As a filmmaker, could the following lines inspire you to create a short film?

WHAT IS THAT?

IT’S A UNICORN.

NEVER SEEN ONE UPCLOSE BEFORE.

BEAUTIFUL.

GET AWAY. GET AWAY.

I’M SORRY.

This the question Ridley Scott Associates Films (RSA Films) put to their various creative teams all over the world, asking each to create a short film using only the above lines. Subject or setting didn’t matter, and the teams had free reign to create whatever they wanted.

A filmmaker’s dream. And create they did. The result is the web series Parallel Lines, a collection of unrelated short films sharing only these lines of dialog.

RSA Films is no stranger to high-grade internet-only short films. In 2002 they created ‘Beat The Devil‘ for BMW Films under the direction of The Man Ridley Scott himself. Now it’s Phillips Cinema‘s turn to wow us commoners with some short films, and Parallel Lines does not disappoint.

Most of the films seem to have little in common with actual unicorns, and they didn’t have to. Variably the unicorn is but a tattoo on a girls butt-cheek, the name of a kid’s cardboard space ship, the unrevealed inside of a mysterious box and even just a simple mule. Only in one it is a… oh, never mind.

True to the international theme the short films are in various subject and languages (with subtitles, although we all know the dialog by now). El Secreto de Mateo is Spanish, while the most FX laden one, The Gift, is in Russian. In fact, depicting a very dystopian Moscow, The Gift feels like something a pre-District 9 Neill Blomkamp would have created. While most are live action films peppered with adept special effects, Jun and the Hidden Skies is a fully CGI created gem.

The stories vary radically as well. El Secreto is a touching brother-sister story, The Gift an action-packed sci-fi tale, Hidden Skies a child’s-dream cartoon, The Hunt a fast-paced drama, and Darkroom a tight, visually compelling thriller.

The five films however do not stand alone. In an interesting move RSA Films asked filmmakers far and wide to create their own short-film using the same parameters in an international YouTube competition. The winners will receive a few all-expense-paid trips to the RSA office of their choice to get some hands-on training. And then there are the TV sets of course, which is what this is all about.

Branding web series has been both a blessing and a curse. They’re also the only way to make any money on the web. Under the right circumstances the shows produced under a budget for a corporation have given filmmakers the possibility to expand and experiment with concepts and storytelling, and yet gives the companies footing the bill a fantastic advertisement outlet. While others have just simply been silly commercials, the smartly produced shows, such as Parallel Lines, have also given web series much needed respect.