Vimeo is a platform for filmmakers to showcase their work – either for free on their own channels, or for a small sum on the Vimeo on Demand service. It’s less known, however, as a way for artists to follow other artists, and collaborate on projects. A well-kept secret, Vimeo is THE place to discover stunning short movies, and the website you need to be on almost daily if you want to keep up with the latest releases in US indie filmmaking and video art. We have made a short selection of notable music videos, short films and full-length features which are available for free on the platform (and we are happy to launch our newest Movie Club category to go with those recommendations).
Lisel – Mirage (dir. Harrison Atkins)
Lisel (Eliza Bagg) is one of the most underrated musicians we know (be on the lookout for a Discover article on her work very, very soon). Her vocals-driven brand of classical-infused electronica is a perfect match for Harrison Atkins’s dreamscapes, and his use of color is simply stunning. With an offbeat choreography, a couple of Lynchian elements (a remote control and a woman behind a camera) paired together with Atkins’s usual dream-interrupters, “Mirage” is an invasion of color and a perfect video to showcase.
Chung-Ha – Play (dir. Yoo Jaehyoung)
Kim Chung-Ha is an atypical K-pop artist; while her ambitious music style comes pretty close to electro-pop, her music videos are colorful pop-art masterpieces. “Play” is a great introduction to her body of work, with impressive set design, costumes, choreography and use of color. Killing Me is her latest video, again showcasing her talent with amazing choreography, and her Querencia full-length album is an dizzyingly creative, four-part masterpiece.
FKA Twigs – Sad Day (dir. Hiro Murai)
Twigs in an urban Wuxia movie? Yes, please! Hiro Murai’s directing style is based on capturing a lot of movement from his actors, and the camerawork is simply spellbinding. “Sad Day” is a sword-fighting epic with a strange denouement: characters move gracefully through the air, while feeling like coin-operated toys on the ground. If you love what Murai does here, it’s practically guaranteed that you will enjoy his work on HBO Max’s post-pandemic masterpiece Station Eleven, the only show which, in our opinion, has managed to rival The Underground Railroad in scope and emotional width.
Lola Kirke – Win It featuring Lilah Larson (dir. Celia Rowson-Hall)
Actor and musician Lola Kirke (Mistress America, Gemini) collaborates with director/choreographer extraordinaire, Celia Rowson-Hall (who made the irreverent Ma and worked with Sarah Adina Smith on last year’s ballet masterpiece Birds of Paradise). The result is a hilarious rodeo-dance video which eventually breaks its own rules and features fragments of every dance-style you could ever imagine, and then some. And yes, there are disco lights.
Wilkinson – Half Light (dir. Aoife McArdle)
Director Aoife McArdle is one of our favorite Irish filmmakers, and if you’ve seen her magnificent full-length debut, Kissing Candice, you know what to expect from her. A great match for Wilkinson’s frantic drum and bass style, “Half Light” is another combination of social realism and fairytale – featuring car interiors, bright red kissing scenes and dreams of youth. McArdle has also worked with James Vincent McMorrow and Clock Opera and is a perfect audiovisual storyteller, her kinetic style placing her alongside visionaries like Nathalie Biancheri, Eva Riley, Miranda Harcourt and Scooter Corkle.
This Must Be The Only Fantasy (2013, dir. Todd Cole)
A Dungeons & Dragons gathering, a missing Dungeon Master, a quest to retrieve him by one of his friends who roleplays a princess (there is no princess class in D&D, but in the 5th edition there is a Noble class), this magnificent short by Matt Cole also comes with unicorns, faeries, and a Dread Knight hot on the protagonist’s tail. Highlighting the importance of stories and childhood games, this will remind comic-book readers of Kieron Gillen’s magnum opus, “Die.”
Scored by the always amazing Beach House, featuring a surprise appearance by Elijah Wood himself, this is simply one of the best shorts available on the Internet – flawed, but describing a universe of immense beauty even grown-ups will want to get lost in (and yes, a night of D&D will always sound good to this author).
Diagnosis (2017, dir. Eva Riley)
Diagnosis is utterly brilliant! Eva Riley, who made the impressive “Perfect 10“, collaborates with Charlotte Spencer (Stonemouth, The Living and The Dead, Glue) in a short that actually requires the viewer to do some digging in order to fully understand it. Disturbing dreams and anxieties surface as a young woman inhabits different characters (as an exercise for med-school? Hired by a private company?) The peacock scene is beyond amazing, and the style is reminiscent of Daisy Johnson’s “Fen” short stories. Worth seeing twice.
Let Your Heart Be Light (2018, dir. Sophy Romvari, Deragh Campbell)
Zach Clark’s White Reindeer abridged. A woman (Deragh Campbell, “Anne at 13000 Feet“) feels alone on Christmas day, and director Sophy Romvari makes that loneliness break the viewer’s heart. Even though a friend comes to visit and helps decorate the tree, when the woman starts singing, the sound is mastered so it fills the right ear – probably a nifty trick so you soon expect her friend to start singing too, in the left ear. She doesn’t. Being alone is nobody wanting to sing along.
That Doe Zone (2019, dir. Harrison Atkins)
Magnificently shot short about friendship, bridging the gap between Blissful Banquet and I Love To Wait. Atkins’s short films are about friends helping friends discover themselves, and if sometimes that means uncovering dream-worlds with clear rivers hidden behind an elevator door, then they’re about that too. Wonderfully offbeat and surreal, this is a great calling card for Watkins and his unique approach. His films can feel like the second best dreams you’ve had, with just an element of intrusion and danger making them second best.
I Remember Nothing (2015, dir. Zia Anger)
Zia Anger has worked with musicians like Jenny Hval (“Sabbath“) and Maggie Rogers (“Alaska“). Her style is delightfully surreal, relying on wonderful imagery, expressive movement and surprise elements. “I Remember Nothing” is a spellbinding short film which renders one speechless after seeing it. It belongs in a wave of last decade’s releases depicting strange, but relatable teenage survival mechanisms, along with “Some Of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby” and Jennifer Reeder’s “Knives And Skin.”
Bummer Summer (2010, dir. Zach Weintraub)
Zach Weintraub, who delighted audiences in Brandon Colvin’s “A Dim Valley” last year, directed this mumblecore gem fitting somewhere between Godard, Rohmer, and the new “Friends and Strangers.” Weintraub playfully zones in on the moral implications of blindsiding break-ups and (not so) innocent flirtations, creating a gripping scenario when the ex-girlfriend of the character he plays returns to the city from her life as a travelling musician. Julia McAlee steals the movie as Lila, Weintraub framing her as always in control. Three characters and just as many points of view, sublime black and white cinematography, one extremely random moment, and a great anticlimactic ending make for a perfect summer indie.
Frances Ferguson (2019, dir. Bob Byington)
Frances is substitute teacher with a dead marriage: she is bored and discontent. One day at school, she meets a student and she starts an affair with him, which of course she gets nabbed for.
An unapologetic movie about a transgression and the consequences, it starts off very funny and ends up in a half-weird place. The synopsis says it all, except the fact that the woman, Frances, is all casual about it, and that’s the movie’s main source of comedy. She also gives the middle finger to most people. Featuring a joke-cracking narrator, it feels very much like a Terry Zwigoff movie, or even a Todd Solondz one. Half the battle in enjoying Byington’s movies is not being judgmental.
Collective: Unconscious (2016, dir. Josephine Decker, Lauren Wolkstein, Daniel Patrick Carbone, Lily Baldwin, Frances Bodomo)
Five of independent film’s most adventurous filmmakers join forces to adapt each other’s dreams for the screen.
The first and last segments of Collective: Unconscious are simply magnificent. Carbone truly makes use of dream logic, (also, Romanian singing!), while Lily Baldwin’s dancers and excellent music choices make for an unforgettable experience. Josephine Decker’s segment is representative for her brand of tactile cinema, and then there’s the high-school volcano eruption segment – that was crazy! “Everybody Dies” has to be seen to be believed. Overall, an awesome experiment, and if you like what you see here, you can see Lauren Wolkstein’s “Social Butterfly,” Lily Baldwin’s “Sleepover in LA,” and Josephine Decker appearing in “Aquaculture.”
Overall, Vimeo is a vibrant ecosystem for creatives all over the world. We’ve made a Vimeo account in which we have followed more than a hundred film industry names which we believe have already, and will continue to shape independent cinema and the world of indie music videos in the years to come. We will add to that list as we discover new promising people, but feel free to browse it to discover unexpected delights.
Featured image is Bole Paillard 8mm Movie Camera, 2017 by Raymond Logan.
Reading material: The 2022 Spirit Independent Film Awards Nominees