Less is More: Further Evidence That Knight Likes Funding Brevity

That didn't take long.

We recently stumbled upon news that the Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation for Documentary Photography and Film announced a call for "short-short" documentary film entries. The foundation will award a $5,000 grant to any documentary that clocks in at under 30 minutes.

It seemed like a great idea in our Twitter-obsessed age and we wondered how long it would take before we saw a similar award or competition that embraced the power of brevity. As it turns out, it took about three days.

Equipped with a $20,400 grant from the Knight Foundation, the 100 Words Film Festival kicked off its inaugural event in Charlotte, NC. The guidelines? Movies must contain exactly 100 spoken words.

Now, we admit the eligibility criteria for the 100 Words Film Festival is slightly different that the "short-short" documentary prize, but the underlying logic is the same. Keep it brief. Less is more. Get on with it already.

The festival also posits an interesting philosophical thesis. As Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker and winner Linda Midgett notes, "If you can't distill your message into 100 words, you probably don't know exactly what you're trying to say."

Well... that's debatable. Inherently complex stories and documentaries sometimes need to be framed within an appropriate context and directors may need more than 100 words to accomplish this feat. But such limitations can, of course, also present a refreshing challenge to filmmakers, which makes this festival so appealing.

The festival received 60 entries from the U.S. and abroad. Festival judges whittled the field down to 30 films, which encompassed all imaginable genres. The submission guidelines are simple. In addition to submitting 100-word films, applicants must also provide a written transcript, which immediately brings to mind an image of an intern, pencil in hand, manually counting every world. We anticipate the submission window for the 2015 installment will open early in the new year.

Incidentally, the Knight gift went toward web design, marketing and promotions, and an online application infrastructure.

It should come as no surprise that Knight would fund an effort that embraces small, yet powerful ideas. After all, the foundation's wildly successful Art Challenge asks grant-seekers to simply provide a 150-words-or-less pitch explaining why their idea will benefit the community. By embracing brevity, be it in the area of grant applications or film transcripts, Knight continues to open doors to artists and filmmakers who have been traditionally shut out of the conventional, high-stakes grant-seeking process.

In fact, this whole concept of "less is more" has triggered a kind of existential crisis of sorts for us here at IP. For example, according to our calculations, this very post is an oppressive 450 words.

Perhaps some editing is order. [Ed. note: Done. Now it's 450 words.]