The short film brief involves making a short film in its entirety, it should last approximately 5 minutes. It may be live action or animation or a combination of the two. The ancillary options are:
- A poster for the film
- A film magazine review page for the film
- A website homepage for the film
What is a Short Film?
A short film is a motion picture not long enough to be classed as a feature film. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences defines a short film as “an original motion picture that has a running time of 40 minutes or less, including all credits”.
A short film is slightly different from a “featurette” this term is given to films too short to be a feature film but too long to be a short film or a “short subject” (basically the same as a short film, however usually shown along with a feature film).
In the early days of film, short films and full feature films received about the same amount of popularity. Short comedies where the most popular and were produced the most. Short comedies usually came in series such as the outing of Charlie Chaplin’s little trap character.
Animated cartoons came principally as short subjects. Virtually all major film production companies had units assigned to develop and produce shorts, and many companies, especially in the silent and very early sound era, produced mostly or only short subjects.
Now a days a not as many but still a decent amount of animated shorts continue within mainstream commercial distribution. For example, Pixar has screened a short along with all their feature films since its initial theatrical run in 1995. Since Disney acquired Pixar in 2006, Disney has also produced animated shorts as of 2007 with the Goofy short “How to Hook Up Your Home Theater“ and produced a series of live action short films featuring The Muppets for viewing on YouTube as Viral Videos to promote the 2011 movie of the same name.
short films generally rely on film festival exhibitions to reach an audience. Short films can also be distributed via the Internet. Websites such as YouTube, Snoovies and Vimeo encourage the submission of independent short films and have attracted large communities of artists and viewers. websites like FILMSshort and Vimeo and apps such as Snoovie focus on showcasing curated shorts.
Short films are a typical first stage for new filmmakers, but professional actors and crews still choose to create short films as an alternative form of expression. Short film making is growing in popularity as equipment becomes cheaper. “Prosumer” or semi-professional cameras now cost under US$3,000, and free or low-cost software is widely available that is capable of video editing, post-production work and DVD authoring.
The lower production costs of short films often mean that short films can cover alternative subject matter as compared to higher budget feature films. Similarly unconventional film making techniques such as Pixilation or narratives that are told without dialogue, are more often seen in short films than features.
Tropfest claims to be the world’s largest short film festival. Tropfests now take place in Australia (its birthplace), Arabia, the US and elsewhere. Originating in 1993, Tropfest is often credited as being at least partially responsible for the recent popularity of short films internationally.
Real life examples
I decided to look further into short films by actually watching some to see the styles and conventions and how they differ from feature films (aside from the duration). I found the following videos on YouTube, as I mentioned earlier this is one of the main platforms for short film promotion.
This video brings attention to the issue of teenagers self harming. This is what is good about short films as it allows for people to raise awareness for an issue close to them or one they really feel strongly about and can do this with out having to have a big budget.
The next short film I watched was an animation. This film probably had a higher budget compared to the last one I watched as it would have to use specialist software for the animation. However it still does a good job of getting a very simple but important message across about jealousy and does it in a very effective and engaging way. It also reaches a wide audience as everyone has been jealous before and the fun and cute animation makes it appealing to children, whilst teaching them a lesson.
This short film is slightly different to the others as it contains a lot more dialogue than the previous videos. However it still does an effective job in getting an important message across.
Using short films to get across messages to do with controversial topics can sometimes mean more to the audience rather than from a big feature film. This is because the feature film is made by a production company with many voices and opinions, which can end up making it very hard to get a point across in the as there will be people who don’t agree and the film ends up sitting on the fence or the message gets dimmed down. Whereas independent film makers like of the short films above can easily create their film and get their message across explicitly with out anyone questioning them. However this can be a negative too as the message that an independent film maker could put across could be socially wrong.
Examples from my School
Next I decided to look at some short films that previous A level students from my school have made and see how they compare to the popular independent ones I found on YouTube.
This short film made by a previous A level media student from my school is overall very good. However the problem I noticed with it was that although the protagonist was very good, all the other actors were too young and weren’t very good actors, which made it obvious that it was a school project. A side from that the cinematography is good and it has a message showing a very extreme case of what can happen if your a nasty person.
I personally did not like this short film. Again there was the issue of teenagers playing adult roles however the main issue was I did not really understand it. I think the message that was trying to be put across was women keeping quite about being assaulted, however this was not very clear. The sequence of the calendar and the filler shots in between became too repetitive and boring.
The short film brief sounds very interesting, I think it would be a lot of fun coming up with and idea and then making it into a film. If I do chose this brief there are a couple of things I will make sure to take into consideration when making the film after conducting my research today.
- If my idea contains adult roles, I will try and get adult actors
- I will make sure my film has a message, as the top short films all have a message