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A Very Short Film competition

The Very Short Film competition was launched in partnership with The Guardian in October 2012. The longlisted entries are now available for the public vote which will produce four finalists. After a live final in March, the winner will receive £9000 towards their university education.

By Chloe Foster

After more than three months of students carefully planning and creating their entries, the Very Short Film competition has closed and the longlisted submissions have been announced.

The competition asked entrants to create a short film which would inform and inspire us. Students were free to base their entry on any subject they were passionate about. There was just one rule: films could be no longer than 60 seconds in length.

We certainly had many who managed to do this. The standard of films was impressive. How were we to whittle down the entries and choose just 12 for the longlist?

We received a real range of films from a variety of ages, characters and subjects — everything from scuba diving to the economic state of the housing market. It was great to see a mixture of academic subjects and topics of personal interest.

It must be said that the quality of the filmmaking itself was very high in some entries. However not all of these could be put through to the longlist; although artistic and clever, they didn’t inform us in the way our criteria specified.

When choosing the longlisted entries, judges looked for students who were clearly on top of their subject. We were most impressed by films that conveyed a topic’s key information in a concise way, were delivered with passion and verve, and left us wanting to find out more. By the end of our selection process, we felt that each of the films had taught us something new or made us think about a subject in a way we hadn’t before.

The sheer amount of information filmmakers managed to convey was astounding. As the Very Short Introductions editor Andrea Keegan says: “I thought condensing a large topic into 35,000 words, as we do in the Very Short Introductions books was difficult enough, but I think that this challenge was even harder. I was very impressed with the quality and variety of videos which were submitted.

“Ranging from artistic to zany, I learned a lot, and had lots of fun watching them. The longlist represents both a wide range of subjects — from the history of film to quantum locking — and a huge range in the approaches taken to get the subjects across in just one minute.”

We hope the entrants enjoyed thinking about and creating their films as much as we enjoyed watching them. We asked a few of the longlisted students what they made of the experience. Mahshad Torkan, studying at the London School of Film, tackled the political power of film: “I am very thankful for this amazing opportunity that has allowed me to reflect my values and beliefs and share my dreams with other people.  I believe that the future is not something we enter, the future is something we create.”

Maia Krall Fry is reading geology at St Andrews: “It seemed highly important to discuss a topic that has really captured my curiosity and sense of adventure. I strongly believe that knowledge of the history of the earth should be accessible to everyone.”

Matt Burnett, who is studying for an MSc in biological and bioprocess engineering at Sheffield, used his film to explore the challenges of creating cost-effective therapeutic drugs: “I felt that in a minute it would be very hard to explain my research in enough detail just using speech, and it would be difficult to demonstrate or act out. I simplify difficult concepts for myself by drawing diagrams, often spending a lot of time on them. For me it is the most enjoyable part of learning, and so I thought it would be fun to draw an animated video. If I get the chance to do it again I think I’d use lots of colours.”

So, what are you waiting for? Take a look at the 12 films and pick your favourite of these amazingly creative and intelligent entries.

Chloe Foster is from the Very Short Introductions team at Oxford University Press. This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk.

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