruchel. The short is basically a fake trailer showing how even as the world ends, these two friends are still arguing over the same immature things.
The Saw franchise went from a small independent film to a long-running series. The first film was released in 2004, telling the gruesome tale of a twisted serial killer who forces his victims to play deadly games. Though a relatively small budget, the film proved to be a massive success, becoming an iconic horror franchise and inspiring countless films in the genre.
It all started with a short that introduced the violent and sadistic games the series would become known for and that creepy puppet. It also helped James Wan enter the Hollywood sphere and begin his journey to helming some of the biggest movies of all time.