Revealing Alternatives: 9 Great Shorts Crafted By Bay Area Filmmakers

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The short film “Man’s Best Friend” is a strange black comedy about a man who loves his dog a little too much. Photo: Timothy Plain

Shorts are the number of great filmmakers making their Hollywood debut, and yet they’re often oddly hard to come by. A few streaming services, like the new indie-focused IVOX+, are putting shorts front and center with the rest of their offerings, but in general, interested viewers have to dig deep to find the right ones online.

To help you in your search, here are the works of nine filmmakers from or associated with the Bay Area currently available for streaming:

‘Writer’s Block’ (2016)

Before you can make a film, there has to be a script. Writing it is much harder than you think. Tim Morrill, a native of Hayward, is in charge of illustrating this challenge in “Writer’s Block”.

The film revolves around a struggling writer (Vincent Gabrielson) struggling to meet a deadline from a cinematic-minded mobster who wants a new movie in the vein of “Battlestar Galactica” meets “Juice” in the morning. Unfortunately, he’s plagued by writer’s block and a half-naked roommate (Aaron Bollwinkel) until he’s reduced to writing ideas in the bathroom with shaving cream on a mirror. .

It’s a hilarious look at the not always magical world of cinema.

Look at this: Available to stream on Youtube.

“Man’s Best Friend” (2010)

San Francisco manager Timothy Plain focuses on web videos for big clients like Nintendo and the NBA these days. Before that, however, he produced a bizarre dark comedy about a man (Rob Smith) who loves his dog a little too much.

It’s a very disturbing short that turns into an incredible scatological joke at the end. If you can handle the weirdness, this joke pays off big time.

Look at this: Available to stream on Vimeo.

“Marry Me” (2014)

Although now based in Bangkok, Apichate Taninratapat is one of many directors who cut their teeth at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. “Marry Me” is about a proposal gone wrong when a woman (Lea Krüger) accidentally swallows the ring meant for a marriage proposal.

A good half of the runtime involves her hapless fiancé (Stephen Laferrière) trying to take the jewelry off her with slow-motion spankings using a frying pan and kicking her in the stomach with a lamp. May the short be a lesson to all of us about trying to be overly dramatic and clever.

Look at this: Available to stream on Vimeo.

“Brain in the Desert” (1990)

When you think of experimenting with art shorts, someone like famed Oscar-nominated short filmmaker Jay Rosenblatt from San Francisco probably comes to mind. His work is often dreamlike and eerie.

His film “Brain in the Desert” is even presented as a mirage in the credits. The short film is a narrative piece about a young man who remembers walking in the desert with his girlfriend, observing strange insects and how their strange behaviors relate to human sexuality. Fandor actually has Rosenblatt’s entire filmography available to stream, but “Brain in the Desert” is a great place to start.

Look at this: Available to stream on Amazon Prime Video with a Fandor subscription.

“Umi’s Heart” (2008)

This film is now best known for starring Bay Area native Mahershala Ali before he rose to fame in Hollywood, but it’s also a riveting short directed by UC Berkeley alumnus Joslyn Rose Lyons.

Ali stars as Ezra, a Christian theologian who tries to convince his brother of a recent conversion to Islam. Despite a powerful mastery of the scriptures, Ezra is unable to open his mind and see more than his own narrow interpretation of God. It’s a pretty hefty short, especially for one that starts with an argument over the delivery of the wrong pizza.

Look at this: Available to stream on Youtube.

‘Diablo’ (2016)

Paula Saslow of Bay Area company Copper Rose Films directed this gripping story of cyclical violence. A day laborer named Angel (Xavier Galindo) discovers a briefcase full of blood money while working on a job. He initially wants nothing to do with it or the money’s likely owner, a vicious mobster known as Diablo (Karl J. Arana), but after hearing about Diablo’s atrocities, Angel decides to set a trap.

The setting on an excavation site is brutal, as are the lives of its characters, but there is a grain of heroism and hope that makes the film transcendent.

Look at this: Available to stream on Vimeo.

“Diablo” centers on a day laborer who discovers a briefcase full of blood money while working. Photo: Paula Saslow

‘Oscar Michael’ (2017)

Director Jamie “JD” Walker, now based in Los Angeles but originally from Hayward, took several photos to dramatize the life of famous black author and film pioneer Oscar Micheaux. This short film stars Napoleon Douglas as a young Micheaux, who realizes that he will have to distribute his own films if he ever wants to make a film where black people are heroes rather than stereotypes.

Walker packs a wonderful amount of drama into six minutes, instantly galvanizing an audience with the fight for equality in the film industry.

Look at this: Available to stream on Vimeo.

“Mermaids on Mars” (2015)

Jon V. Peters and Bay Area company Athena Studios brought to life this charming and enchanting stop-motion tale about mermaids on Mars.

A young girl listens to her mother tell a story about how her father managed to travel to the red planet and meet the merfolk who live there. It’s irreverent and adorable like a classic fairy tale with just a touch of steampunk futurism to make it something special.

Look at this: Available to stream on Vimeo.

“The Man From Hades” (2007)

A graduate of San Francisco Film School, Brandon Hamilton directed and starred in the bizarre yet intriguing noir pastiche “The Man From Hades.” Jack Orpheus (Hamilton) is a private detective who left the life of a gangster to be brought back by, what else, a lady (Camelia Dee).

It’s not a typical hardcase tale, however. Instead, players are part of an underworld scheme that involves harvesting souls. Beautifully shot and with some brilliant twists, “Hades” is a great example of how short films can take an odd idea and run with it to create something truly unique.

Look at this: Available to stream on Vimeo.



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