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[GUEST POST] Darryl Knickrehm’s 7 Reasons You Should Be Watching Short SciFi Films

A filmmaker now exploring novel-writing and illustration, Darryl Knickrehm has 8 short films under his belt. In 2013, in addition to co-founding Waylines Magazine, Darryl was a finalist in The Illustrators of the Future. Twice. This year he is releasing the dystopian series, The Citizens of Oblivion. The first book, In Dreams, is out now, with the next installment, Sympathy for the Devil, set for March 3. For more information on other projects, check out, his blog, or on twitter as @DarrylKnickrehm.

7 Reasons You Should Be Watching Short SciFi Films

by Darryl Knickrehm

In the past year, while selecting short films to screen at Waylines Magazine, I came across movies that wowed me, shocked me, and captured my imagination — films that were technically every bit as good as what is coming out of Hollywood. They featured invading aliens, fantastic bike chases, impossible numbers, and amazing battles. And they were all under twenty minutes.

The thing is, most people don’t even know they exist. Most people don’t even know of the world of short film. If you’re one of those people, you’ve got a universe of at your fingertips just waiting to be discovered.

Perfect for the fast paced life of the modern homo sapien, one can watch a short film during the commute to work, on a break, or at any other opportunity (hopefully not during work). They can feature production values that at one time only the big studios could afford. They can include visual effects so lifelike that it’s hard to determine what is real and what isn’t. They can be everything a big budget Hollywood film is, but in a bite-sized chuck we can fit into a break and onto that gizmo in the palm of our hands. And for us science fiction fans, there is a treasure trove out there waiting to be discovered.

So just where can we find some these micro cinematic gems? Here are 7 of the most interesting sci-fi short films I found in the past year.


I might as well start with the biggest film on the list — Ruin. This amazing CG motorcycle chase through an apocalyptic landscape is the kind of thing video game junkies and action fans die for. And while there isn’t a huge amount of story fit into this 8 minute package, the quality of CG, editing and direction will impress pretty much anyone. It certainly impressed the producers at Fox because now director Wes Ball is working on the feature-length remake for them.

The Gate

A drug is causing people to change into monsters! It may sound like a typical anime plot, but director Matt Westrup has done an amazing job putting a realistic spin on the idea in The Gate. While it took only 4 days to shoot, The Gate took 4 years for Westrup to come up with the realistic VFX and presentation (Waylines did a feature on its making in Issue 2). Luckily it looks like all that work paid off. Westrup is currently working on a feature film remake of the concept at Wayfare Entertainment.


Pixels is a fast, fun little film about pixelated invaders overtaking the world. Director Patrick Jean, has infused this tried and true sci-fi trope with a bit of retro gaming to give it a music-video flavor you won’t forget. As Jean told me in an interview with Waylines, “(it) was supposed to be a music video, then a friend convinced me it would have a better life in festivals and stuff if it was made under the form of a short film. He was damn right!’ The film was a great success. So much so that Jean too has signed with a studio to make a feature length remake. Until that film becomes a reality, however, watch the short.


This film I’m the most excited about. First, it comes from a fellow Chapman film school graduate. Second, it’s simply a kick-ass film. Initially funded by a kickstarter campaign, this alien invasion of Liberty Airlines Flight 298 has all the thrills of a blockbuster action flick, but clocks in at only 13 minutes. It is pretty much an introduction for a much bigger alien invasion, and one that looks like is coming. Paramount picked up the rights for the feature length film, and I was lucky enough to get a quick word with Baker a few months back, and it sounds like it is going well.

An insane asylum, a mad scientist, a number that can’t possibly exist — these are the things that kick those genre-loving endorphin glands into overdrive. They are also part of the intriguing tale of The Secret Number. Originally a short story by Igor Teper, director Colin Levy has crafted a wonderfully cinematic piece of psychological sci-fi ( you can learn more about the process that went into the translation of the story to film in the feature in Issue 4 of Waylines.) But in Levy’s own words “it’s not a film for everybody: some people are stoked and other are confused.” I for one fall in to the ‘stoked’ crowd and hope Levy goes on to making feature-length films. For now, he is over at Pixar.


Rosa is another all-CG action-fest. Basically it’s one big fight between cyborgs, but what makes Rosa truly impressive is that this complex film was all done by one man – Jesus Orellana. And like many of the others on this list, his hard work attracted the attention of Hollywood. He’s now making a live-action feature of Rosa at Fox. It’s really an inspirational story for what a filmmaker can truly accomplish nowadays on his/her own. That, and it’s a helluva lot of fun to watch.

The Candidate

I’ll finish up with a film that takes a different direction from the others. Instead of featuring amazing CG or slick production values, The Candidate relies on skillful direction, acting and film making. In director David Karlak’s own words, The Candidate is “a modern take on the voodoo trope“, trimming out the fantasy and installing a real-world believability. The result: an intense, memorable experience. On top of that, it features Star Trek Voyager‘s Robert Picardo.

These films are just a taste of what is being made right now. From cinematic gems, to amazing animations, to star-driven mini-features, there are many more short films out there just waiting to be found. One place to find some of them is over at Waylines Magazine. You can find more on Vimeo, Youtube and other sites dedicated to short film. Wherever you start searching, there are some amazing discoveries that await you.

7 Comments on [GUEST POST] Darryl Knickrehm’s 7 Reasons You Should Be Watching Short SciFi Films

  1. David Greybeard // February 13, 2014 at 11:28 am //

    Excellent. I have a hard time watching just one short film. But having a good selection like this is much more interesting. I’ll be watching these this evening.

    Love to see this as a regular SF Signal feature.

  2. I don’t know; it seems the ones I’ve seen in the past emphasized style over substance.

    • Darryl Knickrehm // February 13, 2014 at 7:18 pm //

      I think it’s hard to fit a satisfying story into a 5-10 minute short, so that could be why some short films end up lacking that. If you’re looking for a more story-based short, in the list above, The Secret Number, The Candidate, and Vessel, are good ones to check out.

  3. Ryan Viergutz // February 14, 2014 at 4:01 pm //

    I love short movies and sometimes watch them obsessively. 🙂

    There was one called “In Chambers” that was extremely short but extraordinarily bizarre. Girl wakes up in a weird prison where they take people away…

    “Loom” was amazing, too, about a scientist in a corporate world who’s working on a project in secret.

  4. I put together a Science Fiction short film program for Cinequet this year (it’s called Shifted Realities) that’s got some really boss flicks like Sorry About Tomorrow ( and the world premiere of A Stitch in Time (for 9.99). Sadly, almost none of the films are on-line.

    Also, I’m working on putting together the Silicon Valley Science Fiction Short Film Festival. So far we’ve got a ton of great European films submitted!

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