What is a short film?
A short film can be as short as one minute to one hour, anything longer than that is considered as a feature film.
The main aspect of a short film is the story it entails, there can be as many or as little characters and locations but the story line is the most important part. Originally, films were made as long as the actual film strip would last, which was fairly short.
“The very first films were presented to the public in 1894 through Thomas Edison’s Kinetoscope, a peepshow-like device for individual viewing”. – (Davies, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/film-life/7593291/The-long-history-of-short-films.html , Apr 2010)
However, as the 1900’s dawned, films began to get longer with more content. Often, these short films would solely be “actuality” or “interest” films depicting celebrities, royal processions, travelogues, current affairs and scenes from everyday life.” (Davies, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/film-life/7593291/The-long-history-of-short-films.html , Apr 2010)
Short films do not usually have specific genres; it is defined by its length. “Short film is not a genre description or category but rather a generic term used ever since the early days of cinema to describe all possible forms and genres of film” – (Reinhard W. Wolf editor@ shortfilm.de, http://www.shortfilm.de/en/short-film-magazine/archive/topic/what-is-cinema-what-is-short-film.html, 2006) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1954972/
Why make them?
Short films are usually made by aspiring film makers who aim to try and promote their talents to other film makers who may take them on as interns.
It is a good way to test an idea for a story out. If you have the initial ideas in creating a film, a short film is an effective way in order to make a pilot version before creating the whole film itself. It is also less expensive
“you might be pursuing a career in filmmaking and want to demonstrate your skills” –( http://www.bbc.co.uk/filmnetwork/filmmaking/guide/introduction/why-make-a-short)
Although not that well recognised or advertised, short films are found to be very entertaining, and obviously not very time consuming.
“With a short film you can keep the audience’s interest far easier than a long, dragging picture… make each individual part of the film mean something which helps to make the whole piece more impactful, … spend less time worry about budget and actor salary because they are engaged for a shorter amount of time.” – (http://www.theshortsheet.com/2012/08/01/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-short-film/ August 12th 2012)
The UK Film Council (which has now been taken over by the British Film Industry) has spent £15 million a year funding short films, feature films and new upcoming talents. The BFI “supports filmmakers in the UK who are emerging or world class and capable of creating distinctive and entertaining work”- (http://www.bfi.org.uk/film-industry/lottery-funding-development-production)
The website below is by a “filmmaker and producer/director working in both film and television“:
“To get finance for your projects requires a strong and compelling core idea, in depth research, a clear plan for what you want to achieve, and most importantly, the ability to create a strong proposal package for your short film.” –( William Mager, http://wlmager.com/funding-guide/).
Certain film companies such as ‘Film London’ offer finance programs to upcoming short films and work alongside the BFI London Film Festival. “Film London Production Finance Market will table 800 face-to-face meetings between film producers and financiers (as well as financier-to-financier meetings) over the course of the market”-(http://filmlondon.org.uk/business_and_training/finance/pfm) which allow opportunities for filmmakers to pitch their idea and persuade larger companies to fund their projects.
Will Mager (a short film maker) provides a list of successful tips about creating a short film. In order to begin creating a short film, one must:
1. Watch short films
2. Read short film scripts
3. Learn more about script writing
4. Start writing a script
5. Research local funds and begin contacting/networking
6. Create a funding proposal
7. Create a sizzle reel (a short video that demonstrates the tone and style of the film you want to make).
When writing a short film script it “requires the exact same skills as writing a feature length script – though on a smaller scale” –(Stephanie Jolland, http://www.raindance.org/7-rules-for-writing-short-films-2/ )
She also comes up with seven rules that one must consider when designing a short film (seven seems to be a recurring number in short film production eh?) Here are a few of them:
– The shorter the better: “from fifteen seconds to forty five minutes in length”. Usually if the film is shorter it is also more cost effective as it will cost less to pay the actors and for the equipment which are both being used for a shorter amount of time.
– Keep the practicalities of writing in mind: “If you only have access to modest resources, think small”. It is unlikely that when producing a short film you will have a lot of money or props. Therefore, ideas should be short and simple with little need for extravagant special effects.
– Beware of clichés: “Avoid stereotypes unless you have a fresh slant on them”. There are too many short films in which typical textual features are used, such as children representing innocence or a hit man being hired, therefore you should try and come up with new fresh ideas that nobody would expect.
Short films are often debuted in film festivals such as Sundance and Cannes and are later uploaded online for the public to see.
It is rare that they would be screened in a multiplex cinema; therefore the public are less likely to have as much interest in them as they are not as mainstream.
Art house cinemas would be more likely to screen short films.
Short films are usually funded and distributed by independent distribution companies, as it is rare that large successful companies would take the time to look at a short film; their target audiences are completely different. Short films target a more niche audience whereas Hollywood targets the general public.
It is likely that if a Hollywood vertically integrated distribution company were to take control of an independent short film, they would glamourize and detract from the rawness of it.
A few short film distributors are:
– Dazzle Short Film Label (run by Dawn Sharpless, an independent London-based short film distributor and sales agent. Dazzle Films represents and distributes worldwide a catalogue of high-quality shorts.) www.dazzlefilms.co.uk
– Shorts International (A short film distribution and production company based in the UK who specialise in programming and selling short film).
– Film festivals such as FutureShorts (http://futureshorts.com/htmlViewer.php?id=44) which is known as “the largest short film network in the world” works as a worldwide short film festival whilst “providing an alternative system to the traditional film festival model”.
It often organises film tents at some European music festivals such as Glastonbury, The Big Chill and Benicassim. This allows further promotion for the short films and artists who create them.
Short films can attract many different types of audience. Often, it is less likely that more mainstream cinema viewers would watch short films, it is more common that audiences would have interests in artistic productions.
Plenty of UK film festivals exhibit short films to the public every year. Raindance, a European version of the USA’s Sundance film festival, provides “short film and screenwriting courses”.
“Over the years, the festival has hosted such guests and filmmakers as Christopher Nolan, Shane Meadows, Iggy Pop, Anton Corbijn, Quentin Tarantino, Faye Dunaway and Lou Reed”. (http://www.raindance.org/festival-2013 )
There are also many short film websites which present new the more independent style film viewers, such as :
- – freshshorts.com
- – filminute.com
- – sci-fi-london.com