No longer do you have to wade into the film festival world surrounded by hundreds of other short films — you can now get immediate results the second something is posted online. You might be thinking it's a rare occurrence for a short film (or its creators) to get picked up for a feature film, but it's been happening for years. The only difference over the last 5-10 years is that the shorts getting picked up tend to be the movies Hollywood is spending the most money on these days — big ideas with huge worlds and lots of effects. 

Just today, another one of these films got picked up, this time it's E.B. Rhee's The Garden, which is a reimagining of John Milton's epic poem "Paradise Lost," which tells the story of the fall of man and the expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Made for $30,000 and shot on the RED ONE with much of the crew working for free, it was purchased by Warner Bros-based Polymorphic Pictures with the hope that it can be turned into a new science fiction franchise. The feature film has already been written by E.B. Rhee & Aaron Strongoni, and you can watch the short proof-of-concept film directed by Rhee here:

There are many more BTS shots and also storyboards on the website here, but here's one to give you an example:

EB Rhee The Garden BTS Shot 1

Hollywood has continued this trend of being massively impressed by short films with big ideas, and while not all of them turn into feature films with the same idea, a few become mega-hits, like Neill Blomkamp'sAlive in Joburg, which became District 9:

There have also been a number of more recent examples that have been bought by Hollywood. Ruairi Robinson recently created this proof of concept called The Leviathan, which already had a feature film script written by Jim Uhls (who wrote Fight Club). Interestingly enough, Neill Blomkamp is one of the people attached to make this project, closely mirroring how he got his own big break:

Here's another, Mischa Rozema's SUNDAYS:

By now it's clear that making a well-crafted short with great dialogue and acting is going to get you less attention than a proof-of-concept film with lots of effects. When it comes to lots of these ideas, they don't even really need to make that much sense, all that matters is someone in a power position needs to see the concept as something original enough for them to work and potentially develop.

It's a good strategy if you want to get noticed, but unfortunately it speaks to where Hollywood is right now. While it does happen, it seems like the shorts that get the most attention online are those that are sci-fi in nature with plenty of effects — and made for pennies. From the buyer's perspective, I suppose they are looking at the idea more than anything, and it's the effects that get it noticed in the first place. The strange thing about buying these films made for nothing is that they're probably going to give them budgets north of $100 million — which makes the budget of the short kind of irrelevant, especially since it's a good/fast/cheap argument, where these short films take a long time, versus Hollywood films that need insanely fast turnarounds.

Of the films that have gone viral and been bought by Hollywood, what are some of your favorites?

The Garden

Source: Deadline