Quantum Shorts 2016, organized by The Centre for Quantum Technologies, calls itself a "festival for quantum-inspired films.” The rules for the competition are simple: Film makers should craft a great five-minute story inspired by quantum physics and submit it to the festival by December 1, 2016. The film should be suitable for general audiences and either be in English or have English subtitles. There is no entry fee. Up to ten short listed films will be screened by Scientific American and Nature on our video platforms starting Feb 3, 2017. The judges’ top pick is awarded $1500, second place takes home $1000, and the People’s Choice gets $500. All short listed films are paid a $250 screening fee and get a free one year subscription to Scientific American.

As one of the judges, I can tell you what I value in a film. Of course, since this is a competitive festival, I want to know that the film fits within the festival guidelines, including relating to quantum physics in a meaningful way, respecting intellectual property, and achieving high tech standards. The visuals should be powerful, beautiful, and grab me within the first 3 seconds. I like a simple narrative arc I could explain to someone else. But I also want the story to have enough subtlety and creativity that my description ends with “but you have to see it —it is so much more than what I can say in words alone.”

I want to learn something I did not know or appreciate before. I hate films that make me feel stupid or uninformed, which happens when the tone is either condescending or calibrated too high. Finally, I like films that show confidence in themselves. I tend to roll my eyes when a character in a film says “Wow” to indicate to the audience that that is how they should feel at that moment. If a film maker has constructed the scene right, the audience will say “wow." If not, then having the character say it on screen won’t fix the problem.

Good luck to all the entrants! For the rest of us, I can’t wait to see some talented film makers show us something we never saw before!

FYI, here are some examples from past winners