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Short-form content has graduated from YouTube to attracting big stars, big studios and big Hollywood backing. Is watching in snippets the future of TV?

State of the Union opens in a bar, where Tom (Chris ODowd) and Louise (Rosamund Pike) hash out an agenda for their marital therapy session over drinks and witty diversions. The two banter and alternately confront and avoid the flailing state of their marriage, before the scene cuts at the therapists door.

And by scene, I mean episode. Each instalment of State of the Union, developed and written by Nick Hornby for Sundance TV, lasts a mere 10 minutes less than half the length of a standard sitcom, and just over a tenth of the latest episode of Game of Thrones. The show, with its two principal characters and single-scene conceit, is peak TV in short-form, specifically designed to fit the time spent between subway stops. At 100 minutes a season, its a refreshing antidote to seemingly endless hours of original shows, said Daniel DAddario, chief TV critic at Variety. There are so many shows nowadays where I think people really feel the burn, because shows can be as long as creators and streaming services want them to be, and they can often be longer than consumers need them to be, he told the Guardian.

Short-form content is not new ask anyone who has gone down a YouTube hole of music videos, makeup tutorials or cooking how-tos but State of the Union represents a growing trend of snackable, stylish short-form from some of Hollywoods major players.

Netflix recently debuted two series with episodes of about 15 minutes: Special, a show about life as a gay man with cerebral palsy adapted from writer and star Ryan OConnells memoir, and Bonding, a series based on creator Rightor Doyles past as the bodyguard for a dominatrix. Just last week, Adult Swim greenlit the quarter-hour comedy series Three Busy Debras, from star Sandy Honig (Isnt It Romantic) and producer Amy Poehler. And the upcoming short-form video platform Quibi arriving from Hollywood titan Jeffrey Katzenberg, formerly the head of Dreamworks, and former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman announced the series #Freerayshawn, directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring If Beale Street Could Talk breakout star Stephan James.

In other words, short-form has gone prestige. Once the purview of DIY YouTubers and aspiring creatives looking for a big break (Issa Rae graduated from the minutes-long webseries The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl to HBOs full-length comedy Insecure), short-form now commands a deep well of resources the backing of major studios, streaming-service budgets and top talent. And as the slate of original content continues to expand, scripted short-form TV may become the most contested battleground for heavyweight tech and content companies, as everyone from Snap to YouTube to Sundance TV compete for a quarter-hour snippet of attention.

A still from Special Photograph: Netflix

Katzenberg has declared the shift to short-form as era-defining, telling a crowd at South by Southwest: Five years from now, we want to come back on this stage and if we were successful, there will have been the era of movies, the era of television and the era of Quibi. What Google is to search, Quibi will be to short-form video.

Quibi, short for quick-bite, is a $5 a month subscription service that will break full-length TV and movies into mobile-optimized six to 10 minute chunks. Set to launch in April 2020, the service is already worth more than $1bn and is developing projects with Lena Waithe, Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro, Justin Timberlake and a Fatal Attraction 2.0 thriller with Naomi Watts.

Its still too early to tell whether Quibis world of short-form will fundamentally reshape the hierarchy of Hollywood content. But shows like State of the Union have already demonstrated that scripted short-form can open up TV to new formats and voices that might not otherwise make it to series in a traditional length.

Special and Bonding, for example, both feature marginalized perspectives who challenge the TV status quo, and were probably considered a risk in finding a broad audience on broadcast. Netflixs vice-president of product, Todd Yelling, has said that the decision to go short, standard or long depends on the material. Its really about flexibility in storytelling. Some stories are best told in six minutes and some stories are best told in 10 hours, he told Variety in March.

State of the Union isnt about inclusion, but it is a show that for many reasons couldnt really work at 30 minutes because of Rosamund Pikes stature, because of the kind of story that its trying to tell, said DAddario. Each episode is less truncated sitcom than entry in a length-based genre a short story to a novel, DAddario said, made possible by the proliferation of streaming. Streaming presents this real opportunity to experiment that on broadcast and even on a lot of cable, you cant really do a shorter show, he said. Youre locked into these time slots and these formats.

Chris ODowd and Rosamund Pike in State of the Union. Photograph: Marc Hom/SundanceTV

For Sundance TV, which has both a cable arm and a streaming service, the quality of the short product justified the risk of finding viewers. We loved the idea of using these incredibly talented people to break new ground in television, its executive director Jan Diedrichsen said to the Guardian. Sundance TV played each new episode of State of the Union linearly, at 10pm each night, and made them available for streaming at 5pm, in time for the evening commute. If youre on the train, youre on the bus, youre carpooling, what a great time to be able to catch 10 minutes of an episode in a way that a 50-minute episode may not be open to you, said Diedrichsen of the reasoning.

DAddario said thats exactly how he watched I Think You Should Leave, Tim Robinsons 15-minute sketch comedy show on Netflix and enjoyed it.

These kind of fast-moving 15-minute shows that are trying to do a couple things really well, and are youre in and youre out in a quarter of an hour, are a really satisfying mobile experience.

I love the fact that the creativity around this format really gives you a different sort of satisfying feel in premium television, said Diedrichsen of the length experiment. While its too soon to know how viewers responded to State of the Union did they watch episodes individually? All at once? Diedrichsen loves how the show takes the short-form structure and it makes it premium. The talent, the production values everything about it feels prestige and high-end.

Snappy dialogue, expensive lighting, slick production its the hallmarks of so-called prestige TV, pared down to the anti-Thrones extreme. In that way, the new short-form is as characteristic of the streaming era as is an overlong, somewhat bloated series, said DAddario.

I started watching State of the Union for this piece, intending to get a taste of the format through two or three episodes. But soon I fell into the rhythm of binge-watching, that liminal space where real-life hours become show minutes and the pull of responsibilities faded with each autoplay. Its not unusual for me to lose a whole sleepless night to an engaging seven episodes of TV. This time, though, it was just my lunch break.

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Martin McDonaghs dark comedy-drama takes home five awards in ceremony hosted for the first time by Joanna Lumley

Three Billboards triumphs as Time’s Up dominates the 2018 Baftas

Martin McDonaghs dark comedy-drama takes home five awards in ceremony hosted for the first time by Joanna Lumley

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, the bleak, bitter, blistering comedy about injustice in small-town America, took the major honours at the 2018 Bafta film awards on Sunday night.

It was a starry, glamorous ceremony, at which the sexual-harassment shame of the film industry and the the subsequent Times Up movement were ever present.

But it was also about celebrating and rewarding cinema, with Three Billboards winning five awards including best film, best British film and, for its writer and director Martin McDonagh, best original screenplay.

What Im most proud of, McDonagh told the Royal Albert Hall audience, especially in this Times Up year, is it is a film about a woman who refuses to take any more shit.

He said the same could be true of its star Frances McDormand, who plays Mildred, a woman with a burning sense of injustice over the police failure to find the killer of her daughter. She won best actress and, wearing a dress not totally black, she admitted having a little trouble with compliance. Nonetheless, she said she stood in full solidarity with her sisters and finished her acceptance speech with the words: Power to the people.

As expected by everybody everywhere, including some bookies who offered unappealing odds of 1/25, Gary Oldman won the best actor award for his spookily accurate portrayal of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, one that involved daily four-hour makeup sessions.

Oldman, who called it a tremendous honour, had been nominated twice before, for his portrayals of Joe Orton and George Smiley, but had never won a Bafta for acting. He is hot favourite to repeat the victory at next months Oscars.

Sam Rockwell, who won best supporting actor for his portrayal of a spectacularly dumb, racist cop in Three Billboards, described himself as a journeyman actor and dedicated the award to his pal, Alan Rickman. He also said he was someone who stood on the shoulders of strong, intelligent and righteous women, including McDormand.

Daniel Kaluuya holds his EE Rising Star award backstage at the Baftas Photograph: Jonny Birch/BAFTA/REX/Shutterstock

The only prize decided by the public, the EE Rising Star award, went to British actor Daniel Kaluuya, star of the horror-comedy Get Out, who won from a list that also included Florence Pugh, Josh OConnor, Tessa Thompson and Timothe Chalamet.

Dedicating the award to his mother, he said: I am a product of arts funding within the UK. I would like to thank people who financially support that.

The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toros moving story of a woman who falls in love with an Amazonian sea creature, had been expected by many people to sweep up. It received the most nominations, 12, and came away with three wins: production design and music and, for Guillermo del Toro, best director.

Del Toro said British culture had been a big influence on his work and career particularly Mary Shelley.

There was no dominating juggernaut of a film. The Bafta record nine wins for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid remained safe for another year.

The awards were more evenly spread than in many years. Allison Janney, for example, won best supporting actress for I, Tonya. Blade Runner 2049 won best special effects and cinematography. Dunkirk won best sound.

It was the first ceremony presented by Joanna Lumley, who succeeded Stephen Fry, and in her opening comments she talked of the resonance of the Suffragettes and events today. A century ago, the Suffragettes laid the ground work for the kind of dogged resistance and powerful protest that has carried forward today with the Times Up movement, and with it the determination to eradicate the inequality and abuse of women the world over, Lumley said.

Virtually all women at the ceremony wore black in some form; one striking exception was the Duchess of Cambridge, who wore dark green. Some actors brought along feminist activists rather than their partners or mums. Gemma Chan, for example, was with Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism project. Naomie Harris was with Guardian columnist Afua Hirsch. Gemma Arterton brought along Eileen Pullen and Gwen Davis, former workers and walker-outers at Fords Dagenham plant in 1968. Andrea Riseborough was accompanied by Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, the co-founder of UK Black Pride.

Opoku-Gyimah, known as Lady Phyll, said being there was an important act of solidarity: We want to amplify the voices of women who have been ostracised and marginalised.

Gary Oldman, best actor winner for Darkest Hour. Photograph: James Gourley/Bafta/Rex/Shutterstock

Earlier in the day, the Observer published a letter signed by 190 British and Irish actors, in which they spoke out on sexual harassment, discrimination and abuse. It said the movement was at a critical juncture and pointed out: The gender pay gap for women in their 20s is now five times greater than it was six years ago. Research in the UK has found that more than half of all women said they have experienced sexual harassment at work. A growing reliance on freelance work forces creates power relationships which are conducive to harassment and abuse.

Also launched over the weekend was the UK Justice and Equality Fund, a new body that will provide a network of expert advice, support and advocacy organisations across the UK. Among the donors was Emma Watson, who gave 1m.

Other awards given at the ceremony included one for I Am Not Your Negro, named best documentary; Disneys Coco, which won best animated film; The Handmaiden, winning best film not in the English language; and one for Rungano Nyoni and Emily Morganm who won the outstanding British debut award for I Am Not a Witch. James Ivory, one half of Merchant Ivory, won best adapted screenplay for Call Me By Your Name.

The Bafta fellowship went to director Sir Ridley Scott. In his acceptance speech, Scott praised his teachers for starting him on his journey. Teaching is the most important of professions, he said. Sort that out and social problems will get sorted out. The outstanding British contribution to cinema award went to the National Film and Television School (NFTS).

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Sally Hawkins shines as a mute woman in Guillermo del Toros Oscar hopeful The Shape of Water. But imagine if cinema actually opened up to film-makers with disabilities

Isn’t it time we let disabled actors and directors make their own films?

Sally Hawkins shines as a mute woman in Guillermo del Toros Oscar hopeful The Shape of Water. But imagine if cinema actually opened up to film-makers with disabilities

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