NOTE: Short Fridays will be a regular feature from now on. Every Friday around mid-afternoon I’ll post a great short film for you to watch, perhaps over your lunch-break. Or perhaps over dinner, I don’t know. Maybe even next day’s breakfast. It’s not for me to say what meal you should accompany it with, really. Just watch it.
As much as I love feature films (and it should be fairly plain how much I do) I’ve always been a big fan of the short-form, which underwent something of a recession in the latter half of the 20th century as cinema screenings of shorter stuff became increasingly rare; only to recently undergo a resurgence thanks to the unstoppable rise of web video hosters such as Vimeo, DailyMotion, and the omniscient, fire-breathing colossus that is YouTube.
I think most people get their introduction to short film-making through animation, and I was no different. I grew up as a huge fan of Looney Tunes and animation in general, as every child should, really. If you are a parent and you’re not exposing your child to a steady stream of stuff by Disney, Warner Bros, Cosgrove Hall, Hanna Barbera, and Aardman, you are neglecting your duty as a parent and may as well be thrashing them to sleep every night with a slipper for all the long-term psychological damage you are inflicting.
Aardman Animations, of course, is the Bristol-based studio behind Wallace and Gromit, along with inumerate other cartoons, title sequences, commercials and short films. When I was about nine or ten years old I was the world’s biggest fan of Wallace and Gromit - I remember spending hours making my own horrifically misshapen Wallace out of a plasticine kit, and spending hours making the indentations on Wallace’s pullover just right. I still maintain that The Wrong Trousers is one of finest British films ever made, with Curse of The Were-Rabbit not being far behind.
It was because of The Wrong Trousers that I attended the first ever Brief Encounters short film festival in Bristol (my hometown), some point in the mid-nineties. It was part of a children’s screening, and I remember being completely enchanted by every film they showed.
As the years went on, Brief Encounters expanded to the point that it has now been split into two festivals, one for live action and one for animation. As I haven’t lived in Bristol for nearly a decade now, I haven’t had the chance to go as often as I would have liked to, but I attended several more Brief Encounters as I got older and was lucky enough to see some amazing films there.
One film that I first saw at Brief Encounters was Forklift Driver Klaus – The First Day on the Job, which totally blew me away and really made me re-think my preconceptions of live-action short films, which I’d always thought were more often than not inferior to their animated counterparts.
You may already be aware of Klaus as it’s become a bit of a classic on the short film festival circuit – it brought the house down when I saw it at Brief Encounters. Brilliantly it has also been screened seemingly at random by Channel 4 in the graveyard slots between 2.30 and 4.30, something they were doing as recently as a couple of years ago.
I could go on and on about why Klaus is such a masterpiece, but if you haven’t seen it, it’s best to go into it knowing as little as possible, so I’ll keep this intro brief.
Here’s a few things you should know:
1) The voiceover is by Egon Hoegen, an actor very well known in Germany as the voice for instructional videos and autobahn safety videos.
2) It may seem slow to start with, but trust me: it’s paced perfectly.
3) It is often actually shown on forklift safety training courses.
4) It is possibly NSFW.
Enjoy! See you back here next Friday.