The face of Margarita Sheremet, the winner of Canon Nordic’s 15 second film competition.

Storytelling in seconds

Whether you believe that Ernest Hemingway wrote it or not, there’s no doubting that the legendary six-word story, "For sale: baby shoes, never worn" is an enduringly powerful piece of writing. It’s the standard by which flash fiction writers worldwide judge their success and has inspired creatives everywhere to rise of the challenge of brevity in their storytelling.

Interestingly, our favourite social media platforms have steered us all down Hemingway’s path, as we use Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp ‘stories’ to give others a small vertical window into our lives. Every day more than half a billion people use these ‘stories’, undeterred by the constraints of vertical photography and segments of 15 seconds for video. On the contrary, what should be frustrating limitations have grown into a phenomenon of creativity. According to Facebook, “15 seconds forces creativity and ‘stories’ need speed to keep pace with viewers’ attention spans.” We’re easily distracted and prone to swiping away or exiting apps, so making an impact and keeping eyes on our stories has become a competitive pursuit.

In November 2019, Canon launched a new festival and competition for short films in the Nordic countries, throwing down the gauntlet of telling big stories in this, possibly the most challenging of video formats. “We have gone from long length videos to ultra-short videos, but the stories we tell keep growing,” explains Jenni Lindström, Marketing Director at Canon Imaging Technologies & Communications, Nordic & Baltics. “We know that a photo or a short video says more than a million words.” The aim, she says, was to “catapult the winner into stardom and facilitate the beginning of a career within the field of visual story-telling.”

Kill your darlings for the stronger story

Multi award-winning Danish film and documentary director, Pernille Rose Grønkjær chaired the jury of film experts and had some strong, but effective words of advice for entrants, saying, ““Creativity can often benefit from restrictions because it forces you to take choices. Kill your darlings for the stronger story.” From nearly three hundred impressive entries (submitted via Instagram under the hashtag #15secondfilmfestival), Grønkjær and her contemporaries singled out the “competent storytelling and composition” of passionate videographer, Margarita Sheremet, whose winning video, ‘Moment’ quotes a line from Virginia Woolf’s early journals, a time of terrible loss in the writer’s life that would later be seen as the chaos from which she cultivates her subsequent art.

“I belong to quick, futile moments of intense feeling. Yes, I belong to moments. Not to people.”

These words resonated with Sheremet (“When I read it for the first time, I immediately recognised the feeling”) and it is a simple, yet bold and beautiful statement when contextualised in the confines of 15 seconds. Her contrasting imagery draws on a recent trip to California (“California was fast and intense, and it was over before it even started”) and “the transient nature of moments passing”. At the start of her process, she looks to the “how and why” before considering colour, motion and composition and was therefore delighted to be awarded a coveted Canon EOS R camera and RF 24-105MM lens – a camera that can keep up with the speed of her creative mind, saying “it amazes me with every shot I take.” She also holds the title of first ever ‘Canon Nordic Filmmaker’ as part of her prize and looks forward to a long collaboration with Canon.

As predicted by Pernille Rose Grønkjær, who looked forward to discovering “a diamond in the rough, that over time can become the next big Nordic filmmaker”, since her win, Sheremet and her best friend Julia Qvarnström have been selected to receive support from the Swedish Film Institute to produce a short documentary on Swedish minority languages, focusing on Finnish.

Written by Anna Shaw

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