Short Indie Film Round-up: The Blacksmith, Tim, Earthy Encounters

A still from independent film Tim by director Ken Turner. Featuring an animated character that looks like Tim Burton and a wall featuring Burton's film posters.
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We’ve discovered more amazing independent short films to recommend – and they take inspiration from Wes Anderson, Tim Burton and Steven Spielberg. 

Welcome to the weekly treasure hunt that is the indie short film review, digging up the best talent from beneath the sands of Youtube. This week I’m featuring three films that pay homage to three well known visionary directors: Wes Anderson, Tim Burton, and Steven Spielberg. Firstly, a blacksmith’s young protégé has an important mission when a special piece of jewellery goes missing. Next, an animated short about a young boy obsessed with the movies. Finally, a teenage boy tries to save his dying brother with a plant that has special properties.

The Blacksmith (Dir. Cody Hilliard, Tiffany Mullins)

Love him or hate him, Wes Anderson has an undeniably singular style, and this fantastic tribute by Cody Hilliard and Tiffany Mullins captures both the aesthetic and the heart of those movies. A blacksmith is working on a surprise gift for his girlfriend – but an essential piece is missing thanks to his young apprentice (played brilliantly by Stephen D’Sa) who now has to make up for his mistake.

The attention to detail in this is first class. Daniel Gebert’s cinematography is suitably vintage in that yellowed Anderson way and comes complete with tracking shots, 90 degree whip pans, and stylised inserts of whimsical details, but always in service of the story. The music — which feels like well-chosen needle drops but is an entirely original score by Brandon Mooberry — skips along to the action charmingly.

I am a shameless Wes Anderson devotee and I’m well aware that he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but this little film isn’t a slaveish parody solely focused on the minutiae of his filmmaking techniques. It’s all heart. It’s the best aspects of Anderson’s work all compressed into eight minutes. Don’t forget to stay tuned for the mid-credit scene too.

Tim (Dir. Ken Turner)

We’re getting slightly meta with this next short, an animated fairytale about a boy obsessed with the movies of Tim Burton. This loving tribute to Burton’s Vincent tells the story of Timothy Gray, a loner who finds solace in the ‘strange and unusual’ characters of the movies, whose creative streak draws derision and apathy from his parents, his peers, and even his priest, who accuses him of sinful thoughts.

I love everything about this, from the swirly, carnivalesque opening to the melancholy score by Eros Cartechini (which to be fair, does owe a debt to Greensleeves). If I have one gripe it’s that the narration by Barry Parker gets buried in the audio mix and could do with being clearer. Burton’s filmography shows up in several sequences and the overall feel is dark and twisty with a childlike glee at all things that go bump in the night. Whilst most of the design and direction duties were performed by Ken Turner, shout out to Spence Robinson and Louis Norris for their animation contributions, and SunYoung Kim who designed the character costumes.

Ken is still making art on his Youtube channel. Check out Tim here:

Earthy Encounters (Dir. Sam Johnson)

This Spielberg-inspired adventurous sci-fi from the UK is an award winner with BFI backing and features Fionn O’Shea and Jessica Barden. A 15 year old boy is determined to save his brother’s life with a mysterious plant he discovered at the garden centre where he works. And of course, just like in Close Encounters or E.T., there’s an ominous government agency intent on securing the plant for nefarious use.

Right from the get go this homage hits the ground running with references (red hoodies included). Even the score by David M. Saunders sounds like the greatest hits album of John Williams. Eben Bolter’s cinematography lands the look perfectly, complete with shady characters carrying torches, lurking through the fauna. It goes without saying, but I will anyway, that the cast are first rate.

This is another example of UK filmmakers channelling their Hollywood heroes through a more subtle, more grounded lens. The car chase is a prime example (shout out to the stunt team on this production). It’s as thrilling as any blockbusting behemoth but not forgetting it’s set in a garden centre in Oxfordshire. Coming in at roughly 25 minutes, this one is definitely worth the extra investment of your time.

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