Watch 30+ Exceptional Short Films for Free in The New Yorker’s Online Screening Room

For short films, find­ing an audi­ence is an often uphill bat­tle. Even major award win­ners strug­gle to reach view­ers out­side of the fes­ti­val cir­cuit.

Thank good­ness for The Screen­ing Room, The New Yorker’s online plat­form for shar­ing short films.

It’s a mag­nif­i­cent free buf­fet for those of us who’d like noth­ing bet­ter than to gorge our­selves on these lit­tle gems.

If you’re not yet a fan of the form, allow us to sug­gest that any one of the 30 fic­tion­al shorts post­ed in The Screen­ing Room could func­tion as a superb palate cleanser between binge watch­es of more reg­u­lar fare.

Take co-direc­tors Ami­na Sut­ton and Maya Tanaka’s hilar­i­ous The Price of Cheap Rent, clock­ing in at 6 1/2 min­utes, above.

A com­mu­ni­ty-sup­port­ed project, star­ring Sut­ton and shot in Tanaka’s Brook­lyn apart­ment, it’s a com­e­dy of man­ners that brings fresh mean­ing to the semi-con­tro­ver­sial phrase “Bed Stuy, Do or Die.”

Sut­ton plays a young Black artist with a mas­ters from Yale, a gig behind the bar at Applebee’s, and a keen inter­est in posi­tion­ing her­self as an influ­encer, an ambi­tion the film­mak­ers lam­poon with glee.

When she dis­cov­ers that her new apart­ment is haunt­ed, she is “so freaked the f&ck out,” she spends a week sleep­ing in the park, before ven­tur­ing back:

And it’s a stu­dio, so it’s like liv­ing in a clown car of hell.

But once she dis­cov­ers (or pos­si­bly just decides) that the major­i­ty of the ghosts are Black, she begins plan­ning a pod­cast and makes her peace with stay­ing put.

Pros: the rent’s a lot less than the 1‑bathroom dump she shared with five room­mates, there’s laun­dry in the base­ment, and the ghosts, whom she now con­ceives of as ances­tors, share many of her inter­ests — his­to­ry, the arts, and the 1995 live action/CGI adap­ta­tion of Casper the Friend­ly Ghost. (They give Ghost­busters a thumbs down.)

Cons: the ghost of an 18th-cen­tu­ry Dutch Protes­tant set­tler whose white fragili­ty man­i­fests in irri­tat­ing, but man­age­able ways.

Those with 18 min­utes to spare should check out Joy Joy Nails, anoth­er very fun­ny film hing­ing on iden­ti­ty.

Every day a group of salty, young Kore­an women await the van that will trans­port them from their cramped quar­ters in Flush­ing, Queens, to a nail salon in a ritzi­er — and, judg­ing by the cus­tomers, far whiter — neigh­bor­hood.

Writer-direc­tor Joey Ally con­trasts the salon’s aggres­sive­ly pink decor and the employ­ees’ chum­my def­er­ence to their reg­u­lar cus­tomers with the grub­bi­ness of the break room and the trans­ac­tion­al nature of the exchange.

“Any­one not fired with enthu­si­asm… will be!” threat­ens a yel­lowed notice taped in the employ­ees only area.

Behind the reg­is­ter, the veil is lift­ed a bit, nar­row­ing the upstairs/downstairs divide with real­is­ti­cal­ly home­made signs:


Like Sut­ton and Tana­ka, Ally is versed in hor­ror tropes, inspir­ing dread with close ups of pumice stones, emory boards, and cuti­cle trim­mers at work.

When a more objec­tive view is need­ed, she cuts to the black-and-white secu­ri­ty feed under the recep­tion counter.

When one of the cus­tomers calls to ask if her miss­ing ear­ring was left in the wax­ing room, the sto­ry takes a trag­ic turn, though for rea­sons more com­plex than one might assume.

Ally’s script punc­tures the all-too-com­mon per­cep­tion of nail salon employ­ees as a mono­lith­ic immi­grant mass to explore themes of dom­i­nance and bias between rep­re­sen­ta­tives of var­ied cul­tures, a point dri­ven home by the sub­ti­tles, or absence there­of.

The 2017 film also tapped into its release year zeit­geist with a plot point involv­ing the boss’ son.

On a tight sched­ule? You can still squeeze in Undis­cov­ered, direc­tor Sara Litzen­berg­er’s 3‑minute ani­ma­tion from 2014.

Iden­ti­ty fac­tors in here, too, as a Sasquatch-like crea­ture ter­ri­fies a string of cam­era wield­ing humans in its attempt to get a pho­to­graph that will show it as it wish­es to be per­ceived.

It’s an eas­i­ly digest­ed delight, suit­able for all ages.

Explore all 30+ fic­tion­al shorts in the Screen­ing Room for free here or on The New York­er’s YouTube playlist. You can find them all embed­ded and stream­able below.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Watch the Oscar-Win­ning Ani­mat­ed Short “Hair Love”

Watch 66 Oscar-Nom­i­nat­ed-and-Award-Win­ning Ani­mat­ed Shorts Online, Cour­tesy of the Nation­al Film Board of Cana­da

Watch 36 Short Ani­ma­tions That Tell the Ori­gin Sto­ries of Mexico’s Indige­nous Peo­ples in Their Own Lan­guages

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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