The short that became Boogie Nights

26 April, 2012 9:53am

As Virgin Media Shorts returns for another year, so too does our beloved series examining short films that went on to become feature-length, cinematic gems. This week, we’ve been delving into the dark underbelly of 70s LA..

In 1988, a 17-year-old Paul Thomas Anderson shot a half hour mockumentary on VHS and painstakingly edited it using two VCRs (hey, it was the 80s, kids).  He roped in family friend Robert Ridgley to play a porn movie director, and got his obviously laid back dad to do the voiceover. The end result? The Dirk Diggler Story which, eight years later, became Anderson’s cult classic Boogie Nights, starring Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds and Mark Wahlberg.

The short documents the rise and fall of Stephen Samuel Adams, a young chap from a religious background who goes on to become a porn star by the name of Dirk. As his star rises, so too does his ego, and Dirk leaves porn behind to pursue a career in music and acting, before ultimately dying of a drug overdose.

Not a million miles away from the plot of Boogie Nights. There are a few marked differences, not least the tragic ending,  but it’s the similarities that stand out – note the brilliant opening credits, which are just as fantastic as those in the feature length film. That a 17-year old’s vision can stand the test of time it impressive; that it stayed true to that vision and became one of the stand-out films of the 90s, even more so.

Photo by c.Newline/Everett/Rex Features

 

The consistency could be down, in part, to Anderson’s earlier venture into film making. In 1996, his film Hard Eight, an expansion on an earlier short film, Coffee and Cigarettes, opened at Cannes to mixed reviews. Anderson wasn’t best pleased with the studio, after they recut the film without his permission. Shortly after, Anderson set to work on expanding The Dirk Diggler Story, writing an epic 300 page script, and, it would seem, making darn sure that he had more creative control.

Sadly, the film is damn near impossible to track down online - all that’s available is this two minute excerpt. The film lives on in all its feature length glory, though, what with the acclaimed Boogie Nights having been nominated for three Oscars, two BAFTAs and winning a Golden Globe.  

That’s all from me this week, folks. We’ll be back next time with another inspiring tale of a little short that achieved big things.

Emma Allen

More shorts that became features: Saw | Half Nelson | District 9 | The Evil Dead

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