Just when I was thinking that it was impossible to make a 5 to 10 minute film that had any meaning to it, I see a 7 minute film called Cargo in a screenwriting class I’m taking. It changes the way I see short videos. It has changed many others as it was made. You can read about its incredible history in the Wikipedia article on Cargo. The film Cargo is a 2017 Austrailian post-apocalyptic drama thriller directed by Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke with a screenplay by Ramke. It is based on their 2013 short film called Cargo you can view above. It premiered at the Adelaide Film Festival on October 6, 2017. It was released to cinemas in Australia on May 17, 2018 and then worldwide on May 18, 2018 by Netflix and on Netflix in Australia on 16 November 2018.

What’s so interesting is that in the above we can see the 7 minute short story that inspired a future film that was distributed worldwide and streams over Netflix. We can view early novels or longer stories in literature. But seldom might are we able to observe the evolution of a film from a short film to a feature film. From basic idea to feature film. With Cargo, this lesson is taught in spades to young filmmakers and communicators out there. They would be wise to spend some time observing this incredible short film story.

For a long time, I’ve been considering making some short films. It is not just the fact that short films offer a way to breaking into feature films. Rather, they are really an art-form in themselves. Especially in our age of smartphones and short attention spans.

Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

Like some of the great short stories of all time, such as Ambrose Bierce’s “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” or some of Edgar Allan Poes’ select few, the short story doesn’t go through all of the emotions associated with the standard three acts of a two-hour screenplay or film. Rather, just like the best short stories in literature, or the best “short story” poems, there is an attempt to capture just one emotion rather than a range of emotions. But then, great projects are born from that one emotion.

One of the beautiful things about the short film Cargo is that there is no dialogue. Here, we are transported back to the era of silent films in a certain sense. The viewer, audience is asked to translate more from images since there are no words to do this translation for them. In other words, the filmmaker does not treat the audience as a bunch of imbeciles but as intelligent people. The filmmaker asks them to assemble pieces of this developing story in their minds. In assemblage that takes place without any words in the short film.

Most important, it seems to me, is that it shows the critical moments in the transformation of one family in zombies. The wife has become a zombie. The husband has been bitten by her but has not yet become a zombie. The husband gets their baby out of their car which has apparently crashed somewhere. Just the silence of images. As well as light music in the background.

* * *

This short film should be a type of banner for the genre of short films. Always, if they are the great short films, there is the seed of the entire idea expressed in a short emotion scene. In effect, it is the scene that has inspired the creation of the story you have tried to tell in short forms. It is the style that the above film demonstrates in a particular brillance. The story assumes a modern, sophisticated viewing audience on all types of screens. A key to the entire enterprise – it seems to me – is the degree that the viewer/audience is asked to/allowed to participate in the creation of the overall story. In a short story, the viewers should be allowed much freedom to suggest ideas and scenarios of the story.

Perhaps, that’s the true nature of the short story?

Always, capturing a powerful human emotion in it’s short story form.

An emotion as the inspiration for a feature film.

There should be a powerful and true emotional moment inspiring a film or longer form of story.

(Thanks to Jarod the screenwriter presenter tonight and thanks to Michelle at Midwest Photo for putting this whole series of Video Production together and also the film group MOFA.)

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