Short and sweet 16

In these days of DVD, early works by directors such as Ridley Scott, Stephen Daldry, Mike Leigh, Lynne Ramsay and Christopher Nolan should be easy to find. But not when the films in question are just a few minutes long. Even the best shorts tend to have the life span of a mayfly, disappearing into the dark recesses of the archives after a brief exposure at festivals and on late-night TV.

But now Luke Morris, the 27-year-old producer of Toby MacDonald’s award-winning 2000 short “Je t’aime John Wayne,” is trying to put that right. He has compiled a DVD of 16 significant British shorts from the past half century, which he will release in March under the title “Cinema 16.”

The disk, which includes commentaries by every director, mingles oldies such as Scott’s 1958 debut “Boy and Bicycle,” Peter Greenaway’s 1976 ode to the British phone box “Dear Phone” and Leigh’s 1987 vignette “The Short and Curlies” with a selection of recent BAFTA winners by helmers who have yet to graduate onto full-length movies.

Other highlights include Nolan’s surreal “Doodlebug,” made when he was a literature student at London’s University College; Daldry’s “Eight,” marking his first move from stage to screen; Ramsay’s “Gasman,” winner of the Cannes Jury Prize; Jim Gillespie’s “Joyride,” the short which got him the job of directing “I Know What You Did Last Summer”; and Asif Kapadia’s “The Sheep Thief,” another Cannes victor which foreshadowed his acclaimed debut movie “The Warrior.”

It’s more a labor of love than a money-making exercise for Morris, funded out of the profits (amazing that there were any) from “Je t’aime John Wayne,” which is also included on the disk. “The point is to win back people’s confidence in shorts,” he says. “I’m trying to make them a little bit sexier.” He expects the core audience to be film students and other wannabes, not just in the U.K. but around the world. The disk is available via its own Web site — — and, if it’s a success, Morris plans to do more, expanding the scope to include films from other countries.

Ritchie dabbles with Kabbala

Guy Ritchie has written a script inspired by the Kabbala, the mystical Jewish philosophy of which he and his wife Madonna are devotees. What this script consists of is anyone’s guess — the Kabbala is essentially an esoteric re-reading of the Book of Genesis — but after the disaster of “Swept Away,” it’s hard to imagine that Sony, where Ritchie has a first-look deal, would look favorably upon such a project. The studio is still hoping his next film will be an adaptation of the London gangster novel “Layer Cake.”

Myriad, Samuelsons prep ‘Gap Year’

In 1970, Peter Samuelson spent the year between school and university working as an interpreter rising to become an assistant director on the Steve McQueen car racing movie “Le Mans,” a legendarily chaotic and overblown production. Thirty-three years later, Samuelson and his brother Marc have struck a deal with Myriad Pictures to develop and co-produce a movie loosely inspired by that experience, with the working title “My Gap Year.” “It’s a coming of age story, an ‘Almost Famous’ set in the world of films and fast cars,” says Marc Samuelson.

East flogs booze

Between polishing his golf swing and developing projects through his new Spitfire Films, former Intermedia honcho Guy East has found himself a new career — as a vintner. East bought boutique importer Longford Wines last year, and has been enthusiastically touting its list around his film biz buddies. He has even talked the British Academy of Film & TV Arts into setting up a wine club, supplied by Longford. In these tough times for indie film sales (and with figures just published showing that Brits buy more imported wine than any other country in the world), it’s probably more profitable than making movies.

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