From Short to Series

A short film can be an amazing proof-of-concept for a larger project. Many top shorts are adapted into feature films. Now a new trend is on the rise: adapting short films into television shows. This is a trend we are happy to see unfold in New Zealand as well as internationally. Award-winning Kiwi animation Fire in Cardboard City is currently being adapted into a series that will air on TVNZ later this year. It’s fitting that we now bring you three top short films that have sprouted into television shows. 

These three American short films offer well-crafted story worlds with engaging characters; Clearly displaying the talents of these directors, and the potential for the story to be expanded. Note there is a little R16 content here that is NSFW. 

Sequin Raze

Sequin Raze is a disenchanted memoire drawn from Sarah Gertrude Shapiro’s experience as a producer on The Bachelor. She frankly reveals the casual coercion and emotional brutality on the set of a fictional television show. We all know reality television isn’t ‘real’ but what we didn’t realise before is the breathtaking deceit involved! 

It’s hard to see where the character ends and the filmmaker begins here. Both are feminist producers who specialise in facilitating sparkling on-camera meltdowns. Caught between their values and a lucrative talent for manipulation. That’s part of what makes it such good television.  

This is a project Shapiro made while taking part in the American Film Institute Conservatory Directing Workshop for Women. The short film garnered an Honorable Mention at SXSW’s Short Film Jury Awards in 2013. It’s no surprise Sequin Raze was noticed and turned into a television show. If you love reality television or love to hate it, UnReal is must-see viewing. 

Watch the trailer for the TV show UnReal here. Seasons 1-4 are available on Lightbox. 


SMILF (Single Mom That Would Like to F**k) is a short comedy written, directed and starring Frankie Shaw. SMILF premiered at Sundance in 2015 where it took home the Jury Prize for U.S. Fiction. Shortly after it was picked up by Showtime as half-hour comedy series.  

There are a lot of shows about parenthood out there, but they tend to feature overly-perfect well-off parents. Consider this the anti-thesis to that. The short film and subsequent television series are inspired by Shaw’s own experiences. She plays Bridgette Bird, a young working-class single mom looking to get lucky. It’s a raw and honest look at motherhood. Exploring the loss of freedom, physical changes, emotional and financial struggles that come with being a solo mum.  

 While the writing may be blunt there is an endearing sweetness to Shaw’s performance, and a clear path to expand the story and add more encounters.  

Watch the trailer for SMILF the TV show here. 


Marcus Melville struggles to confide in his loved ones when he is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Unwilling to burden them Melville internalises his pain until an encounter with an old friend reminds him of the man he used to be: A musician capable of baring his soul to an audience of strangers. This powerful moment of catharsis is the wake-up call he needed.  

Writer/director James M. Johnston offers a refreshing portrayal of an African American man in Melville, which debuted at SXSW in 2015. The short has been garnering critical acclaim ever since. Now it’s rightly headed to television with some big-name producers on board.  

 The film shows how important the arts are for people to express their inner demons. It’s gorgeously shot, with warm pools of light and inky wells of shadow. A genuinely moving character piece with fantastic nuanced performances. But it’s the touching original score that truly elevates the film. The soulful mixture of blues and rap conveying everything Melville feels but can’t say.